Another Writers' Strike? Here’s What’s Going On In Hollywood

Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

There could be huge trouble ahead for the movie business, because the Writers Guild Of America are threatening to strike in the imminent future if their demands are not met. How imminent? They are actually planning on stopping work and walking off sets as early as May 2. However, one more meeting is scheduled for next week between the Writers Guild and the studios to try and avert the strikes.

There are many reasons why the Writers Guild Of America deems it necessary to take such action against the Alliance Of Motion Picture And Television Producers, which represents over 350 production companies and studios, including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, who are referred to as the Big Six. The profits for these half a dozen studios have risen exponentially over the last few years, to the point that in 2016, the AMPTP reported $51 billion in operating profits, which was about double the amount of what they'd achieved a decade earlier.

The Writers Guild Of America are requesting that television writers receive higher pay, because the manner in which the landscape of the medium has changed during this time has severely affected their income. While there are more scripted television shows than ever before because the likes of Netflix and Amazon are seeking original content, while they're currently in vogue with networks, too, the amount of episodes per season has actually shrunk. In the past, seasons consisted of 20 to 24 episodes, but nowadays mostly consist of just eight or 10 episodes. In many cases, that has undoubtedly increased the quality of these shows. But since writers are usually paid per episode, they are getting the same amount of money, but are being asked to spend more time working on the script.

The situation is complicated even further by the fact that most television staff writers are held to exclusive contracts, which stops them from finding additional compensation. Also, when writers are in between shows, they were previously able to rely on residual payments courtesy of past episodes that are in syndication. But, in comparison to network re-runs, streaming websites don't pay as much for syndication, meaning that writers have lost out on additional money there, too.

Another major issue is the fact that the Writers Guild Of America's health care plan is nearly bankrupt. In fact, it is projected to be completely bust by the end of 2020, and the WGA believe that the studios should help to cover the costs and deficit. Of course, since the line between television and film has never been more blurred, many movie writers recognize that they could easily delve into the world of the small-screen in the near future, which is why, alongside the fact that they're standing toe-to-toe with their writing brethren, they will be striking.

The Writers Guild Of America will finalize a vote to authorize the strike on Monday, April 24, and then the next day the union will resume talks with the studio and see if a compromise can be reached. The prospects don't look good, though. That's because, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the writers are looking for a $535 million deal, while the studios are looking for an agreement closer to $180 million.

Gregory Wakeman