Hollywood’s strike enters its final act, as writers reach a deal


Dust-sheets cover the sets inside one soundproofed Hollywood studio, as placard-wielding writers and actors make as much noise as they can outside. The covers have been on since May, when America’s writers downed pens; in July the country’s actors joined them on strike. But on September 24th the writers said they had reached a tentative deal with the studios. The stage is now set for the actors to do the same, after which the dust-sheets can be whisked back off.

Neither the Writers Guild of America (WGA) nor the studios have released the detailed terms of the three-year deal. On the face of it, the writers have won some concessions: bonuses for writers on shows that do well on streaming, a format whose success metrics have until now been opaque; minimum staffing levels for writers’ rooms; and terms governing the use of artificial intelligence (AI), which writers fear could soon churn out blockbuster scripts. The WGA says it is an “exceptional” deal. The studios are more circumspect. Until the agreement is approved by the WGA’s members, both sides have reason to say the deal is a good one for writers.

The union’s governing councils are expected to nod through the deal as early as September 26th. Next it must be ratified by the WGA’s 11,500 rank-and-file, which will probably take several weeks. After 146 days without work, they are likely to vote “yes”. “If I lose my rent-controlled apartment, I’ll have to leave Los Angeles,” said one Hollywood worker marching in the heat outside Disney last week. The WGA may authorise its members to start working again while the ratification process is still going on, meaning that production of things like talk shows could resume imminently.

Elsewhere, the cameras are not quite ready to roll. With actors still on strike, there will be no filming of scripted content (and even the talk shows will feel a bit thin, as striking stars are banned from appearing as guests). Their union, the Screen Actors Guild, is demanding a revenue-sharing deal with the streamers, as well as an 11% rise in basic wages, which the studios have rejected. Several more weeks of negotiation look likely. Factoring in a similar ratification process, things are unlikely to get back to normal much before Thanksgiving, in late November.

That will mean a production crunch at a time when Hollywood is normally winding down. After nearly five months on hold, film and television schedules in 2024 are looking rather bare, so studios will rush to cram in as much production as they can. Time is running out to save next year’s summer blockbusters.

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