Entertainment Industry Struggles to Return to Normal Despite Writers Returning
Courtesy of LA Times
The writers have gone back to work, but the entertainment industry is still not returning to normal.
On Wednesday, Sept. 26, after 148 days on the picket line, one strike finally came to a close.
Following negotiations over the previous weekend between writers and many of Hollywood’s major studios and streaming services, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) unanimously voted for writers to return to work.
The WGA also announced that a three-year contract was finalized with major Hollywood studios and streaming services, in a deal that union leadership said will “[increase] pay and script fees,” along with increasing healthcare contributions, according to NPR. The contract also outlined preliminary guidelines restricting the use of AI in the entertainment writing process.
The contract is slated to end in May 2026. In the meantime, writers are able to return to their projects, many of which had to be abruptly abandoned months ago when the strike began.
The contract is an undoubtable victory for the WGA union — writer pay is increasing immediately, with raises slated to follow in 2024 and 2025, according to CNN Business. And for one of the most contentious aspects of the strike — residual pay for shows and movies featured on streaming services — the writers also prevailed. Residual pay minimums will increase by nearly a quarter
While the WGA strike has concluded, another strike still persists — and it seems like there is still no end in sight.
Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), a union which represents nearly 160,000 members of the entertainment industry, has been on strike since July 14, joining the WGA shortly after their own contract with studious and streaming services ended in June.
While the new WGA contract will pave the way for negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTPA), it poses a complex paradox for the entertainment industry — who are the writer’s writing for if actors are unable to perform their scripts?
This is the conflict currently plaguing the entertainment industry. Even as writers return to once abandoned projects, an absence will still be felt on television and movie screens across the globe. Until SAG-AFTRA forges a similar contract with the AMPTP, both the physical and cultural landscape of television and film is going to be entirely disturbed.
Fall television — particularly sitcoms and other scripted shows — will take the hardest hit. While screenwriters are now able to write new episodes, actors cannot return to set, and TV shows that have enjoyed considerable popularity, such as “Stranger Things” and “Abbot Elementary” will be delayed for the foreseeable future. This will cause considerable strife for the broadcast industry, a scene that has already been crippled by the growing prominence of streaming services.
And while reality television and talk shows — which are under a different SAG-AFTRA contract than scripted shows — are returning to television this fall, these programs are also feeling the pressure of the strike. While participating in these shows is not technically crossing a picket line, many reality TV participants are walking out in solidarity with their SAG-AFTRA peers, further diminishing broadcast television’s chances for a strong comeback.
The film industry will also feel the effects of the strike — as actors cannot participate in promotional content or campaign efforts for their films, many movie premiers are being pushed off until the spring, further decimating this fall’s premiere lineup.
There does seem to be one positive in the midst of all of the strikes — it’s giving room for independent creators to shine.
Production companies such as A24, which produced the popular Oscar-winning “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” have been able to continue filming under strict guidelines from the SAG-AFTRA union. Because these production companies are independent from the AMPTP, they are able to apply for waivers which allow them to continue filming without crossing a picket line.
Two films — “Mother Mary,” starring Anne Hathaway, and “Death of a Unicorn,” starring Paul Rudd — were cleared to continue filming throughout the strike. And while these films may feature popular actors, it marks a rare opportunity for independent productions to take on a prominent role in an industry dominated by production monopolies.
Another silver lining — the strike has forced artists to get creative.
An example of this can be found in Taylor Swift’s recent announcement that her wildly popular Eras Tour is being turned into a film, one which has been cleared to be produced despite the strike.
SAG-AFTRA struck an agreement with Swift to allow her to produce her own film, as her production is not associated with the AMPTP and meets the standards that unions are striving to include in their newest contract. In doing so, Swift bypassed all major Hollywood studios, creating a new model for producers that cuts out the often brutalizing middle man.
While viewers will undoubtedly feel the effects of the strike push backs this fall, it’s important to keep in mind why these strikes are still continuing. The WGA may have reached an agreement, but SAG-AFTRA members are still fighting for pay and protection that their job requires for longevity.
If these contracts are not secured now, a future in the entertainment industry for actors and entertainers will be more than just unsustainable: it will be nonexistent.