One Month: The Writers Guild of America strike enters its fourth week

As the strike continues, it's becoming more likely that audiences will see an impact on their favorite movies and shows.
Posted: 5:06 PM, May 30, 2023
Updated: 2023-05-30 20:41:38-04
wga strike

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — It's been nearly a month since the Writers Guild of America went on strike. The writers failed to reach an agreement with the studios and streaming platforms that make up the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. As the strike continues, it's becoming more likely that audiences will see an impact on their favorite movies and shows.

If you were looking forward to catching new seasons of your favorite shows on streaming, you may have to wait a little longer. With the Writers Guild of America on strike for a fourth week, some shows and movies have already put production on hold.

WGA East writer Brendan Fitzgibbons says when studios devalue writers, they're devaluing their content.

"It's like if the McDonald's CEO was like, 'Yeah, we value McDonald's, but we don't value burgers and fries.' Everyone is going to these streaming sites because of the amazing imagination and storytelling of the writers, actors, and creatives," said Fitzgibbons.

Fitzgibbons began his writing career in New York with a web series. He later joined the Writers Guild East after an online sketch comedy show he'd been writing for got picked up as a series on Comedy Central. In 2021, Fitzgibbons moved to Los Angeles to continue his writing career.

According to Fitzgibbons, rumors of a strike have been circulating through the industry since the beginning of the year.

"We didn't officially know until, like, 3 hours before the Monday of the official strike. Like, we got an email at night that was like, 'Oh, by the way, if you're working on a show, don't go to work tomorrow,'" said Fitzgibbons. "So it was an abrupt halt. Stop."

Fitzgibbons had not been working on a show at the time the strike was called, but he says that means he's getting less work and can't submit to any shows.

And what writers don't write, viewers can't watch. The longer it takes to reach an agreement, the longer viewers can expect to be waiting for new content.

Late-night shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live have already shut down production. Shows like Abbott Elementary and Cobra Kai closed their writers' rooms, and Netflix's hit series Stranger Things has put production on hold in solidarity with the WGA.

The WGA negotiating committee has asked the studios for adequate compensation and residuals, to create a day-rate in the comedy/variety category, and address the role of artificial intelligence in eliminating consistent work for screenwriters.

On the other end, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers say that "the AMPTP member companies remain united in their desire to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial to writers and the health and longevity of the industry, and to avoid hardship to the thousands of employees who depend upon the industry for their livelihoods."

While the strike brings financial uncertainty for writers like Fitzgibbons, he says he hopes to see the union reach an agreement that creates more jobs with fair compensation and balanced streaming residuals for writers.

"I hope that overall the streaming companies realize they're devaluing the number one thing that made them popular in the first place: their content. It's the only reason why people are going to these sites and they've had so much success is because of the content, and they're devaluing it," said Fitzgibbons.

According to the WGA's website, its proposal would cost the industry $429 million a year, with $343 million of that cost attributed to the 8 largest industry employers: Disney, Netflix, Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount Global, NBCUniversal, Amazon, Sony, and Apple.

The guild argues the plan offered by the AMPTP fails to adequately compensate writers with fair salaries and residuals when contrasted against the salaries of top studio executives.

"The top 8 studio heads made $800 million dollars last year. Just 8 of them. And the writers, all they're asking for is 11,000 members to make that much in 3 years. That's all they're asking for," said Fitzgibbons. "So I hope that there's also just a realization of how too far we've swung in valuing profits over imagination and creativity."

According to the statement issued by the AMPTP, they say their plan for wage increases would be the highest first-year wage increase in more than 25 years, adding the companies' offer on minimum wages is closer to $97 million per year, contrary to the WGA's approximation of $41 million annually.