Hollywood writers in deal to end US studio strike

Source: BBC

Screenwriters in the US say they have reached a tentative deal with studio bosses that could see them end a strike that has lasted nearly five months.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) said it was “exceptional – with meaningful gains and protections for writers”. WGA members must still have a final say.

It is the longest strike to affect Hollywood in decades and has halted most film and TV production.

A separate dispute involves actors, who are also on strike.

The writers’ walkout, which began on 2 May, has cost the US economy around $5bn (£4.08m), according to an estimate from Milken Institute economist Kevin Klowden.

The dispute has shut down many of America’s top shows, including The Last of Us, Billions, Stranger Things, The Handmaid’s Tale, Hacks, Severance, Yellowjackets, Abbott Elementary and several daytime and late-night talk shows.

As well as issues around pay, the writers fear the impact of artificial intelligence potentially supplanting their talents.

Negotiations also broke down over staffing levels and the royalty payments that writers receive for popular streaming shows. They complain that those residuals are just a fraction of the earnings they would get from a broadcast TV show.

Traditionally, writers would receive additional payments when their programmes were repeated on a broadcast network. However, this model was undermined with the advent of streaming.

As a result part of the payments writers now receive generally include a certain amount of money which is intended to compensate for the royalties they are not receiving from broadcast repeats.

The WGA leadership and union members need to agree a three-year contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers before they return to work.

The guild’s message on the proposed deal said details still had to be finalised, and it was not yet calling off the strike, but “we are, as of today, suspending WGA picketing”.

Hollywood trade publication Variety reported that staff on late-night talk shows could return to work as soon as Tuesday following the announcement, adding broadcasts could resume as soon as October.

But in its message to members, the union’s negotiating committee asked for patience on details of the pact.

“What remains now is for our staff to make sure everything we have agreed to is codified in final contract language,” the union said.

“And though we are eager to share the details of what has been achieved with you, we cannot do that until the last ‘i’ is dotted.”

Strength and resilience’

Many related areas of the entertainment industry have been hit by the strike, including caterers, costume suppliers, carpenters and camera operators.

In the last few days the bosses of Netflix, Disney, Universal and Warner Bros Discovery personally attended the negotiations, which provided new impetus.

Actors have been on strike since mid-July – they are represented by the 160,000-strong SAG-AFTRA performers’ union.

The body congratulated the striking writers on the outcome and praised their “146 days of incredible strength, resiliency and solidarity”.

The statement added: “Since the day the WGA strike began, SAG-AFTRA members have stood alongside the writers on the picket lines.

“We remain on strike in our TV/Theatrical contract and continue to urge the studio and streamer CEOs and the AMPTP to return to the table and make the fair deal that our members deserve and demand.”

The governor or California, Gavin Newsom, said: “California’s entertainment industry would not be what is today without our world class writers.

“I am grateful that the two sides have come together to reach an agreement that benefits all parties involved, and can put a major piece of California’s economy back to work.”

Hollywood reacts

Writers and other figures in Hollywood warmly welcomed the news of a deal being struck.

US comedian, writer and chat show host Larry Wilmore, simply posted on X: “Finally!!!”

Alex Zaragoza, a writer on Amazon Freevee series Primo, wrote: “This strike has been so hard. Necessary and invigorating, and really hard. But we did it! We fought together.

“Thank you thank you thank you to all of our strike captains who have held us down at every picket these last 146 days. Kept us hydrated, informed, sunblocked, safe from cars, and feeling encouraged. Love y’all!!”

Writer Caroline Renard of Disney’s Secrets Of Sulphur Springs, was also among those celebrating the agreement news.

She tweeted: “We got a deal. That was the hardest I’ve worked in forever. Captain signing off!”

Actors also showed their support. The Shield star Michael Chiklis said: “Phenomenal news! Now let’s see this through and get us all back to work!”

Abbott Elementary actress Sheryl Lee Ralph said: “Congratulations to the WGA on reaching a tentative agreement with the AMPTP after 146 days on the picket lines.

She added: “Sag-Aftra remains committed in solidarity to achieving the necessary terms for our members when it’s our time back at the table.”

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