Hollywood’s writers’ union said its members could return to work on Wednesday while they decide whether to approve a three-year deal that provides pay raises and some protections around use of artificial intelligence among other gains. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) leadership voted unanimously to end the strike on Wednesday, the guild said in a statement.
The 11,500 members have until October 9 to cast their votes on the proposed contract. The WGA said the estimated value of the deal was $233 million per year. Film and television writers walked off the job in May after failing to reach a deal with major studios, including Netflix, Walt Disney and Warner Bros Discovery.
Concessions granted to writers
Writers appeared to have won concessions across the board, with raises over the three years of the contract, increased health and pension contributions, and AI safeguards. Under the agreement, the studios agreed to meet at least twice a year with the guild to discuss plans to use AI in film development and production.
The studios are not expressly prohibited from using AI to generate content. Writers, however, have the right to sue them if their work is used to train AI. Writers can choose to use AI when drafting scripts, but a company cannot require the use of the software. The studios also must disclose to a writer if any materials were generated by AI.
In other areas, the guild said it won guarantees of minimum staffing in writers’ rooms, a key issue for many of its members. Staffing will be determined by the number of episodes per season. Minimum pay rates will climb by more than 12% over three years. Also, residuals will rise for the use of TV shows and movies outside of the United States and a bonus will be awarded for the most popular shows on streaming.
It’s a win!
“These are essential protections that the companies told us, to our faces, that they would never give us,” writer Adam Conover, a member of the guild’s negotiating committee, posted on social media platform X. “But because of our solidarity, because they literally cannot make a dollar without us, they bent, then broke, and gave us what we deserve. We won,” Conover said.
Television writer David Slack said: “Our strike was necessary. Our strike was effective. Our strike is a victory.” The strike’s end means daytime and late-night talk shows can return to the air. Bill Maher, host of HBO’s Real Time, said on social media that he would be back with fresh episodes starting Friday. “My writers and Real Time are back!” Maher wrote. Maher and Drew Barrymore had angered writers by saying this month that their talk shows would return before the strike ended.
Template for striking actors
The end of the WGA strike does not return Hollywood to normal. The SAG-AFTRA actors union walked off the job in July and remains on strike. The tentative deal Hollywood writers reached with the major studios and streaming services could serve as a template for actors. Writers and actors share common concerns, including the desire for higher pay and for curbs on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in entertainment.
“I hear it’s an exceptional deal and historically, whatever deal they give to one union, the next union uses as a template for their own deal,” writer and actor Mel Shimkovitz said on Tuesday while picketing outside Netflix about the tentative deal reached between writers and studios.
Negotiators for the SAG-AFTRA actors’ union have not held talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents Walt Disney, Netflix and other studios, since this summer. Entertainment industry executives expressed the hope that negotiations would resume as soon as next week. “SAG should not take long, I’ll tell you that,” said one studio executive after the writers’ agreement. They requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of labour negotiations.
‘Our fight isn’t over’
Performers want to protect their images and work from being replaced by “digital replicas” generated with AI. As with writers, actors are looking for compensation that reflects the value they bring to streaming, specifically, in the form of revenue sharing. But SAG-AFTRA also is seeking gains in other areas, and has a wide range of performers with different issues they want addressed.
Actors want limits on self-taped auditions used in casting, which they argue are more costly than in-person readings. They are looking for hair and makeup artists who can work with various hair textures and skin tones, to ensure equity for all performers. Actors are also seeking more leeway to work during increasingly long breaks between TV show seasons, among other things. Dancers, singers, background actors and stunt performers also have specific demands.
“Our fight isn’t over – it’s just heating up!” SAG-AFTRA posted on X on Tuesday night with pictures of Pedro Pascal, Bob Odenkirk and others on the picket lines. “We’re committed to securing a fair contract because we deserve nothing less. Let’s keep pushing, keep fighting, and show the world our determination!”
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