Hollywood: screenwriters on strike, lack of agreement on remuneration

Hollywood: screenwriters on strike, lack of agreement on re-writes remuneration


In the absence of an agreement, thousands of American television and film screenwriters are on strike on Tuesday, after the failure of negotiations with the main studios and platforms relating in particular to an increase in their remuneration. 

This social movement will result in the immediate interruption of successful shows, such as “late-night shows”, and significant delays for television series and films scheduled for release this year.

“We have not reached an agreement with the studios and broadcasters. We will be on strike after the contract expires at midnight” on Monday (0700 GMT Tuesday), the powerful writers' union, the Writers Guild of America (WGA), said in an email to its members and obtained by AFP. .

The studios' responses to the requests were “totally insufficient, given the existential crisis that screenwriters are facing”, estimated the WGA.

Overnight, screenwriters relayed the call for the strike on social networks.

“Drop your pens!”, urged Caroline Renard, screenwriter of several series and television shows, on Twitter.

“It's frightening. But a future in which we accept what companies are trying to do (…) is even more so, ”also commented actress and screenwriter Ashley Nicole Black on the social network. “Screenwriters generate far too much value to accept this.”

Late Monday, major studios and platforms, including Disney and Netflix, represented by the Alliance of Film and Television Producers ( AMPTP, Alliance of motion picture and television producers) had announced that talks with the WGA “had ended without an agreement”.

The last major social movement in Hollywood dates back to the writers' strike that paralyzed the American audiovisual industry in 2007-2008. A 100-day dispute that had cost the sector two billion dollars.

This strike could have disastrous consequences for the American entertainment industry.

Rise of streaming

Screenwriters are demanding higher pay, minimum guarantees for stable employment and a greater share of the profits generated by the streaming boom.

For their part, studios say they must reduce their costs due to economic pressures.

Screenwriters say they are struggling to make a living from their craft, with salaries stagnating or even falling due to inflation, while their employers make profits and increase the salaries of their leaders.

They believe that they have never been so numerous to work for the minimum wage set by the unions, while the television networks hire fewer people to write ever shorter series.

The WGA accuses the studios to seek to create a “gig economy”, the economy of odd jobs, in which screenwriting work would be “an entirely freelance profession”.

The AMPTP claimed to have presented a “comprehensive proposal” including an increase in the remuneration of the screenwriters but that it was not prepared to improve this offer given the magnitude of the other demands”.

According to its press release , the WGA's demands for a “compulsory endowment,” which would compel studios to hire a set number of writers “for a given period, whether they are needed or not,” is one of the main points of contention. disagree.

How screenwriters are paid for streaming series, which often remain viewable on platforms like Netflix for years after being written, is also a matter of contention.

For years decades, screenwriters have collected “residual rights” for the reuse of their works, for example in television reruns or DVD sales.

Strong pressure

This is either a percentage of the revenue the studios make for the film or show, or a fixed amount paid for each rerun of an episode.

With streaming, authors receive a fixed amount each year, even in the event of global success for their work, such as the “Bridgerton” or “Stranger Things” series, seen by hundreds of millions of viewers around the world.

The WGA is calling for the revaluation of these amounts, which are today “far too low in view of the massive international reuse” of these programs. She also wants to discuss the future impact of artificial intelligence on the screenwriting profession.

The studios point out that the “residual rights” paid to screenwriters reached a record level of $ 494 million in 2021, against 333 million ten years earlier, largely thanks to the explosion of screenwriter jobs linked to rising demand for streaming.

After being spendthrift in recent years, when competing broadcasters have sought to increase subscriber numbers at all costs, bosses say they are now under great pressure on the part of investors to reduce their expenses and make profits.

And they deny using the pretext of economic difficulties to strengthen their position in negotiations with the screenwriters.

“Do you think that Disney would lay off 7,000 people for fun?” said a source close to AMPTP. According to her, “there is only one platform that is profitable right now, and that is Netflix”. The film industry “is also a very competitive sector”.