After a 100-day strike, the Writers Guild of America returns to the negotiating table with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Friday.
AMPTP President Carol Lombardini reportedly asked negotiators to meet, marking the first negotiating session since early May, when the strike began.
“We expect the AMPTP to respond to WGA proposals,” said a message sent to WGA members. “Our committee returns to the negotiating table ready to strike a fair deal, knowing that the unified WGA membership is behind us and backed by the continued support of our allies.”
The strike reached its 100th day on Wednesday, becoming the longest strike in Writers Guild of America history at 101 days on Thursday.
WGA membersback on May 2, and have since been seen outside major Hollywood studios as they continue to fight for a new contract that meets their demands for better pay, content streaming success-based residuals, and regulations related to the use of artificial intelligence .
Despite a glimmer of hope last week, when the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, asked WGA union leaders to meet andthere are no indications that an agreement is getting any closer.
After the meeting, union negotiators sent an email to members stating that both sides remained far apart on several key issues, namely residuals for content viewed on streaming services. They did say, however, that the studios seemed willing to increase some levels of compensation and that they were “willing to talk” about using artificial intelligence in projects.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass issued a statement during Friday’s meeting, hoping the parties could come to a “fair and equitable” solution to resolve the strikes that have had “profound negative consequences for our economy and many of our community members.”
Her statement refers not only to the WGA strike, but also to thewho are also fighting for an extended contract with better fringe benefits.
“The impact has spread to every corner of Los Angeles — from the writers and actors on the picket line trying to make ends meet to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, to the businesses that rely on of the entertainment industry,” Bass said in the statement. “The entertainment industry’s economic conditions are changing – and we must respond and evolve to this challenge. It is critical that this is resolved immediately so that Los Angeles gets back on track and I stand ready to speak personally with all stakeholders in any possible way to get this done.”
Film Los Angeles reports that the number of license applications for filming scripted content has seen a drastic, but expected drop.
“The number of permits per week for feature film and television projects is down 57.6 percent (167 in 2023 versus 394 in 2022), compared to the same week in the previous year,” the nonprofit said. “These are the categories that all script projects fall into, although not all production within these categories is affected by the labor action. Reality TV, for example, still appears in these counts alongside non-union independent films.”
They also noted that there were no applications for scripted TV series licenses this week.
While Mayor Bass has expressed optimism that she believes a deal can be reached soon, the current strike bears a striking resemblance to the WGA’s most recent strike, which ran from November 2007 to February 2008. That prolonged strike is estimated to have damaged the local economy cost between $2 billion and $3 billion.
Experts say the current strike, coupled with that of the actors, is expected to be much worse. It is the first joint strike in Hollywood in the past 63 years after SAG-AFTRA members joined the picket lines on July 14.
Some predict that the current protest could continue into January 2024 with both sides on such opposite ends of an agreement.
A message from WGA negotiators last Thursday called on writers to challenge the studios to give up their “anti-union playbook” and offer writers a fair deal. Studios responded by saying their “only playbook is getting people back to work”.
The union also commented on the studios’ suggestions that the strike has not had a major impact on their work due to stored content from streaming services.
“This is calculated disinformation about the real impact of the ongoing strike,” the WGA statement said, which also warned AMPTP about repeating tactics used during the 2007-2008 strike when they claimed an attempt had been made to “spread discord” through the media. “We will not anticipate what is to come. But playbooks are difficult. So far, the companies have wasted months on the same failed strategy. They have tried again and again, through anonymous quotes in the media, frightening tactics, rumors and lies to get our to weaken resolve.”
In response, AMPTP issued a statement saying Friday’s discussion with WGA was “to determine whether we have a willing negotiating partner. The rhetoric of the WGA negotiating committee is unfortunate.”
“This strike has hurt thousands of people in this industry and we take that very seriously,” the statement continued.
The WGA is pushing for contract improvements on many fronts, most notably higher residual pay for high-viewing streaming programs, replacing the existing model that pays a standard rate regardless of a show’s popularity.
They also call for industry standards on the number of writers assigned to each show, increases in foreign streaming residuals, and regulations preventing the use of AI to write or rewrite associated literary material.
AMPTP negotiators have resisted some of the writers’ demands, primarily those calling for mandatory program staffing and employment guarantees. They have also so far declined requests for streaming residues, claiming that their current requests would increase pay rates by 200%.
Paramount Pictures, one of the studios involved in the negotiations, and CBS News and Stations are both part of Paramount Global. Some CBS News and Stations staff are also members of SAG-AFTRA, or Writers Guild; however, their contracts are not affected by the strikes.