Cut the cameras: Hollywood writers go on strike, fear AI taking over their jobs

This comes after talks with studios and streamers fail, bringing many productions to a halt.
Sejal Sharma
Writers Guild of America on strike in 2007
Writers Guild of America on strike in 2007

Jesse Grant/Getty Images 

Hollywood has come to a standstill.

Over 10,000 writers working in the U.S. film industry, represented by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), have gone on a strike, citing an ‘existential crisis’ within the industry. 

The strike comes after six weeks of negotiations between WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents major studios and streaming platforms such as Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Disney, NBC Universal, Discovery-Warner, Paramount, and Sony.

The two associations were in talks to renew a contract that expired at 11:59 PM Pacific time Monday, the same day WGA announced the strike. The writers’ pain points are that their incomes have been negatively impacted by streaming services, and that they are working more for less money. The writers seek better compensation and residual payments for writers when a TV series becomes a hit.

The WGA had come up with a list of its demands, which the AMPTP either had a counteroffer to or outrightly rejected.

However, there were two major sticking points in the proposal: the first being WGA’s demand for a minimum staff of six writers for a TV show, which could go up to 12 depending upon the number of episodes. The second is guaranteed minimum staff for 10 consecutive weeks for a season of a show. AMPTP rejected both proposals without a counteroffer.

Apart from this, there have been major concerns raised over the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in scriptwriting. The writers union has, in the past, dilly-dallied over its views on plagiarism and the rapid adoption of AI tools in writing.

Previous writers' strikes cost the industry $2.1 billion

This is the first such strike by writers in 15 years. The last strike was in 2007 and 2008, and it lasted 100 days. TV networks had to resort to broadcasting reruns of shows. California, which at the time was struggling economically, incurred estimated losses of $2.1 billion, according to the Milken Institute.

The impact of the strike remains to be seen as writers under protest are forbidden from working on television or film projects. This is bad news for TV shows such as ‘The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon’ or ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,’ where writers are required to craft comedic sketches/games based on the latest happenings around the world.

The WGA ended its statement with: “Here is what all writers know: the companies have broken this business. They have taken so much from the very people, the writers, who have made them wealthy. But what they cannot take from us is each other, our solidarity, our mutual commitment to save ourselves and this profession that we love. We had hoped to do this through reasonable conversation. Now we will do it through struggle. For the sake of our present and our future, we have been given no other choice.”

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