It does not look like the Hollywood strikes are ending anytime soon. There is real animosity here. The one thing the workers have on their side is the California political establishment, by and large. But the companies are multi-gazillionaires and basically don’t care.
“It increasingly looks like Hollywood will not be back in business until the beginning of 2024, at the earliest,” research firm LightShed Partners said this week in a note to clients, noting that scenario was “an unthinkable outcome when the WGA went on strike in May.”
How did the entertainment industry become stuck in labor quicksand?
Frustration, fears about the future and a high degree of mistrust continue to shape the script.
Writers quickly trumped the companies in the ongoing PR battle by using social media to amplify their cause. Typically surefooted media titans found themselves on unfamiliar ground — portrayed as out-of-touch corporate fat cats. After several messaging missteps, the companies and their negotiating arm, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, this week hired a crisis communications firm.
“I don’t know if it’s the billions of dollars that surround their jobs or dealing with Wall Street that has insulated them, but they can’t even pretend to say the right things, which they normally do,” Matthew Weiner, creator of the hit AMC drama “Mad Men,” said this week while picketing outside Netflix’s Hollywood campus.
As the twin strikes stretch into September, pressure is building on both sides to find common ground.
Producers are eager to restart production. Executives worry that six more weeks of strikes could obliterate the entire television season and jeopardize next summer’s movie releases. They don’t want the strike to do lasting damage to their businesses. There is a sense that the companies must resolve the strikes by October, according to several knowledgeable insiders.
Meanwhile, corporate leaders also are facing pressure from vocal politicians to resolve the conflicts.
California Treasurer Fiona Ma this week sent harshly worded letters to company leaders, including Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger and Brian Roberts, chairman of Comcast Corp., which owns NBCUniversal. “Your failure to come to an agreement is threatening the industry’s ability to ensure that writing, acting and other positions are viewed as sustainable careers in California,” the Democrat wrote.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has offered to help facilitate the dialogue: “I am more than willing to convene people if and when it is appropriate and both sides have told me that if they felt there was a need that they would absolutely respond.”
“We appreciate the support writers have received from our elected allies,” WGA said in a statement. “The studios are the only ones who can end the strike — by negotiating a fair deal.”
Talent agents have agitated for the strikes to end. Some writers have received calls from agents encouraging them to take the deal offered by the AMPTP, according to David Simon, who is on the WGA’s negotiating committee.
“Greatly resent not being among the TV showrunners who took a weekend call from an agent urging our union to accept a first-offer-in-four-months, one-hand-giveth-while-the-other-tak-eth-back deal,” Simon, creator of HBO’s acclaimed “The Wire,” wrote Tuesday on X. “Missed opportunity to call some [agent] wonder a greedy, empty shill.”
I love the idea of David Simon being on the negotiating team and yelling his incredibly creative swearing at Bob Iger. In any case, these are really united unions right now, which Hollywood executives didn’t expect. They are probably going to lose the whole television season here, just to screw over writers and actors just a little bit more. What’s more New Gilded Age than that. Y’all better be doing research on the 78,000 streaming shows you haven’t watched yet because there’s not much new coming out anytime soon.
Note as well that the strike is about to spread to video game actors. I will let my contempt for gamers sit for a moment to note that these voice actors are true professionals and need to get paid too.