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Explained: Why have Hollywood writers, actors gone on strike? What does it mean for movies and TV shows?

Meryl Streep, Ben Stiller, and Colin Farrell have expressed their support for the writers who, for 11 weeks, have been protesting outside the headquarters of production houses like Disney and Netflix

Explained: Why have Hollywood writers, actors gone on strike? What does it mean for movies and TV shows?

Last Updated: 01.51 PM, Jul 14, 2023


Hollywood is currently witnessing its first big shutdown in 63 years, as thousands of film and television actors have joined Hollywood writers in their walkout.

The writers walked away from their job 11 weeks ago to protest dwindling pay and the threat posed to them and the entire industry by artificial intelligence.

During the past 11 weeks, the writers have been protesting outside the headquarters of production houses like Disney and Netflix.

What caused the walkout?
After a failed labour agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios like Walt Disney and Netflix, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) announced a walkout. The SAG represents around 160,000 performers. The strike begins at midnight.

Who are the actors who are participating in the walkout?
Since the SAG represents several A-list actors, such as Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, and Johnny Depp. Other stars like Meryl Streep, Ben Stiller, and Colin Farrell have already lent their support to the walkout.

Writers Guild of America strike
Meanwhile, the Writers Guild of America has been on strike since May 2. This has caused the shutdown of popular late-night TV shows like The Tonight Show. The strike has also impacted many ongoing projects, which has resulted in the pushing of the traditional release of new broadcast TV shows in September.

What are the studios saying?
The studios in question have rubbished the allegations, saying that they have offered double-digit percentage increases in salaries, higher pensions, and health benefits. They added that they have also increased the amount of residuals (the money that actors and others receive when shows and movies are rerun). Addressing concerns over artificial intelligence, the studios have said that they have also offered protections against the use of actors' digital likenesses.

What is SAG saying?
At a recent press conference, SAG officials said that compensation from streaming services is a key issue since, in the current day and age, online video entertainment trumps broadcast and cable TV. Reacting to the studio's protection when it comes to artificial intelligence, SAG suggested that the offer was hardly compensatory, since the studios have offered to pay background actors for just one day's work, which means that their likenesses can be replicated several times in a film.

What impact will the walkout have?
Considering that such a large number of actors have participated in the walkout, work on all productions of films and scripted television shows in the United States is expected to be affected. The only ones that will not be impacted are independent productions that are not covered by labour contracts with unions.

Actors like Ben Stiller, Meryl Streep, and Collin Farrell have lent their support to the walkout
Actors like Ben Stiller, Meryl Streep, and Collin Farrell have lent their support to the walkout

What this means for you
Depending on how long the walkout lasts, the production of series like Stranger Things, Abbott Elementary, and The Handmaid's Tale and films like Marvel's Blade and Thunderbolts will face delays. While Netflix and Amazon Prime Video's shows in other countries (like India) won't be affected, their Hollywood productions have been put on hold.

What about shows and films that have already been completed?
Since several actors are members of the SAG, promotions of films and shows that have already been completed will most likely be hit since the actors will most likely not promote them. This includes promotions lined up for San Diego Comic-Con International, which is scheduled to be held next week.

What are cable channels doing?
Since there are no new episodes that they can run, US channels such as Fox unveiled a fall TV lineup that consists of reality shows and animated shows that were completed before the fallout began.

What's the real issue in Hollywood?
There are two big and related issues plaguing the entertainment industry in America. One is the decline in the number of viewers for traditional TV networks. The other is the huge loss faced by a new generation of streaming services, like Max, by Disney+ and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.

Disney CEO's statement has ripple effect
In a recent interview, Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger, while speaking about the strike, said that it will have a "very, very damaging effect on the whole industry." Cody Ziglar, a writer on Disney+'s show She-Hulk: Attorney at Law writer took offence to this statement and has accused Disney of paying him very little for his job.

Exposing Iger on Twitter, Ziglar, who is known to be vocal, wrote, “The residual check from my episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law was $396.” He also shared information about his pay in Hollywood on TikTok.

The bigger picture
The Hollywood walkout is currently in the news, but it is the result of a much bigger battle -- that of workers in America fighting for better pay and benefits from businesses as far flung as Starbucks Corp., Inc., and Delta Air Lines Inc. For instance, a union representing around 340,000 United Parcel Service Inc. workers is threatening to go on strike starting August 1 if their demand for an increase in wages and the renewal of five-year labour contracts is not met.

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