Lights, Camera, Strike – The Entertainment Industry is up for a long ride!

Amidst the excitement of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con on 20-23 July 2023, with enthusiastic fans and colorful TV show billboards, there was an unexpected twist in Hall H on Saturday afternoon. Little did most people know, the event coincided with not one but two ongoing strikes – the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes. Hall H, usually filled with eager fans and A-list celebrities, had noticeably empty seats. Entertainment journalist Scott Mantz took the stage alone without the usual Hollywood stars, showcasing exclusive footage and prompting applause for absent actors. It became evident that this year’s San Diego Comic-Con lacked the usual glitz of Hollywood.

The convergence of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, both affecting thousands of film and TV workers, has created an explosive situation in Hollywood. This marks the first time in sixty years that writers and actors have gone on strike simultaneously, intensifying the industry’s labor strife.

Who is protesting?

The protestors include members of the WGA & SAG-AFTRA, who began their strikes on May 2 & July 13, respectively. While the writer’s fraternity walked out completely, the situation is slightly more complex regarding actors. Most people tend to assume that actors make millions off each project, but journeymen actors with minor roles are not paid as handsomely as mainstream actors, making them the leaders of the SAG-AFTRA protest. These actors depend on these petty roles as their primary source of income, so they struggle to meet essential financial needs. Notably, Hollywood’s brightest stars, including Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, and Johnny Depp, are among the union members of SAG-AFTRA.

And rightly so! Numerous A-list Hollywood celebrities, such as Meryl Streep, Ben Stiller, and Colin Farrell, are actively supporting both strike movements. Stars like Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Rob Lowe, and Mark Ruffalo have walked picket lines to show solidarity with the writers and other unions like IATSE, have also released statements supporting the actors’ cause.

Why are they protesting?

  • Firstly, the shift to streaming platforms has resulted in a dispute over pay and a share in the earnings from shows with film studios and streaming services. Both unions argue that they have been shortchanged and want fair compensation for their contributions.
  • Additionally, they seek protection against the growing threat of artificial intelligence (AI) in the industry, fearing that it could jeopardize their job opportunities.
  • The studios claim to have offered salary increases in the double-digit percentages, better pension and health benefits, increased residuals for reruns, and protections against the use of actors’ digital likenesses, addressing concerns about AI usage.
  • The unions’ core concerns revolve around ensuring contracts keep pace with inflation, securing fair residual payments in the streaming era, and implementing measures to guard against AI replicating their work in film and television productions.

Despite negotiations, the unions and studios haven’t reached an agreement.

Direct Implications of the Protest

  • Studios are facing significant challenges in promoting their upcoming titles as talent is barred from participating in red carpet premieres, film festivals, and press interviews to promote projects from the striking companies.
  • Since the writers’ strike began, Hollywood productions have significantly slowed down, with some shows and movies managing to continue filming without any writers. For instance – The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power & Late Night Shows.
  • Walt Disney Co. is reevaluating its film release schedule for the year, considering potential delays for movies that striking actors won’t be able to promote.
  • Popular programs like ABC’s Abbott Elementary and Netflix’s Stranger Things getting halted, while Fox’s fall TV lineup solely consists of completed reality shows and animated programs, and films like Poor Things, Next Goal Wins, Wish, and Magazine Dreams, slated for release this year, may also face possible changes depending on the strike’s outcome.
  • Additionally, Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. is reportedly contemplating postponing some 2023 films, including the much-anticipated Dune: Part Two, adding to the industry-wide impact of the ongoing protests.

The ongoing strikes also have other far-reaching implications. Disney CEO Bob Iger expressed concern about the strike’s damaging effects on the entire industry, especially during heightened disruption and job cuts across significant entertainment companies. This larger battle for better pay and benefits is not unique to Hollywood; workers from various industries, including Starbucks Corp., Amazon.com Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., and United Parcel Service Inc., are also engaged in their own struggles for improved working conditions.

Potential Changes in the Entertainment Industry Following the Protest

This rare joint protest, last witnessed in 1960, reflects their shared fight for revenue from movies aired on TV. With the guild projecting daily costs at $30 million, the strikes will likely impact the industry and the economy. Drawing lessons from the past, the 2007 writers’ strike reshaped the media landscape by fueling the rise of unscripted content, such as reality TV shows. The current walkout could similarly lead to transformative shifts, eroding Hollywood’s traditional advantages and paving the way for a new generation of stars.

The strikes have already pushed many entertainers to become creators and explore alternative avenues of creativity, using platforms like Twitch and YouTube to engage with digital audiences and fund independent projects. As the online creator industry explodes, analysts predict it could increase 2X in size over the next 5 years, thanks to increased spending from advertisers, viewers, and tech platforms eager to capitalize on creators’ virality.

Overall, it is clear that the entertainment industry is going through a period of change and uncertainty. However, new technologies and innovative approaches also have great potential for growth and evolution. As audiences demand new and exciting content, and writers and actors demand their deserving dues, the industry must adapt and embrace new opportunities to thrive.

Andrew s

Andrew has been in the online publishing industry. After receiving his degree in professional journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, he contributed to multiple websites as a freelance writer and feature editor. Mostly, Andrew tackles controversies and theories that lead to a specific conclusion that either debunk or justify a particular claim. Further, Andrew participates in social developments that aim to simplify every individual's way of life and fight for peace. He is the new Editor-in-Chief of Pressroom Today.

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