(Los Angeles) In the absence of an agreement, thousands of American television and film screenwriters are on strike Tuesday, after the failure of negotiations with the main studios and platforms relating in particular to an increase in their remuneration.
This social movement will result in the immediate suspension of hit shows, such as late-night shows, and major delays for TV series and films scheduled for release this year.
“We haven’t come to an agreement with the studios and the broadcasters. We will be on strike after the contract expires at midnight” Monday (3 a.m. EST Tuesday), the powerful writers’ union, the Writers Guild of America (WGA), said in an email to its members and obtained by AFP.
The studios’ responses to the requests were “grossly inadequate, given the existential crisis facing screenwriters,” the WGA said.
During the night, screenwriters relayed the call for a strike on social networks.
“Drop your pens!” “, urged on Twitter Caroline Renard, screenwriter of several series and television programs.
” It’s frightening. But a future in which we accept what companies are trying to do […] is even more so,” actress and screenwriter Ashley Nicole Black also commented on the social network. “The writers generate far too much value to accept that.”
By late Monday, major studios and platforms, including Disney and Netflix, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) announced that talks with the WGA “s ‘were concluded without an agreement’.
The last major social movement in Hollywood dates back to the writers’ strike that paralyzed the American audiovisual industry in 2007-2008. A 100-day conflict that had cost the sector two billion dollars.
This strike could have disastrous consequences for the American entertainment industry.
Screenwriters are demanding higher pay, minimum guarantees for stable employment and a greater share of the profits generated by the streaming boom.
For their part, studios say they have to cut costs due to economic pressures.
Screenwriters say they are struggling to make a living from their craft, with salaries stagnating or even falling due to inflation, while their employers are making profits and increasing the salaries of their executives.
They believe that they have never been so numerous to work at the minimum wage set by the unions, while the television networks hire fewer people to write increasingly short series.
The WGA accuses the studios of seeking to create a “gig economy”, the gig economy, in which screenwriting work is “an entirely freelance profession”.
The AMPTP said it had presented a “comprehensive proposal” that included an increase in screenwriters’ pay but was unwilling to improve that offer given the magnitude of other demands.
According to its press release, the WGA’s demands for a “compulsory endowment,” which would compel studios to hire a set number of writers “for a given period, whether they are needed or not,” is one of the main points of disagreement.
There is also contention over how screenwriters are paid for streaming series, which often remain viewable on platforms like Netflix for years after being written.
For decades, screenwriters have collected “residual rights” for the reuse of their works, for example in TV reruns or DVD sales.
This is either a percentage of the revenue earned by the studios for the film or show, or a fixed sum paid for each rerun of an episode.
With streaming, authors receive a fixed amount each year, even if their work is successful worldwide, such as the Bridgerton or Stranger Things series, seen by hundreds of millions of viewers around the world.
The WGA calls for the revaluation of these amounts today “far too low in view of the massive international reuse” of these programs. She also wants to discuss the future impact of artificial intelligence on the screenwriting profession.
The studios point out that “residual rights” paid to screenwriters reached an all-time high of $494 million in 2021, compared to $333 million a decade earlier, largely thanks to the explosion in screenwriting jobs linked to the rising demand for streaming.
Having been spendthrift in recent years, when rival broadcasters have sought to boost subscriber numbers at all costs, the bosses stress they are now under heavy pressure from investors to cut spending and make a profit.
And they deny pretexting economic difficulties to strengthen their position in negotiations with screenwriters.
“Do you think Disney would lay off 7,000 people for the fun of it? “said a source close to the AMPTP. According to her, “there’s only one platform that’s profitable right now, and that’s Netflix.” The movie industry “is also a very competitive industry.”