During the company’s earnings call on April 18, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos had said that Netflix could weather a writers’ strike better than others because of its large library of content.
“If there is, we have a host of upcoming shows and movies from around the world. We could probably serve our members better than most others,” Sarandos said at the time. David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, made a similar statement about its streamer library.
Standing outside Netflix’s Manhattan office, which was nicked Wednesday by a large, itinerant crowd of Writers Guild of America members, stagehands from IATSE Local One, musicians from Local 802 AFM, and members of SAG-AFTRA, writers expressed skepticism about that statement. Several prominent names joined the strike lines, including Cynthia Nixon, Bowen Yang, who spoke about the impact of the strike on SNLIlana Glazer and Jeremy O. Harris.
Greg Iwinski, a former writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert And Last week tonight with John Oliver and a negotiator for WGA, said he found Netflix’s statement odd given that the streamers were working with major studios who saw the urgency to end the strike quickly.
“It’s very interesting to me that one partner says, ‘actually we’re fine with a strike,’ when there are others who have Upfronts and have to sell ads this week and have fall schedules that need to be filled now and have late night shows that not be aired,” Iwinski said.
Steve Bodow, former executive producer of The daily show for both Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, added that Sarandos’ comment was “pointing out the problem, not the solution.”
“The fact that we’ve stocked this stuff with streaming is one of the biggest structural changes that’s happened in the industry since the last strike and that’s a big part of why we have to do this,” he continued. “We should be compensated for that.”
As for what it would take to get the two sides to resolve issues such as AI and streaming residuals, Iwinski noted that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will soon be negotiating with the Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA which is likely to bring up similar issues.
“This is all on the table for all of us, so there’s no way we can walk away from all these issues for too long,” he said.
Still, the strike interrupts some ongoing projects. Glazer, co-creator and star of wide city and WGA member, said she pitched and was in development on projects for TV before the strike, all of which have now been paused. But the comedian already had a cross-country stand-up tour planned for the summer, and she doesn’t mind the hiatus, given her support for the writers’ demands.
“We need living wages, our basic needs are met and the writing part of TV and film has been squeezed and squeezed and squeezed over the last few years and it really shouldn’t surprise the big studios that the people who are making this content, who are the beating hearts and minds are of these behind this art and content, want to be treated with basic dignity,” said Glazer.
She outlined the mini writers’ rooms and the potential rise of AI in scripts as particular concerns.
“The fact that we are creating a formula based on stories already told deepens the systems of oppression that have brought us here to fight today. As humanity and consciousness move forward, our art has to reflect that and to step back and have ChatGPT, or whatever, write stories based on John Wayne or something, I’m like ‘what are we talking about?’ We must keep moving forward. This is conservatism and it is directly related to the global threat of fascism that we see,” said Glazer.
Bodow noted how streaming’s specific push for inclusion and diversity — coupled with its mini-rooms — has now left the platforms baffled about their own talent pipelines, as the path “for younger writers to get educated and self-qualify to move up the ladder come and become producers and showrunners” is now being challenged.
“It’s a way I think the industry could bite itself in the ass in the long run – they’ve brought on board a lot of different voices and different types of talent, but haven’t really given them the path to the higher levels where they’ We’re really into making and writing projects,” he said.
Bodow added that he’s seen firsthand the disparity in terms of writer’s treatment on linear versus streaming in the comedy-variety space. And while “Netflix generally favored” Patriotic law“the payment structures and protections that are in place and with most comedy-variety shows — on network TV, basic cable, premium cable — just weren’t there.”
Jeremy O. Harris, the playwright of slave play, as well as the co-screenwriter of Zola and a co-producer Euphoria, came to the picket line as a WGA member and as someone who opposes the current business model in Hollywood. He also has multiple projects that are affected, but he said he feels it is necessary to halt work to fight for better conditions.
“I think the demands are completely justified. I think the fact that every major studio and streaming service is beholden to Wall Street right now and demanding this kind of exponential growth is completely inhumane, because then commercial growth is at odds with the human nature of our business. Our business is about storytelling, and stories are not told on Wall Street deadlines,” Harris said.
Nixon shared a similar sentiment, recalling how the “ghost” of the last strike and “how long the time the writers went out” hangs over this one. “They were long strikes and I think that’s one of the reasons why everyone is throwing themselves on the picket line to make as much noise as possible from the start,” she said. “Were here. We’re not going broke. No one is giving in. We have to negotiate.”
As for what writers will do in the meantime, on Tuesday, Harris had tweeted asking, “Which of my celebrity actor friends just found out their shows are on hiatus for the strike and want to put on a play in the fall?” During the protest, he said he thinks the strike could be an opportunity for the theater world.
“I am willing to wait this out as long as possible, and I am lucky enough to write in many media outlets. So the fact that theater becomes a space where I can write… I came here today with Will Arbery, another playwright, and we’re both talking about the amazing ways that we can use this moment to refocus on theater as well ‘ said Harris.
Harris isn’t alone in Hollywood thinking about how they’ll use their different platforms across different mediums during the strike. Nixon also said she will be using her time before and during season two’s release And just like that… to keep the attack front and center.
“I definitely feel like I’m going to be making statements about supporting writers wherever and whenever I go,” she shared THR. “I am interviewing (And just like that… writer) Samantha Irby in a few weeks at Symphony Space and we’re going to spend some of that time talking about the writer’s strike and her thoughts on it.
Matt Rogers, comedian, podcaster, Fire Island actor and WGA member shared that while there’s a “sensitive line to walk” at this point, he doesn’t think “we should close our platforms.”
“Do I personally cancel meetings where I – even as an actor – discuss the script or give a workshop on the script or talk about a role? Yes, but it’s a delicate walk. I think if you can be somewhere that you can use your platform to push our agenda here and get everyone to listen to what we need, that’s fine,” he said. “I have a podcast I can use. I have a platform that I can use. Fire Island has been nominated at the GLAAD Awards next week, and I think a number of us will be there because if I get the chance to give a speech, I will absolutely push for it.”