The familiar honking of cars filled the air in many parts of Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon, but not for the usual reasons.
It was a supportive response to the picket lines that formed outside at least 10 television and movie studio offices shortly before 1 p.m. Pacific — the first physical manifestation of the strike announced Monday night as talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance were broken down. of film and television producers.
Hundreds of writers and their sympathizers gathered at union-specified sites, calling Amazon, Netflix, Warner Bros. Discovery, Fox, Disney, Sony, NBCUniversal and Paramount over the hitherto fruitless contract talks that began in March. “I think it’s about time writers got a fair wage,” said Brett Goldstein The Hollywood Reporter off the Warner Bros. property. in Burbank. The writer and Ted Lasso actor, one of many recognizable faces in the crowd, had been working on the second season of Apple TV+ comedy Shrink when the call for pens down was made official. “It’s a shame that all this material that’s being made is made by writers and there are writers who are really struggling to make a living,” he added. “It just seems insane.”
Profit-sharing calls were repeated by almost all writers THR reporters spoke on the picket lines — the specific points of contention for the union, according to a post late Monday, are viewer-based residuals, guardrails for the use of artificial intelligence, and minimum staffing for writers’ rooms. Compromises had been made in some areas, but according to the guild’s negotiators, these were not enough. “It became very clear tonight that they weren’t really interested in doing a deal,” said negotiating committee co-chair David Goodman. THR on Monday. “So it was really the companies’ decision, not ours.”
Picketers outside Netflix offices on the Sunset Strip rebuked “corporate greed” amid chants of “hey, hey, ho, ho,” and many outside the Fox lot in Century City turned their anger (read: their picket signs) at Rupert Murdoch. The estimated net worth of the founder and chairman of Fox Corp. is currently just under $18 billion.
Since this was a writers’ strike, quite a few picket boards were decorated with personal statements and plenty of sarcasm. ‘Do you want pages? Give us a better wage,” one read, while another simply said, “Take the note.” Star Trek: Strange New Worlds showrunner Jenny Lumet, protesting outside the Amazon Studios in Culver City, wore one on which she wrote, “Beautiful Tesla! (You’re welcome…).” Other plates were decorated with specific requests. Chris Duffy, a writer most recently on Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areasobjected to AI in its — apparently mocking the studios’ proposal to hold “annual meetings to discuss technological advancements” rather than promising any viable AI regulation in scriptwriting.
“AI cannot and will not replace us,” he said Adam ruins everything writer and star Adam Conover, who then went to the picket line outside of Netflix commentary on the salary of David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery on CNN (one of its own networks) earlier today. “But the fantasy of technology will be used to devalue us, to pay us less.”
But for most, it all comes down to money. Actor Phil Lamar, a new WGA member working on an unspecified NBC sitcom, bemoaned the difference between writers’ pay and the studio’s profits. “All of these companies are shifting their focus away from employees and treating us all like cogs in a machine instead of a share of their profits,” he said. “In the old days, when the head of a studio was a single person, he cared how the studio was perceived and what the studio created. All they care about now is, ‘What’s the stock price today?’”
Yvette Foy, a writer whose credits include BETs First Wives Club And American soul, spoke on the issue of “mini-rooms.” The controversial workforce trend, for which there is no single definition, is an area where AMPTP has yet to give way. “They ask you to work for less,” she said. “Double the work in half the time… for half the pay.”
It wasn’t all corporate shaming. “I am a capitalist,” claimed Mike Stockton, a member of IATSE’s Local 728 who came out to show solidarity with his fellow guild. “I enjoy all the things that capitalism gives our families and our country. And I want my share. That’s why I’m in a union.”
“More than any specific question, I’m really interested in the whole pattern of demands and the idea that we’re trying to build steady careers for writers in this industry,” said Raphael Bob-Waksberg, WGAW board member and BoJack Rider creator who was one of about 100 gathered in front of Sony’s Overland Gate. “The promise of being able to be a writer and have that sustainable career has been eroded a lot, and we want to build that back, and we have proposals that we think can do that… I want to disrupt the flow of business, and I want this city to a halt so that we can get back into the negotiating space.
Crowds varied from venue to venue, but it was a predictably strong show for the first day – no surprise given that the guild has over 11,000 members and no lack of support from other unions such as IATSE, the DGA and actors’ guild SAG-AFTRA. In New York, the protest started even earlier when East Coast writers took over an entire block outside the 5th Avenue venue where NBCUniversal streamer Peacock hosted his Newfronts presentation.
However, with any work interruption, it’s never too early to ask how long it could all take. Answers to that question brought little clarity or hope.
“I’m willing to be here as long as we have to be here to get what we deserve,” said Foy, who noted that she moved to Los Angeles from Louisiana not just to write, but to make a living as an author . “I saved my money to make sure I could be here, and I’ll cut back as much as I can to make sure I can stand out here and strike.”
The 2007-2008 strike, the guild’s most recent, lasted 100 days. The previous two lasted even longer. Showrunner Stephen Falk, best known for his work on the late FX comedy You are the worstwas about 15 years ago giving his take on how this turn on the picket line feels different.
“I almost think the AMPTP had a better argument last time, and this time they don’t have one, so they didn’t even bother,” Falk said. “I wasn’t even that angry until I woke up this morning. How (the WGAs) proposals were answered by the AMPTP really pissed me off. And I think it’s really stupid to strengthen our resolve like that on day one.
Gary Baum, Mia Galuppo, Carolyn Giardina and Seija Rankin contributed to this report