On day 144 of the writers’ strike – a week and a half shy of becoming the longest in Writers Guild of America history There was a renewed sense of optimism at the crowded picket lines Friday as guild members heeded their union’s call to take to the streets as negotiations with studio CEOs and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers entered their third straight day .
At Disney, more than a thousand members of the WGA and artists’ union SAG-AFTRA walked through the wooded Burbank grounds, where many scribes expressed cautious optimism that a deal to end the work stoppage could be imminent after two days of progress at the bargaining table .
“I always feel good when they talk… the fact that they’re talking for three days straight is amazing,” says veteran showrunner Marc Guggenheim (Legends of tomorrow).
After a nearly month-long standoff, the WGA and AMPTP returned to the negotiating table on Wednesday, along with Disney CEO Bob Iger, Universal content chief Donna Langley, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, all present. Both sides released a rare joint statement on Wednesday illustrating that some progress had been made. On Thursday evening, multiple sources on the studio side said progress had been made in areas such as AI protection, minimum room size and streaming data transparency, but that there was still more ground to be gained.
Thursday’s negotiating session, which lasted from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., ended with the WGA presenting new demands, studio side sources said, alienating executives. Still, the four executives returned at 11 a.m. Friday as optimism remained around Hollywood and on the picket lines that the two sides had been the closest to a new three-year deal since the strike began in May.
“They always say this is a city that kills you with hope and what happened over the last three days is a perfect example of that,” Guggenheim said. “In Hollywood, hope is the mind-killer. I try my best not to count my chickens before they hatch. Last night I went to bed feeling very optimistic. I woke up feeling very optimistic and I walk the picket line today feeling, I can’t believe I’m saying it, optimistic.
Disney, along with other Los Angeles picket sites including Netflix, Amazon, Sony and Warner Bros., stayed open for an extra two hours Friday after guild leaders encouraged members to pound the pavement in a message sent late Thursday.
“Seeing pictures of the lines today means EVERYTHING,” said WGA chief negotiator Ellen Stutzman. Posted Friday afternoon.
A few miles away at Warner Bros. Discovery, actress Treisa Gary (Physically) sat by an archway and turned instruments on a series of singing bowls set out in front of her. She generated healing and calm, or at least tried to. That’s what writer Steven Murphy said The Hollywood Reporter that he placed a bottle of champagne in his refrigerator on Thursday evening because he was overcome with feelings of hope that the almost historic WGA strike would soon end.
“If you had told me at the start that it would take five months, I would have been terrified and not necessarily excited to sign up for that. But now that we’ve come this far and it seems like there is some hope and optimism, I’m proud. I came here this morning and I almost got emotional that we got to this point,” he said. “I have a friend who is a writer Drew Barrymore and that whole scenario was very inspiring to me. To see them stand up… and really win… that was invigorating.” (The Drew Barrymore Show withdrew from production after continued criticism and demonstrations.)
The Radford scene in Studio City was packed with more than 300 writers and a DJ as headphones were handed out for a “silent disco” themed picket.
According to several writers at Fox on LA’s west side, the general mood was equally optimistic that a deal could be made. Many members, who declined to reveal their names, said they were “hopeful” that Friday would be the final day of the writers’ strike.
Emily Whitesel (Siren) said she felt supported by the guild and “empowered” to walk the picket line again with such a large turnout. “Morale is really good. We have confidence in our negotiating group and stand behind them – that’s why we came out today to express our support to them,” said Whitesell.
Back at Disney, there was a last day of school atmosphere as WGA volunteers said some members chose to take picket signs home. Others, meanwhile, took photos with helpful lot coordinators and strike captains. However, it remains to be determined whether the WGA will continue to stand in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA when and if a deal is reached with the AMPTP.
“There is a question of whether or not, as part of our deal, we can have the legal ability to respect SAG’s picket lines,” Guggenheim, a former lawyer, told me. THR. “Nothing is being recorded at the moment, so it’s not like writers have to cross picket lines to do their work. Even with productions still going on, there’s Zoom… I see a lot of writers taking their time off to be here at SAG, like they were here before us.
Borys Kit and Tiffany Taylor contributed reporting.