Journalist says strike is an 'existential moment' for Hollywood writers (2023)


That's FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. The Writers Guild of America is on strike. And you may have noticed that some of your favorite shows, like Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and Saturday Night Live, are reruns or cancelled. And soon we could see the strike's impact on television script production as well as cable and broadcast production. More than 11,000 screenwriters represented by the WGA are deadlocked over a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents Hollywood studios, television networks and streaming services. The biggest sticking points are money and job security. The WGA argues that while streaming has soared, pay for people who write shows and movies has not. Writers and supporters have been picketing studios in Los Angeles and New York in recent weeks. Office actors Angela Kinsey, Creed Bratton, and Kate Flannery recently spoke from the LA picket line about the importance of writers.


ANGELA KINSEY: Hi everyone.

KATE FLANNERY: Hi everyone. Here are three actors who used to be on The Office, and we can't speak because our words are from the writers.

KINSEY: That's right.

FLANNEY: We need the writers. We need a good deal for them. Your support supports us all. Strong WGA.

KINSEY: See this? Speechless - strong WGA. The entertainment industry is changing. We need to evolve with this and we need fair compensation for our authors.

CREED BRATTON: What they said.



MOSLEY: It was Angela Kinsey, Creed Bratton and Kate Flannery speaking to WGA Guild West from the Los Angeles picket line. Writers are also calling for some form of AI regulation to protect writers from AI taking over their jobs. John Koblin continued the attack. He is a media writer for The New York Times and co-author of It's Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, And Future Of HBO. John, welcome to FRESH AIR.

JOHN KOBLIN: Thanks for being there.

MOSLEY: John, the WGA calls this an existential moment and says streaming has essentially turned the industry model upside down, making it harder for writers to make a living. Can we start by briefly examining the differences between a writer working for a show today and 2007, when the WGA last went on strike? What was life like for a writer before broadcast?

COBLIN: Of course. I mean, if you think back to 2007, networks and cable, that's what dominated television production. And particularly for a network show, those episode orders per season could be 22, 24, or even 26 episodes per season. And if you were a writer on one of those shows, it was a good life, and that was his full-time life. You were a writer for Desperate Housewives. You were a writer on Law & Order. And that's exactly what you did. And it was a pretty good life, whether you were a young writer or just a very seasoned showrunner.

But television production has skyrocketed in the last decade with the advent of streaming. And as a result, and we've all noticed as TV consumers, episode orders are much shorter. There could only be six, eight, ten, twelve episodes per season. As a result, authors have to work fewer weeks. And streaming has turned every element of production upside down. As a result, after a writer has worked on a show for just 10 weeks, he is looking for another job. While studios have poured billions into television in recent years, writers report that their salaries have stagnated and working conditions have deteriorated.

MOSLEY: Okay. Let's move forward today as we talk about this deterioration. I read a story from a writer who shared that he recently worked three writers' rooms simultaneously, opted for two pilots, and sold out a studio film in one bid. And yet they still need it to gain public support. Can you explain a little more why streaming has made this an everyday reality for today's writers? In addition to these shorter hours, it seems like writers need to find multiple sources of income. It has essentially become a gig economy.

COBLIN: Yes. I mean, the writers are essentially freelancers, and you go from gig to gig. But ideally you should have a job, a job as a television writer for a year or more. But with the advent of streaming, everything has changed. I mean, there was kind of a proliferation of these so-called mini rooms or development rooms. And that means that before studios even approve a show, they'll call a small group of writers (it could be as small as three, four, or five writers) in a room and say, "Get to work." Just show us what this show could be. So they'll start to outline character development and even create scripts, like four, five, six, seven of these scripts over a period of 10 to 14 weeks.

And then the studios will think: do we want to do the show or not? Do we like these scripts? Do we like where this story is going? But in this decision-making moment, writers suddenly have to find other work. So if the studio gives the green light, if the studio says, "Yeah, let's make a show of this," maybe the writers have another job and they can't continue the show. That's one of the things that writers are most concerned about, like these development slots, these minislots. And they want to correct the "abuse" of these minispaces.

(Video) The Writers’ Strike Rocking Hollywood, Explained | WSJ

MOSLEY: How have these mini-slots affected writers' ability to grow and move up in the industry?

KOBLIN: It's really interesting. So once you're in that mini room, you're in there for 10 to 14 weeks and then you're good to go. The studio says we no longer need your services. Let's consider whether or not we should greenlight the program. You have to constantly strive to find another job. And all of a sudden, when they greenlight the show and decide to start producing it, I mean, they decide to start filming, you're not there.

There is an author named Mike Schur that I interviewed recently. He is co-creator of Parks And Recreation and creator of The Good Place. He told me that when he was a young writer, he worked on the first few seasons of The Office and there he learned to write and rewrite a screenplay. He learned to work with actors on set. He learned to explore a place. He learned odd and specialized trades like sound mixing and set design. These were things he didn't know. Those were things you couldn't read about in a book. But for decades there has been a kind of TV learning where you learn from experience. You learn by being in a program.

And Mike Schur worries that, as a young writer, with the advent and proliferation of these mini-rooms, you're suddenly off-set and not learning all the specific trades that he learned. You can't say what a showrunner didn't like about their script. And he thinks it can have a really devastating effect in the long run when you have really talented writers with a lot of interesting ideas about the world, but when you ask them to create a show, they literally do. I won't know how to do it. You won't know all the things you had to learn when you were in your 20s, 30s or 40s. They won't know how to handle it. And he sees a crisis ahead unless there are more writers to film.

MOSLEY: I also want to touch on one other thing. And based on that formula, studios pay these authors. Can you give us a simplified version of that formula and explain how that first streaming model didn't evolve with that formula?

COBLIN: Of course. If you think back to the days of traditional television (network and cable television), if you had a hit show, a show with over a hundred episodes, you would go into syndication. So if you were a writer on an episode of this show and it got syndicated, which is essentially a rerun, if you watched that show on cable around 6 or 7 pm. m. or something like that, he's in distribution, he gets a check. And if the show was sold overseas, you got a check. If there was a DVD sale of that show, you would get a check. But when you think of the streaming services we're seeing, think Netflix or Amazon. These are global streaming services. There's no distribution because if I have a show that was on Netflix in 2015, it's still on Netflix eight years later. There are no international agreements as Netflix is ​​a global streaming service.

As a result, all those distribution legs were cut off and replaced with a fixed balance or royalties of some sort. And the authors say that this formula is completely wrong. And those checks they received 15, 20, 30 years ago were, so to speak, the bourgeois writer's livelihood. This was the source of income that kept you afloat when you were between jobs or decided to take a break because you wanted to figure out how to create your own show or write a script for a movie. These controls allowed him to initiate this creative endeavor. But the authors argued that in the age of streaming these controls are much, much smaller, leaving less room for downtime, basically figuring out what you want to do next.

MOSLEY: Let's take a little break. While he's at it, we discuss the Hollywood writers' strike with New York Times media journalist John Koblin. The Writers Guild of America has been on strike for more than three weeks with television, film and streaming studios over wages and job security that they say have not kept pace with the tremendous growth of streaming services. That's FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: That's FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. And while you're at it, I'm chatting with New York Times media writer John Koblin, who covered the Writers Guild of America strike in Hollywood. John is co-author of It's Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, And Future Of HBO.

The WGA says that over the past decade, the average weekly salary of a writer and producer has dropped by 4%, or about 23% when adjusted for inflation. And writers' salaries are down 14%. That looks pretty substantial. What is the WGA really proposing to studios to ensure they are paid what they believe is a living wage?

KOBLIN: Essentially more money. All this discussion, all this negotiation, when there was negotiation, the two sides are not talking now, it's basically about money. And what really drives writers crazy is the fact that, ten years ago, in the American entertainment industry, there were about 300 scripted shows. That number has practically doubled in a decade, or doubled in 15 years, more than double. So you can see billions and billions of dollars invested. And then they ask: Why did our salary stay the same or even decrease, and it decreased a lot considering inflation? And it drives her crazy.

These are the people who literally create shows. If you look at a show and see that it was created, that's an author. It's a writer who wrote the first script, or some writers who wrote the first script. So they really feel like they're being left behind, especially when they look at their peers, like actors making a lot of money per episode. You know, one of the things that's changed in television over the last decade is that movie stars have never been interested in doing a TV show, I mean a limited series, I mean a one-off series, or a recurring series. is about.

But when television took off, so to speak, and became the crown jewel of American entertainment, movie stars also got interested in making television. You see it's a huge part of the cultural zeitgeist. And since they entered television, they are especially fond of ordering shorter episodes because that way they don't have to stay 8 or 9 months out of the year. They like it when it's 6 or 7 episodes because it takes less time. But they are also paid a significant amount of money, like $1 million per episode or $2 million per episode. So the writers are saying, let's get our fair share. We deserve more. For example, if everyone benefits from streaming, why not us?

MOSLEY: That's really interesting, because yes, there used to be a hard line between movie stars and TV stars. One of the reasons we're seeing this increase in TV series or broadcast budgets is, as you say, the introduction of the movie star.

KOBLIN: Definitely. And that's a lot of things, but the introduction of the movie star really put us on something of an assembly line, that assembly line that can't be stopped. And with so many streaming services online over the past four years, it's become an arms race between them all. Then all of a sudden you're in the running for movie star. Or you compete for that script. And I will always offer more and more. And there are a lot more special effects in these shows. So those budgets have skyrocketed everywhere. And Netflix, especially when they started original programming in 2012 or 2013, the only way that Netflix really got a foot in the door and convinced Hollywood, hey; If you did a show or a movie with us, it would be crazy to offer an incredible amount of money.

"House Of Cards": We all remember when it premiered in 2013. That was Netflix, not its first original series, but its first big, ambitious original series. And when they tried to convince director David Fincher, one of the big names behind House Of Cards, that you wanted to do this show with us, they made you an offer that Hollywood had never seen before. We're going to give them two seasons, 26 episodes, and we're going to invest $100 million. That was the biggest amount of money ever offered for something that had never been seen before. And it really changed the whole game.

MOSLEY: We're not just talking about authors here. Can you describe some ways in which a possible strike that lasts far beyond the moment, a longer strike, could affect other types of manufacturing jobs?

COBLIN: Yes. I mean, the effect can be really devastating. Think about it: a production is a huge undertaking that involves more than just actors, writers and directors. This also includes all the people who help keep production running. This includes crew members. This includes drivers, caterers, security guards, carpenters and makeup artists. There are a lot of people who support the productions and they are people who are getting back on their feet after the pandemic. When the pandemic hit, productions were shut down for months and months and months. And then in early 2021, late 2020, when productions started again, these people were wearing masks on set. There were all these crazy ways to avoid getting the virus. And finally they're, you know, they're back, they're almost back to normal. And now that much of the production has shut down, many of those people will be out of work again.

(Video) Hollywood faces larger work stoppage as actors threaten to strike alongside writers

In 2007 there was a writers' strike that lasted more than three months. It was a 100-day strike. This cost the Los Angeles economy an estimated $2.1 billion. Therefore, the consequences can be significant. I mean, even think about the late night shows. The night shows, like you said, are all dark right now. And then they've been dark for 3 and a half weeks at this point. There are many writers working on these shows. There are also a lot of people who aren't screenwriters working on these shows. There are producers, security. There are over 200 people working on the Stephen Colbert late night show, the Seth Meyers late night show or the Jimmy Fallon late night show. These people are currently unemployed. And considering neither party talks to each other, it looks like they'll be out of work for quite some time.

MOSLEY: John, I want to investigate how streaming services have impacted the industry. You've written about something that comes into play here, and that's top-notch television. Basically, we got used to having access to hundreds of programs every year. It's a guarantee that we always have something new to see. And you say high-end television has peaked.

COBLIN: Yes. I mean, it's fun. So we got used to that over the last 12, 13 years. Every year there are more scripted shows in the American entertainment industry. There was something of an anomaly during the pandemic, but other than that, it went on and on. But last year, in April 2022, something very incredible happened. Netflix: In an earnings report, they said they lost subscribers for the first time in a decade. It was a shock to everyone in the entertainment industry and it was a shock to Wall Street. And what happened over the next few months is known in the entertainment industry as the Netflix fix. Everybody said, oh-oh. If Netflix happened to the great and mighty Netflix, when will it happen to us?

Then, in the middle of last year, all the studios got very cautious about ordering new back-to-back series and gave them the green light. Suddenly, we saw the market dry up. I remember having anecdotal conversations with executives and producers in the second half of last year. And they called me and said that nobody buys anything else. We haven't seen that in a long time. Nobody buys anything. And so I went and checked the numbers and it was fine. Eventually, the number of scripted shows commissioned by studios dwindled.

So that was before a strike, and that trend has continued this year. Gone are the days when there was more scripted entertainment than the year before. Now combine that with a writers' strike. And I think at the end of next year, in the middle of next year and certainly at the end of next year, all of a sudden when we're used to four, five or six new shows, like every few days and definitely at least one dozen. shows each week, to pick and choose to see which ones we want to watch, those days are over. Some would say that's a good thing, because was this flood of programming really good for anyone?

MOSLEY: While you're at it, we're talking about the Hollywood writers' strike with New York Times media journalist John Koblin. The Writers Guild of America has been on strike for more than three weeks with television, film and streaming studios over wages and job security that they say have not kept pace with the tremendous growth of streaming services. I'm Tonya Mosley. That's FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: That's FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley and today we'll be speaking with New York Times media journalist John Koblin about the Hollywood Writers' Strike. More than 11,000 screenwriters represented by the WGA are deadlocked over a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents Hollywood studios, television networks and streaming services. The biggest sticking points are money and job security. We soon began to see the strike's impact on television script production as well as cable and broadcast production. When we were done, Koblin explained how the advent of streaming services ushered in the heyday of television. But last year, Peak TV reached its peak.

During these peak television times, have we seen an increase in the number of writers entering the industry?

KOBLIN: We certainly have a more diverse group of authors. That's one of the great things that's happened in television, where we have shows that just wouldn't have existed 10 or 15 years ago. We have programs that truly appeal to every imaginable demographic. They could go back to Orange Is The New Black, which premiered on Netflix a decade ago about a women's prison, or Insecure, an Issa Rae show about the friendship of black women. There are so many gems, so many great shows that TV studios wouldn't have made a decade ago. So we have a lot more leeway around what kind of television we can watch and what kind of television suits different audiences. That was a good thing. But, on the other hand, what happens when the number of scripted series decreases and we have a writers' strike involved?

MOSLEY: I want to explain how that might have scared Wall Street too, right? So you've spent billions of dollars. In fact, we've only seen this change since this spring. Can you explain what happened?

COBLIN: Of course. So for years we've been talking about Netflix and the permissive consumer habits they had to adopt to convince the entertainment industry that TV and movies would work on the Internet. We promise you. But if you don't believe us, there is a lot of money here. And the reason they had access to all that money: Wall Street said take it. We don't care about your free cash flow. We don't care how profitable you are. Like Uber or Lyft, for example, investors have given them permission to spend freely, cash in later, and simply grab market share now. Netflix did the same. The result was that Wall Street didn't care about profit.

So when Netflix announced in April 2022 that it had lost subscribers for the first time in a decade, it looked like the US market was saturated. And then Wall Street said, oh, that previous strategy, that previous position that we had, it doesn't matter. Now it's all about profit. The result was that all these studios that were investing and losing billions of dollars growing their streaming services suddenly decided, okay, we have to change fast. We have to please Wall Street. We need to make these things cost-effective and fast. And with that comes a lot of pain.

MOSLEY: Going back to the writers and where they stand, as long as movies and television have been around, they've complained that the studios basically treat them like second-class citizens. But the flip side of this: Your colleague Brooks Barnes, who also reports on Hollywood, actually wrote that several studio and broadcast executives privately portray the writers as melodramatic and outspoken. And I wonder when they say the writers have lost touch. So you're talking about business economics? What are you saying about the realities of a writer's life right now?

COBLIN: Yes. Tensions simmered between writers and studios for nearly a century, if you will. Writers have gone on strike several times, usually once a generation, in fact. And this is because they feel that they are not considered in the same way as directors and actors. And in the current dispute, studios and execs and producers will privately say that writers are demanding this massive realignment of the industry. They want to go back to 2005, when there was only broadcast TV and cable TV. Those days are over. For example, all these things that you ask for, or many of these things that you ask for, you ask for everything to go back to the old days. And unfortunately those times are over. This could be an objection to capitalism. ACCORDINGLY. But we can't do anything about it. That's what the studios say: what the writers are asking for, or a lot of what the writers are asking for, is unrealistic.

MOSLEY: Did the Writers Guild take into account all of that and the mass layoffs that took place? Do you want to adapt your proposals to business executives in a declining industry?

COLIN: No. I mean, the writers have been very vocal and explicit about it, calling it an existential moment and saying that the survival of the writing profession is at stake. They see a total of five crisis alerts ahead and they want to protect this profession. They want to protect the art of the script. And no, they don't understand the current workplace issues at these companies. You're going to look at top executive salaries and compensation and ask yourself, how do you pay these executives $50, $60, $70, $80 million a year? We don't even ask for that much.

And another reason they don't show compassion: that's why they're negotiating this treaty now. Every time they get a deal, and it can take months to get a deal, it will be a three-year deal. And the plaintiffs argued that media executives said, "Okay, our streaming services are losing money right now." But we promise you Wall Street that they will be profitable within a year or two. The authors said they will be profitable by 2026. That's the next time we negotiate a contract. We don't wait. At this point it may be too late. At this point, the writing profession could have completely changed. So let's not wait for that. This is the moment. And now.

MOSLEY: If you've just joined us, my guest is John Koblin, media writer for the New York Times. He has covered the Hollywood Writers' Strike and its impact on film, television and streaming. We'll be back. That's FRESH AIR.

(Video) Entertainment attorney breaks down Hollywood writer's strike


MOSLEY: That's FRESH AIR. Going back to my interview with John Koblin, media writer for The New York Times. Reports on the Hollywood Writers' Strike and its impact on film, television and streaming.

We focus many of our conversations on streaming. I'm interested in what's happening with traditional and cable television. You, one of your colleagues, wrote that traditional television depends on viewers for its livelihood and that movie studios are looking for franchises and remakes. We see this in low ticket sales for drama and comedy. What is the reality of writers working for television including NBC, ABC, CBS?

KOBLIN: I mean, it's kind of ironic that the Writers Guild said that in the model of network television, if you're still working on a network show, you're doing a little better as a writer than if you're working on a broadcast. of a -Show. On the other hand, network television is not doing well. Nothing is going well. Streaming and everything that happened during the pandemic when our viewing habits changed a lot: when we were stuck at home, we needed more things to watch. Suddenly, we're signing up en masse to multiple streaming services. It significantly reduced ratings on radio and cable television. And these networks are just a shell of what they once were. It's gotten to the point where NBC executives are actively considering dropping the 10:00 pm time slot. time, it's 10 pm. Prime time and return to affiliates for years to come. NBC, 10 p.m.

MOSLEY: Wow, for news. Yes.

COBLIN: Yes. Like NBC, 10 pm. - That was the place where we saw "E.R." For example, we watched "Law & Order" there from time to time. This used to be one of the worst timeslots you could find in American entertainment and it's just a layer of what it used to be. And it's the same with cable networks. Ratings just dropped significantly. As a result, ad spend has been significantly reduced. Just a few years ago, there were cable networks like USA or AT&T that produced ambitious and original programs. They don't really do that anymore because there aren't enough viewers to justify the expense.

MOSLEY: Is there room for innovation? You wrote how the last strike in 2007 led to a proliferation of improvised programs, essentially reality shows. And reality TV is still very popular, but we've also gotten used to great scripted shows like Success. What do you think about the value viewers place on quality lyrics? Is there room for something else?

KOBLIN: It's possible. I mean, we're going to see more reality shows whether we like it or not, or whether we watch it or not, because studios need to fill them with something, especially a longer strike. It's graceful. ABC released its fall schedule last week, anticipating it will revolutionize scripted television, and the entire lineup consists of nothing more than reality TV and unscripted television. So that means "Celebrity Danger!" It means "The Pyramid of $100,000". That means shows like "Shark Tank". There is even a show called The Golden Bachelor which is a spin-off of The Bachelor. So if we are used to "Bachelor" having an attractive 20 or 30 year old in the spotlight, this will matter: we don't know the age yet, but it will be an attractive 50, 60-70 year old.


KOBLIN: But that's the direction the networks are going, because they need to populate all of them. And in previous strikes, amazing things happened. Fox scheduled "Cops" during the 1988 writers' strike, which at five months and 153 days was the longest strike ever. And in the 2007 strike, NBC was trying to figure out more unscripted TV shows: They had "The Apprentice" on the air, but they wanted to find a way to spice it up somehow. This resulted in The Celebrity Apprentice, starring Donald Trump.

MOSLEY: Let's take a little break. While you're at it, we're talking about the Hollywood writers' strike with New York Times media journalist John Koblin. The Writers Guild of America has been on strike for more than three weeks with television, film and streaming studios over wages and job security that they say have not kept pace with the tremendous growth of streaming services. That's FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: That's FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. And while you're at it, I'm chatting with New York Times media writer John Koblin, who covered the Writers Guild of America strike in Hollywood. John is co-author of It's Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, And Future of HBO.

John, this time the WGA is also asking for something else that we haven't seen in the last few years, which is regulation around AI, artificial intelligence. They worry about a future where AI will take the place of the writer. How likely is that now?

KOBLIN: If you asked the authors, they'd say, "Most likely" (Laughter). I mean, if I had gone back six or seven months ago and surveyed the WGA membership, I don't even know if AI would have been one of those top priorities. That wasn't really a hot topic for her a year ago, just like it wasn't really a hot topic for any of us a year ago. But I think we all saw what ChatGPT was like a few months ago. And we said, oh, what is this artificial intelligence thing? And all of a sudden, when the negotiations were about to start, and they started in March, it suddenly took on a much greater urgency. And when the authors spoke with WGA executives, the question that always came up in conversations was, "What are we going to do with AI?" So by far the biggest problem in this argument is the trade-off. This is number 1, the most important thing in the world. But artificial intelligence is a big topic for them.

MOSLEY: It's interesting that it only came out a few months ago, but the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers doesn't really want to talk about it. They say that at this stage they cannot guarantee that AI will not be used. However, they will propose an annual meeting on technology advancements. In fact, one writer pointed out that this was exactly the answer the union wanted to talk about in 2007: the impact of the Internet. Is this an attack on the industry? Or is it a hint that studios might consider AI as a creative tool?

KOBLIN: That was the authors' interpretation of the discussion. The studios came back and said publicly: Look; We said effectively that we're going to respect writers: if you're human, you're a writer. And if you're a writer, you're human. According to the authors, they did not say this in court. But the studios said yes, of course we understand that, but that's what the writers don't want to happen. Here's the nightmare scenario. You know, we've talked about the long-standing tension between the studios and the writers.

And a writer I talked to could envision a scenario where for years, if you think of a cliché, like a studio manager's office demeaning a writer and saying something, that has the effect: If I could write this myself, I would would - why do I need you? The morbid, nightmarish fantasy of screenwriters is that the head of the studio says, "I don't need you." I'll put this in the latest version of ChatGPT. I'll have the AI ​​rewrite these three pages. So this is unacceptable for them. They can't, they want to put a clear wall of protection on what they call literary material. That is, AI cannot generate original content.

Or if you put 20 Nora Ephron scripts into the AI ​​machine, it will produce a Nora Ephron-style movie that they don't want. And the other thing they want to take security measures against is the source material. That is, when the head of the studio says, "Oh, I had the AI ​​create a 10-page article about Paris in the 19th century." Go ahead and write a movie or TV show based on it. This is not right. This is unacceptable for authors. They're not going to adapt something, something that was generated by AI, like they would adapt a book or a magazine article and turn it into a show.

(Video) Hollywood On Strike: Who Cares?

MOSLEY: Understood. But there's still a lot we don't know about AI capabilities. Even in the scenario you've posed, it still seems difficult to find a straightforward language that can protect authors.

COBLIN: Yes. I mean, one really interesting thing is that while the authors are trying to introduce these grids, they also said that the authors themselves can use AI. This means that if I need it as a prompt to get out of a traffic jam, break my typing lock, or if I just can't bear to look at the blinking cursor on my computer screen, maybe AI can help me. chunk. We don't know where it's going. But the authors are genuinely concerned that if this is not addressed in these talks, that is, whenever these talks resume, there may be a point in a few years when they run into long-term problems. I doubt studios will try to implement it in any way.

MOSLEY: Yes. I mean the scenario you gave about an author really helps, for example using ChatGPT to get something on the site. We've heard from other creatives, in the music industry for example, that AI could be used as a tool to enhance work rather than replacing humans, which maybe isn't a bad thing because we get things from other places. using, as you said, a book, in the sense that we adapt a book to make a film out of it. These are the conversations the WGA wants to have with industry and industry leaders. But why do you think it fails so much that basically neither side wants to meet to have these conversations and come to an agreement? It's basically divided into all areas.

COBLIN: Yes. I don't even know how intensely they negotiated about artificial intelligence because they are so far apart on every issue. If you talk to the studios, they'll tell you that the talks, which started in mid-March, actually didn't start until mid-April, because at that time, again, the studios say, the WGA guys in the room were actually giving talks. . And they really didn't go back and forth a lot or talk a lot. And then they stormed out of the room to get a strike vote from their members, which they did with overwhelming success. 98 percent of the writers said, okay, yes to a strike. So if you talk to the studios, those negotiations really happened over a two or three week period. And obviously it didn't go very far.

So the writers went on strike on May 2, three and a half weeks ago, and haven't spoken out since. But one of the reasons they haven't spoken is that the studios are negotiating with two other unions. They are currently in negotiations with the Directors Guild and will begin negotiations with the Screen Actors Guild in a few weeks. Both contracts expire at the end of June. Many in Hollywood believe that the writers and studios won't get back together until July at the earliest.

MOSLEY: What could happen if SAG-AFTRA, what are you talking about, if SAG-AFTRA decides to go on strike if the Directors Union negotiations fail and they decide to go on strike? That sounds pretty catastrophic.

KOBLIN: Yes, it would be Hollywood Armageddon, because right now we still have some productions that are online, shows or movies that have the scripts finished and filming can continue. We have our scripts. Ideally, we'd like to make some adjustments and have a screenwriter on set during filming. But we don't live in the best case anymore because the writers are on strike, so let's live with that. But if the directors and actors went on strike, that was it. Productions do not take place anywhere in the United States. So that would be an absolute nightmare. On the other hand, if the directors and actors reach an agreement with the studios, it could hurt the position of the writers.

One thing that the writers really benefited from in those first three and a half weeks, and which is one of the reasons why the pickets in Los Angeles and New York were so vigorous: there was, in a way, this inter-union solidarity. everyone on the author's side said they had never seen it. When the writers went on strike in 2007, it only took a week or two for a union representing staff members to call it a destructive move. This time we experienced the opposite. We saw actors picketing with writers. We've seen writers picketing outside productions, and there are staff members who refuse to cross the picket line. As a result, more productions with all scripts completed had to be shelved because crew members or even actors didn't want to picket.

MOSLEY: What does it mean for normal people to worry, other than how it might affect their ability to watch their favorite shows?

KOBLIN: I mean, it's interesting. On the one hand, there is the kind of solidarity that the WGA has with other unions. We have a thriving labor movement in this country, and the WGA is one of the most powerful unions in Hollywood. And the fact that they experienced so much goodwill is interesting. And that's different than 2007. But it's also kind of the future of how we consume content beyond that, hey; I don't have a new show, you tell yourself in December or January.

It's really about this big shift that we've seen, this technological shift that we've seen in the entertainment industry where, I mean, it's only been 15, 20 years since we were doing TV shows. We don't do that anymore. So this fight is about how the model of Hollywood has changed and been influenced in some way by Silicon Valley. Currently, it addresses some important points of the American debate. There's a reason the authors call this the existential moment. It really reflects the massive technological changes we've seen over the past few years.

MOSLEY: John Koblin, thank you very much.


MOSLEY: John Koblin is a media writer for The New York Times. He has written about the Hollywood Writers' Strike and its impact on the film, television and streaming industries. If you want to catch up on missed FRESH AIR interviews, like this week's interview with comedian Wanda Sykes, who has a new Netflix special, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus or celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich, check out our podcast. You will find many FRESH AIR interviews. And for a behind-the-scenes look at FRESH AIR, sign up for our newsletter. You'll find additional interview material, employee recommendations, and highlights from the archives. You can apply at

The executive producer of FRESH AIR is Danny Miller. Our Technical Director and Engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Roberta Shorrock, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Ann Marie Baldonado, Therese Madden, Seth Kelley and Susan Nyakundi. Our digital media producer is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Thea Chaloner hosted tonight's show. For Terry Gross, I'm Tonya Mosley.


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Journalist says strike is an 'existential moment' for Hollywood writers? ›

Journalist says strike represents an 'existential moment' for Hollywood's writers. New York Times media reporter John Koblin discusses the Hollywood writers' strike — and how streaming has upended every element of TV and film production, leading to deteriorating working conditions.

What was the writers strike def? ›

The 2023 Writers Guild of America strike is an ongoing labor dispute between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) — representing 11,500 writers — and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). It began at 12:01 a.m. PDT on May 2, 2023.

Was there a writers strike in 1988? ›

On March 7, 1988, the longest strike in the history of the Writers Guild of America began, and lasted a full 155 days, affecting everything from MacGyver to Tim Burton's Batman. Writers strikes have a major impact on TV and film production, as the most recent strike—which began on May 2, 2023—has made clear.

Is the writer strike still on? ›

Updated: June 7, 2023 – The WGA strike (also known as the writers strike) has been in full swing since the Basic Agreement's contract between the Writers Guild of America and The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) expired on May 1, 2023.

Why are Hollywood writers strike? ›

Many of the actors' concerns echo what the Writers Guild of America is fighting for: higher wages; increased residual payments for their work, specifically for content on streaming services; and protections against using actors' likenesses without permission as part of the enhanced abilities of artificial intelligence.

What is happening with the writers strike in Hollywood? ›

The WGA Writers Strike has officially begun and the picket lines have formed across Hollywood and New York City. This halt means that many scripted projects will inevitably go dark, resulting in a Hollywood shutdown not seen since COVID, and not felt since the last WGA strike took place 15 years ago.

What was the longest writers strike? ›

The previous writers' strike, in 2007-2008, lasted for 100 days, and the longest strike on record, in 1988, lasted for 153. This fight could drag on for months.

When was the last time the writers went on strike? ›

The last time the WGA went on strike was in 2007, when streaming was a nascent technology . It was a major point of contention in negotiations, because every time distribution technology changes, writers have had to strike to make sure they're fairly compensated.

What shows did not survive the writers strike? ›

Late-night talk shows are the first to be affected, including “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” as well as those on cable networks like “Real Time With Bill Maher” and “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.” All rely on ...

What shows will be affected by writers strike 2023? ›

Here are all the TV shows that have been affected by the WGA strike so far.
  • “Abbott Elementary” ...
  • “Stranger Things” ...
  • “Saturday Night Live” ...
  • Late night talk shows. ...
  • “The Handmaid's Tale” ...
  • “Billions” ...
  • "The Last of Us" ...
  • “Loot”
May 20, 2023

Why writers strike 2023? ›

Writers went on strike after six weeks of negotiations failed with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, a body that represents major Hollywood studios and production companies like Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount, Sony, Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Disney.

Will General Hospital be affected by writers strike 2023? ›

The writers strike will hit soap operas next

Daytime soap operas like "Days of Our Lives" and "General Hospital" operate on fast and furious production schedules, meaning they have the fewest finished scripts and episodes to air. In a few weeks they will also go dark.

What is a strike def in history? ›

A strike is an organized stoppage of work conducted by laborers in order to impose bargaining power against employers. Strikes may be carried out in response to dangerous working conditions, unfair treatment, low wages, or any other workplace grievance that negatively impacts workers' safety or wellbeing.

What was the writer's strike 1980s? ›

The 1988 Writers Guild of America strike was a strike action taken by members of both the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) against major United States television and film studios represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

What is the definition of a strike? ›

a concerted stopping of work or withdrawal of workers' services, as to compel an employer to accede to workers' demands or in protest against terms or conditions imposed by an employer. a temporary stoppage of something. Also called strike plate.

What caused the 2008 writers strike? ›

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike sought increased funding for the writers in comparison to the profits of the larger studios. It was targeted at the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), a trade association representing the interests of 397 American film and television producers.


1. The Writer's Strike EXPLAINED
(Screen Rant)
2. Writers strike enters its 3rd day
(KTLA 5)
3. Hollywood writers to picket Tuesday
(FOX 11 Los Angeles)
4. How Streaming Hurt Hollywood Writers
(New York Times Audio)
5. 2023 Writers' Strike: Everything You Need to Know
(Dan Murrell)
6. Why Writers Are On Strike | FACTUALLY with David A. Goodman and Danielle Sanchez-Witzel
(Adam Conover)


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