The effects of the Hollywood writers’ strike, which has been in motion since the beginning of May, have started to set in, as the production of dozens of major TV shows and films has now been held up.
The mass strike, organised by the Writers Guild of America (which represents around 12,000 writers across the US) and now backed by SAG-AFTRA (which represents around 160,000 media professionals), has been caused by contract negotiation issues. The Guild and the body representing the big Hollywood studios (such as Netflix, Disney, Apple, Amazon, Paramount, Warner Bros.) negotiate contracts every three years. But this year, writers are demanding more.
The rise of streaming platforms has radically changed the way that writers are hired and work. Rather than being employed by a 20-episode show, or a sitcom, which then gets bought and redistributed on other networks – leading to possible future royalties – writers now tend to be hired for short amounts of time to work on miniseries exclusively being made for a streaming site. This means that there is just one paycheck, and their contracts are much shorter.
Writers feel like they need to be compensated for these employment changes.
Actors who have picketed in support of the strike include America Ferrara, Tina Fey, Gillian Jacobs, Rob Lowe, Natasha Lyonne, Seth MacFarlane, Alyssa Milano, Chris Pine, Jason Sudeikis, Wanda Sykes, Kerry Washington and Bowen Yang.
Why is it affecting films and TV shows?
Most TV shows and films have long production times, which means there will be new content coming our way for a while.
However, soon those prestige dramas will shudder to a halt. Soap operas, which have a shorter production time, are unlikely to be able to continue after a couple of months.
Live shows, such as Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert’s late-night chat shows, and SNL, have all been affected by the strike. They went dark – the term for when the shows go off air, and reruns are broadcast instead – at the beginning of May.
“If you don’t see me here next week, know that it is something that is not done lightly, and that I will be heartbroken to miss you as well,” said Seth Meyers, before his own late-night show went off the air.
Is there a precedent?
Yes. There have been several writers’ strikes in the past, the longest of them being in 2007 – when the strike went on for 100 days – and in 1988 when it lasted for 153 days. The current strike is now in its 115th day.
Which films and TV shows are going to be affected?
Now that it’s nearly been four months, we have a much better idea of the films and TV shows that will be caught up in the strike drama.
Back in May, Marvel announced it was pausing production of its films Blade, about a superhero vampire hunter, and Thunderbolts, which is about a group of supervillains hired by the government.
It has also paused the production of its Disney+ TV series Wonder Man, which will star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Ben Kingsley.
Aziz Ansari’s Liongate-backed directorial debut, Good Fortune, was then indefinitely delayed.
As for TV shows, the teams working on American Dad and Family Guy joined the strike, as did the writers of Netflix’s American martial arts comedy Cobra Kai.
According to Deadline, the third season of HBO’s Euphoria was already eyeing a 2025 release because of creator Sam Levinson’s commitments to The Idol and Zendaya’s packed schedule – but now the show’s delivery may come even later.
Plus, the writers’ room for the Game Of Thrones prequel A Knight Of The Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight has shut down.
“No one wanted this — no writer with an ounce of sense, anyway — but the producers and the studios and the networks and the streamers gave us no choice,” said GOT creator George RR Martin in a blog post in May. “I am not in LA, so I cannot walk a picket line as I did in 1988, but I want to go on the record with my full and complete and unequivocal support of my Guild.”
Tony Gilroy, the showrunner of Andor said he had stopped working on the Disney+ show, and writers working on season three of Showtime’s disaster thriller Yellowjackets also put down their pens.
The filming of season three of the HBO Max show Hacks, a series about comedy writers, halted, and the production of season five of Stranger Things also stopped.
“Writing does not stop when filming begins. While we’re excited to start production with our amazing cast and crew, it is not possible during this strike. We hope a fair deal is reached soon so we can all get back to work. Until then – over and out,” said the Netflix show’s creators Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer on Twitter.
Duffers here. Writing does not stop when filming begins. While we’re excited to start production with our amazing cast and crew, it is not possible during this strike. We hope a fair deal is reached soon so we can all get back to work. Until then -- over and out. #wgastrong
— stranger writers (@strangerwriters) May 6, 2023
But the list doesn’t stop there: the second season of HBO’s post-apocalyptic drama The Last of Us, which stars Pedro Pascal, is on hold. Writing of The Handmaid’s Tale, which is going into its sixth season, has been paused, as has writing on the third season of ABC’s school mockumentary, Abbott Elementary.
The writing of the third season of The White Lotus has also halted, while the filming of Amazon Prime Video’s Blade Runner series has reportedly also been pushed back by around a year.
The effects of the strikes don’t stop there. More recently, the release date of several high-profile films has also been postponed. The release date of Dune: Part 2, for example, has been delayed from November 3 to March 15, 2024. The premiere of Challengers, Luca Guadagnino’s latest project, a sports romance starring Zendaya, has been postponed to April next year, and Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things starring Emma Stone will now be released in the UK on January 12, 2024, rather than the original date September 8.