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What the Hell Happened: How the Writer’s Guild Strike Changed Hollywood

Writers' strike outside Marvel Studio's Disney+ TV Show "Daredevil: Born Again" in New York City.
Writers' strike outside Marvel Studio's Disney+ TV Show "Daredevil: Born Again" in New York City. By Courtesy of Fabebk
By Rachel A. Beard, Crimson Staff Writer

Just months ago, the glamorous streets of Los Angeles were rife with tension, bearing the weight of not just picket signs, but the hopes and frustrations of an entire industry. For 148 days, the Writers Guild of America, alongside their allies from SAG-AFTRA, made headlines as they took on the entertainment titans of Hollywood, demanding fairer wages, residuals fit for the streaming age, and respect in the era of artificial intelligence.

It all began when the Writers Guild of America sat down opposite the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) to renegotiate entertainment writers’ contracts, a practice that takes place every three years. But this year, things were different. The age of streaming had fundamentally altered the TV landscape, and writers felt the brunt of these changes.

The WGA was unable to strike an agreement with the AMPTP, so on May 2, they made the fateful decision to walk out. This wasn’t just about pay; this was about the very essence of their profession. Demonstrating the interconnectedness of Hollywood, actors under SAG-AFTRA also bolstered the picket lines, launching their own strike and bringing additional momentum to the cause.

After months of standoffs and negotiations, a breakthrough occurred on Sept. 27: Both parties reached a tentative agreement. Three days later, the writers’ union ordered the end of the strike. WGA members will vote to ratify the agreement between Oct. 2 and 9. The outcomes of the negotiations addressed several core issues for the writers.

With streaming platforms championing shorter seasons, writers often found themselves with fewer opportunities and diminished pay. The new contract set minimum staffing requirements, ensuring that more writers — especially those early in their careers — had the chance to work.

The landscape of residuals had changed with the absence of syndication on streaming platforms. Now, if a TV series experiences high viewership within its initial 90 days, writers could see an additional 50% in residuals. The agreement also brought significant improvements for movie writers, including guaranteed pay timelines, protections against unpaid edits, and bonuses for successful streaming films.

In a significant victory, streaming platforms would now share — though under confidentiality — crucial viewership data, providing insights previously kept in the dark that would give writers and audiences more clarity.

In an age where A.I. threatens many professions, writers have managed to secure essential protections. Any rewrites of A.I.-generated scripts would be considered original, and the negotiation outlines strict boundaries on studios mandating the use of A.I. tools.

Writers, by and large, welcomed the new contract. As Kyra Jones aptly put in an interview with CNBC, “It felt like we won.” With terms that seemingly favored writers who make up the heart and soul of Hollywood, the contract’s announcement was met with widespread relief and satisfaction.

However, the strike had consequences beyond the writers and producers. Many shows stopped production, potentially leading to job losses for hundreds involved in these projects. Audiences were left in suspense, unsure when their favorite shows would return and when anticipated movies would be released. This industry standstill highlighted the importance of writers and demonstrated how interconnected and dependent each part of the entertainment industry is on one another.

Moreover, public opinion largely sided with the writers. Social media campaigns, endorsements from celebrities, and overall viewership reiterated the significance of the writers' demands, especially in an era where content consumption habits are rapidly changing. This outpouring of support made it evident that the writers weren't just fighting for their own rights but were also advocating for the preservation of storytelling integrity in modern film and television.

The saga underscores the importance of creativity in an ever-evolving industry. Hollywood, in all its glitz and glamor, is a world built upon stories, and it's heartening to see those who pen them finally get their due.

—Staff writer Rachel A. Beard can be reached at rachel.beard@thecrimson.com.

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