Hollywood writers near end of months-long strike. What happens next?

If writers approve tentative deal, work on some Hollywood shows could resume quickly. Here’s all you need to know.

Actors and writers on the picket line outside a Hollywood studio
SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America writers walk the picket line outside Disney Studios in Burbank, California, July 25, 2023 [File: Mike Blake/Reuters]

A Hollywood strike of nearly five months appears about to end as a tentative deal has been reached between unionised screenwriters and the studios, streaming services and production companies that hire them.

Here’s a look at the steps to come for writers, and for the actors whose strike continues:

What was agreed to?

After five days of marathon negotiating sessions that included the CEOs of Hollywood’s biggest studios, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) came to terms on Sunday night on a contract good for three years, the standard length in the industry.

But two successful votes must happen before the strike is over.

First, boards of the WGA’s eastern and western branches must approve the deal. Then the 11,500 members themselves must vote for approval. Such votes are actually common with Hollywood unions, taking place every time a new three-year contract is negotiated, though they do not normally come at the end of a prolonged strike.

In the last writers’ strike, in 2008, board members voted two days after a deal was reached, and members voted two days after that. The agreement was approved overwhelmingly, with more than 90 percent of writers voting yes.

That does not necessarily mean the vote is a sure thing. Some members are bound to be unsatisfied with the compromises their leaders reached on issues including compensation, the size of writing staffs, and the use of artificial intelligence in scriptwriting, especially after spending nearly five months out of work on picket lines.

An eleventh-hour agreement that averted a strike by a different union representing Hollywood crews in 2021 was controversial and barely passed. But the desire to get back to work could prompt some writers with mixed feelings to vote yes.

When will writers and shows return?

Once the contract is approved, work will resume more quickly for some writers than others.

Late-night talk shows were the first to be affected when the strike began, and may be among the first to return to air now. NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, and CBS’s The Late Show With Stephen Colbert could come back within days.

But while the show’s joke writers will be free to return, many of their usual guests will not, with the ongoing actors strike bringing limits on such appearances. The shows’ returns amid that second strike could prove controversial, as it did for the planned-then-axed resumptions of daytime shows, including The Drew Barrymore Show and The Talk.

The actors union has on the whole taken a less ardent approach than the WGA, however.

Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have, for example, granted interim agreements allowing many non-studio productions to continue — something their Writers Guild counterparts refused to do — and they may not get in the way of attempts of shows to return.

Writers’ rooms for scripted shows that shut down at the strike’s onset, including Netflix’s Stranger Things, Apple TV+’s Severance, and ABC’s Abbott Elementary, are also likely to reactivate quickly, though with no performers to act out the scripts, long delays between page and screen will be inevitable.

Film writers will also get back to work on their slower timeline, though those working on scripts or late revisions for already scheduled movies — including Deadpool 3 and Superman: Legacy — will certainly be hustling to crack open their laptops and avoid further release-date delays.

How long will the actors’ strike last?

The studios that make up the AMPTP opted to finish a deal with writers — who went on strike two months earlier — before even beginning to deal with actors.

Leaders of SAG-AFTRA have said they have received no overtures from the AMPTP since their strike began on July 14. That is likely to change now, and another round of negotiations is likely to begin, though it remains to be seen how long that may take.

It was three months into the writers’ strike before the AMPTP reached out to begin negotiations, and the initial talks sputtered after just a few days. A month later, the studios came calling again, and this time the deal was done less than a week later.

Source: The Associated Press