Dramatic Delays: The Uncertain Timeline of The Writer’s Strike

The future of entertainment is currently unclear as members of the Writer's Guild of America continue to strike.

The strike began on May 2 and has immediately impacted late-night and other scripted entertainment. Other unions are refusing to cross picket lines and making their own plans to strike.

What Are Writers Fighting for This Time?

Hollywood Teamster Boss Lindsay Dougherty said she knew a strike was coming on the first day of bargaining.

“I was so upset because I knew deep in my core the studios were not trying to make a deal with the writers,” she told Vanity Fair. “I felt [the studios] were going through the motions just to get to this point, which was to put the writers out on strike.”

What the Writer's Guild of America (WGA) wants for its writers are job and financial security: for studios to commit to keeping a writer on a show for a set time and better pay, especially from streaming platforms. In a statement, the WGA said companies “have used the transition to streaming to cut writer pay and separate writing from production, worsening working conditions for series writers at all levels.”

“Gig Economy” Is a Problem

This squeezing is felt through what writers call “mini rooms.” Rather than fully staffed writers' rooms set to write long seasons of shows, many streaming platforms have opted to break shows down into limited or mini-series. The seasons are much shorter than traditional TV shows, but that doesn't mean a writer's job is any easier.

Talking to Indie Wire, one writer explained that they're “doing absolutely all the work that [they] would do in a full writers room” but are paid “a fraction” of what they'd usually make. When brought on for these mini-room projects, writers are generally only paid the union-guaranteed minimum wage daily work rather than the weekly employment television shows used to provide.

In their statement, WGA said these working conditions have created what's essentially a “gig economy inside a union workforce.”

AI's Impact on Writing

Currently, the WGA has a simple philosophy regarding how AI is used for writers: AI is only good for research.

In their statement, the WGA wants to ensure companies cannot “undermine writers' working standards, including compensation, residuals, separated rights and credits” using AI-generated material.

“AI can't be literary material,” WGA Negotiating Committee Co-Chair Chris Keyser said during a picket-line interview with Deadline. It can't be a draft that we have to rewrite. It doesn't mean that company won't use it in some ways.”

But according to Keyser, studios won't discuss AI. To him, it's a sign that studios want to be able to use AI in the future without restriction from union contracts.

“I think you get a really good sense from the companies about where they see the future based on what they say they won't talk about,” he said. “Because the stuff they'll say yes to is the stuff they feel like they can absorb [the cost of] so easily, or maybe not pay in the long run.”

No More Free Work

The other topic studios are refusing to discuss? Free work.

Part of the better pay also includes being paid for the editing phase of the writing process; according to CNBC, writers are expected to provide rewrites and edits – or even new material entirely – without compensation.

Lindsay Dougherty tells Vanity Fair that studios have been “squeezing” everything they can from workers. “Just work for free. If you want this job, do this for me,” is a common saying on set, she says.

It's Not Just The WGA

The WGA might not be the only union walking the picket line this summer. According to Deadline, the Director's Guild of America's contract ends June 30, and members aren't ruling out a strike.

Plus, the SGA-AFTRA begins negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on June 7. In anticipation of the talks, the SGA-AFTA recommended to its members that they authorize a strike to give the members the best bargaining leverage.

Production Is on Hold

As the writer's strike continues, studios have had to make decisions on projects currently in the works. First reported by Variety, HBO's Euphoria and The Last of Us announced they were putting a hold on production and Netflix's Stranger Things.

Other shows currently on pause include YellowjacketsAndorAbbot ElementaryFamily Guy, American Dad, AMC's Anne Rice and Walking Dead series, and all late-night TV shows, including The Late Show and Last Week Tonight.

You'll also be waiting a while for the next season of AppleTV's Severance and Paramount's Evil.

But if you're a Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings fan, you're lucky: House of the Dragon and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power have completed scripts and are currently still in production.

When Will The Writer's Strike End?

For those who don't remember, the last writer's strike lasted 100 days, stretching from the end of 2007 into the beginning of 2008. But this time, many feel the timeline will depend on how long streaming services can bring in “new” content.

Unlike the 2007/2008 strike, when studios had to depend on a pivot to reality to bring in new viewers, streaming services currently have an advantage. Katie Fortmuller, an associate professor of entertainment and media studies at the University of Georgia, told NPR that not only are spring and summer expected to have low viewership, but streaming services have content still to be released – including shows and movies from international markets.

“Long term, they can't necessarily rely on that,” Fortmuller said, “because so much of the business model is about attracting new subscribers with new shows.”

But with broadcast television fed heavily by live programming and sports – Fox, for example, dedicates 40% of its programming to sports – the strike can last long into the fall.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Nicole Tommasulo is Boston-based and Buffalo-born writer and editor. Typically covering all things lifestyle, her beat spans from food, to breaking news, to travel, mental health, and everything in between. She has an MFA in Writing from Savannah College of Art and Design and has been previously published by The List, Heels Down Magazine, Hello Giggles, and several now-dead but not forgotten websites like xoJane and Femsplain. When she's not writing or editing, she's nerding out over books, prestige TV, plants, food, and frisbee golf.