As of Tuesday, Aug. 29, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has been on strike for 115 days and it’s been 47 days since the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) joined them on the picket line. This is the first time the WGA and SAG have been on strike together since 1960.
This time, the crux of the strikers’ demands center around the payment of residuals in the age of streaming and the future use of AI in Hollywood.
While the demands of the writers and actors seem more than reasonable, studio executives continue to claim that things are not that simple.
The main issues — streaming residuals, AI regulation and minimums — have long been overlooked and ignored by studio executives. While A-list actors might get million-dollar paychecks, millions of actors and writers are barely scraping by because of corporate greed.
For example, David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, earns $39 million per year as of 2022 while writers and actors who are entirely responsible for that paycheck cannot even keep the lights on or put food on the table.
Many actors have come out since the strike began revealing just how miniscule their residuals check have been in the wake of streaming. Mandy Moore, who played Rebecca Pearson on the hit-series “This Is Us” has revealed checks for as low as a penny.
Another example is Netflix and the series “Orange is the New Black.” Despite the show being easily one of Netflix’s earliest and biggest success stories, the stars of the series have not seen any rewards for their hard work. Kimiko Glenn, who played Brook Soso, has earned a total of $27.30 for the 44 episodes she starred in.
On top of working demanding jobs that pay so little, now writers and actors must worry about AI making their jobs obsolete completely. The studio wants actors to have their appearances completely digitized, and after one single payment for the day of the scan, the studios would not have to pay them again and would essentially own their likenesses forever.
While the notion of AI writing an entire movie still seems a little far-fetched, the technology could eventually be advanced enough to at least perform rewrites and finish unfinished scripts as the strike continues.
Now there are some arguing that these strikes are going to disrupt the entertainment industry in terms of major releases. Films such as “Dune: Part Two” and “Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse” have already been delayed into 2024 and the latter being indefinitely.
However, that’s the whole point of striking in general. It is meant to be disruptive. Sooner or later, studios will have to keep delaying films, and the well will dry up to the point where the studios will have to listen to reason and give the writers and actors what they want. In case you needed a reminder, they simply want living wages and job security, not an unreasonable request.