With both writers and actors on strike, Hollywood productions have been ground to a halt. Actors have walked off sets, and writers haven’t been working for months. At the center of it all are two types of technology that have had a major impact on the way content is made: AI and streaming.
The unions representing writers and actors — the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) — went on strike after their contracts expired with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the association that represents media companies like Netflix, Disney, Paramount, Universal, and others. While the WGA began its strike on May 2nd, SAG-AFTRA joined the writers at the picket lines on July 14th, marking the first time since 1960 that both unions have gone on strike at the same time.
Both writers and actors are fighting for contracts that prevent an AI from replacing them at their jobs, whether it’s writing scripts or appearing as a background actor. They’re also looking for better pay when working on shows for streaming services. We’re already starting to see the effects of the strike, with shows and movies like Deadpool 3, Stranger Things, Thunderbolts, The Last of Us, and many more in limbo until both unions reach an agreement with the AMPTP.
Here’s the latest on the strikes.
The unions of Hollywood are trying to save it from itselfIllustration by William Joel / The Verge
Fran Drescher, SAG-AFTRA president and the creator of the iconic Fran Fine, stepped up to the microphone, vibrating with fury. She was there with a small group of SAG-AFTRA members to announce their first strike since 1980. “The eyes of the world and particularly the eyes of labor are upon us,” Drescher said. “The gravity of this move is not lost on me, or our negotiating committee, or our board members who have voted unanimously to proceed with a strike.”
This strike is different. It’s far more complicated than just wanting a bigger cut of the hit films and TV shows that actors and writers helped create. A rapid shift toward streaming — coupled with the existential threat posed by AI — has created a canyon between what Hollywood writers and actors want and what the country’s largest media companies are willing to give. As Drescher so bluntly puts it: “You cannot change the business model as much as it has changed and not expect the contract to change too.”
Read Article >
More details on striking actors’ demands have emerged.
The Screen Actors Guild went on strike over major studios’ refusal to meet their demands for a two percent cut of streaming revenue and a 230 percent increase in foreign streaming residuals, among others, according to Variety.
On studios’ use of generative AI and actors’ digital likenesses, Variety writes:
The union wants to require that a performer has to consent to any use of their performance to train an AI system. The AMPTP would accept that for AI training used to alter or recreate that performer’s likeness. But according to Crabtree-Ireland, the AMPTP would give studios carte blanche to train AI systems to create “synthetic” performers, or for other purposes.
SAG-AFTRA also wants studios to get union consent on individual uses of AI, which the studios have refused to grant. There is also the dispute over background actors.
A real-time reaction to the actors’ strike.
Two out of the big three Hollywood labor unions are on strike, citing streaming and AI as major issues, and actors are starting to picket offices for companies like Warner Bros., Netflix, and Amazon. This screengrab from CNBC captures the initial reaction of Wall Street.
SAG-AFTRA goes on strike at midnight tonightImage: SAG-AFTRA
After weeks of unsuccessful negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the union representing about 160,000 of the entertainment industry’s American laborers will begin striking at midnight tonight.
This afternoon, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland announced that the union’s national board has unanimously voted to go on strike in direct response to the AMPTP’s refusal “to offer a fair deal on key issues essential to protecting the livelihoods of working actors and performers.”
Read Article >
Bob Iger on writers’ strike: “It’s very disturbing to me.”
In an interview with CNBC, the Disney CEO called the ongoing writers’ strike “disruptive,” and says it’s not helping the industry recover from the covid pandemic:
There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic. And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.
Hollywood writers have been on strike for over two months now, and they could soon be joined by actors across the industry as negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP falter.
Tony Gilroy says he doesn’t “have any idea” what Andor’s audience is.
That’s all thanks to the way streaming services like Disney Plus keep their viewership data under wraps, the Andor showrunner tells The Wrap. It’s also one of the reasons why Hollywood writers are on strike:
One of the central issues of this entire labor experience is that I don’t have any idea what the audience is… So I wish I knew how many people watched, I wish I knew who they were, and I’m not sure that that’s possible.
Hundreds of actors are ready to strike if SAG-AFTRA doesn’t secure a truly ‘transformative deal’Image: SAG-AFTRA
Ahead of SAG-AFTRA’s current labor contract with the AMPTP expiring on June 30th, hundreds of the union’s members have signed an open letter to leadership warning that they are more than ready to strike if a new deal properly addressing all of their concerns isn’t hammered out.
Earlier this week, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland posted a curious video update in which they said that they couldn’t provide any real details about the union’s negotiations with the AMPTP for confidentiality reasons.
Read Article >
Unfortunately, Secret Invasion’s AI credits are exactly what we should expect from MarvelA still from Secret Invasion’s opening credits sequence. Image: Marvel Studios
Disney’s Marvel brand has cemented itself as a disquietingly dominant pop cultural fixture whose outsize influence on the larger entertainment industry can be seen in the way that virtually every studio is in the cinematic universe business these days. Even now, Marvel’s approach to filmmaking doesn’t always work well or resonate with audiences. But because Marvel’s one of the largest fish in the pond, decisions it makes — especially those regarding the technology behind its films and tv shows — are easy to interpret as the studio merely keeping pace with the times rather than as one of Hollywood’s giants helping to define what entertainment should look like and how it should be made.
For the most part, Marvel’s hype-forward way of debuting new projects and then touting all the tech-driven creativity involved in their making afterward has worked in the studio’s favor. But with Secret Invasion — Disney Plus’ latest series set in the MCU — and its open use of AI-generated art, Marvel’s waded into a complicated situation where its own troubled history with VFX workers and AI’s demonstrated potential for harming human artists both make the show seem to be a concerning sign of things to come.
Read Article >
Lilly Wachowski has very good reasons for voting “no” on the DGA’s deal with the AMPTP.
The Directors Guild of America has already approved a tentative new labor contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and encouraged members to ratify it by vote.
But ahead of the voting deadline on June 23rd, a number of directors including Lilly Wachowski have begun speaking out about why they’ve cast “no” ballots, namely: some concerning language in the proposed contract relating to “generative” AI that definitely seems like it could be exploited in nefarious ways.
Disclosure: The Verge’s editorial staff is also unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East.
Spotify’s podcast future isn’t very originalIllustration: Nick Barclay / The Verge
This is Hot Pod, The Verge’s newsletter about podcasting and the audio industry. Sign up here for more.
When Spotify announced yesterday that it would lay off 200 employees from its podcast unit and combine Gimlet and Parcast into a single operation, it came as a shock to outside observers. But former and current podcast employees at Spotify have seen the writing on the wall for some time.
Read Article >
The AI and streaming provisions of a tentative Directors Guild deal fall flat with the WGA.
Members of the Writers Guild of America spoke out against the deal, as seen in a report in Deadline. Several with membership in one or both guilds tweeted complaints that the DGA had “made a deal behind our backs” and didn’t get “close to no AI source material.”
WGA negotiating committee co-chair Chris Keyser was quoted in another Deadline article today:
If [AMPTP President] Carol Lombardini thinks negotiating with the DGA while we’re out on strike is some kind of trump card, she’s going to find out that her 2007-08 playbook doesn’t belong in the negotiating room; it belongs in a museum.
Thunderbolts becomes latest Marvel movie to be hit by writers’ strikeImage: Disney
Filming for Thunderbolts, the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe film centered around the franchise’s anti-heroes, has been delayed due to the ongoing writers strike, The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline report. Production had been due to start in the coming weeks in Atlanta, but now isn’t expected to commence until after the strike ends.
Thunderbolts is just the latest production impacted by the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike. The union representing roughly 11,500 writers from across film, television, and more went on strike at the beginning of this month in a dispute around pay in an increasingly streaming-dominated era. The WGA is also seeking to regulate the use of generative AI in writers’ rooms.
Read Article >
Writers are striking and AI rights are on the table.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) voted to strike this morning, and though low pay is the main incentive, there’s another contentious issue: AI. The WGA wants to protect members so their work is not used by Hollywood studios to train AI tools that replace them. As Vox explains, it’s a fight that will likely be replicated across many industries in the years to come.
Hollywood writers are striking over low wages caused by streaming boomThe 2007 writers’ strike (pictured above) lost California an estimated $2.1 billion and was credited with tipping the state into a recession. Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images
As of today, thousands of Hollywood television and movie writers are going on strike for the first time in 15 years.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) voted unanimously to strike on Tuesday after contract negotiations with the major Hollywood studios collapsed. The WGA is attempting to secure higher wages and better working conditions from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) — a group representing around 350 major studios and streaming services like Netflix, Disney, Amazon, Apple, and Sony — for the thousands of movie and television writers the union represents. Picket lines are expected to form starting Tuesday afternoon.
Read Article >
The WGA has overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strikeImage: The Writers Guild of America
While contract negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are still underway, the WGA’s members have just gotten one step closer to striking should this round of talks not resolve before May.
Deadline reports that an overwhelming majority (97 percent) of the WGA’s members voted today to authorize a strike — a move that empowers the WGA West Board and the WGA East Council to call for a strike if the WGA and the AMPTP can’t agree upon a fair labor contract by May 1st. (Disclosure: The Verge’s editorial staff is represented by the Writers Guild of America East.) Of the WGA’s eligible voting members, 9,020 voted in favor of the strike authorization, while 198 opposed. In an email to members, the WGA said that the results sent a clear message and set new records “for both participation and the percentage of support in a strike authorization vote.”
Read Article >
The Writers Guild of America likens AI-generated content to plagiarismImage: The Writers Guild of America
If you were worried that film and TV were about to become a wasteland of AI-generated dialogue, then know that the Writers Guild of America, East, is in your corner. Earlier today, Variety reported that the WGA had floated a proposal in its contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) that would allow writers and studios to use AI tools in limited capacities. This led to much consternation from the writing community, which understandably feels under threat over the rapid adoption of AI as a writing tool.
Notably, as we reported below, the Variety report did not acknowledge whether scripts wholly generated by AI would be allowed. Since then, the WGA has released a statement on Twitter that, while not directly countering Variety’s report, does clarify the union’s stance. “Companies can’t use AI to undermine writers’ working standards including compensation, residuals, separated rights and credits,” the Twitter thread begins.
Read Article >
The golden age of the streaming wars has endedImage: Getty Images
It’s over. For the last half-decade, we’ve enjoyed a golden age in entertainment. The rise of the streaming service has brought more TV and film into our homes than ever before. It’s been a joy — and sometimes a chore — to keep up with every new offering Netflix, HBO Max, Disney Plus, and the rest put before us. But over the last few months, we’ve seen a reorientation of how many of these services do business, and it’s clear that this glut of content we’ve enjoyed, for the mere cost of a monthly subscription, is about to end. Some of us are going to keenly feel the pain of that more than others.
Before streaming changed the landscape of Hollywood, it was a very different place. It could take writers years to become showrunners, and the number of plum roles for a new star was few and far between. There was a lot of reality TV — particularly on cable — but scripted television was limited to just a handful of channels. The owners of those channels were in a brutal competition for your eyeballs, crafting prestige show after prestige show to arrest our attention. From 1999, with the premiere of The Sopranos, to somewhere in the mid-2010s, there was a Golden Age of TV.
Read Article >