LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Friday saw the Writers Guild of America (WGA) negotiators hitting the negotiating table with representatives from big-time studios for the first time since the Hollywood writers’ strike kicked off three months ago. The hope was to spark up a chat on renewing the contract talks, yet the guild reported a stalemate.
As the word went around the guild, it appeared the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) – who voice the interests of power players like Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) – needed to powwow with their member studios before making the next move. After the meeting, the AMPTP maintained radio silence, offering neither a public statement nor a response to requests for comments.
Come May 2, the WGA’s 11,500-strong membership decided enough was enough, citing a deadlock over issues ranging from pay, streaming residuals, to the not-so-small matter of putting the brakes on artificial intelligence use.
After the Friday face-off, the guild revealed that the AMPTP showed signs of flexibility, willing to up the ante on a couple of TV writer-centric minimums and engage in some AI chitchat. However, they seemed less keen to dive into screenwriters’ concerns and other proposals on the table.
The guild pressed the issue, stating that beyond a thorough reply from the AMPTP on proposals in all work zones, there were additional points to be tackled, stemming from the strike. These included extending health care benefits, additional funding for plans, reinstating striking writers, and hashing out disputes that cropped up during the strike.
With the writers’ and actors’ double whammy of strikes taking a toll on the economy, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass expressed a sliver of hope before the Friday meeting, glad to see the reopening of dialogue.
Adding fuel to the fire, members of the Screen Actors Guild declared their own strike on July 14, after failing to nail down a new three-year contract with the studios.
The continuous work stoppages have left a mark on those who work in the wings of the entertainment industry – florists, caterers, costume suppliers, and other small businesses that keep the show on the road.
Before the Friday showdown, the writers and studios traded sharp words. The WGA negotiation team urged the studios to ditch their old ways of the 2007-08 writers’ strike, accusing them of playing fast and loose with the facts about the true impact of the strike.
The WGA threw down the gauntlet in an email, challenging the studios and AMPTP to approach Friday’s meeting with a fresh mindset. “Be ready to hammer out a fair deal and start to mend the fences your strikes and your business strategies have damaged for the workers in this industry.”
In response, the AMPTP labeled the WGA’s rhetoric “regrettable,” arguing that their only game plan was to get folks back to work. They had previously claimed to offer writers a pretty penny in compensation increases, and suggested upgrades in the residuals paid to writers when their films and TV shows hit streaming services.
These simultaneous standoffs by writers and actors are sending shockwaves across the entertainment industry, bringing a halt to most work on scripted series for the upcoming fall TV season and film production.
Word on the street is Fox is gearing up to push back the Emmy Awards to January due to the strikes, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing a source close to the matter.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros Discovery (NASDAQ:WBD) dropped a word of caution to investors on Thursday, noting that the shadow of the twin strikes could stall film releases and hamper its ability to create and deliver content.