Writers strike begins as talks close without resolution at deadline

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said Monday evening that talks ended with the Writers Guild of America without a contract resolution by the deadline of 3 a.m. EST.

This paves the way for a writers strike starting Tuesday after the previous contract effectively lapsed. The 11,500 members of the WGA overwhelmingly voted last month to stop working if an agreement wasn’t reached.

This is the first strike to impact TV and film production since the last writers strike in 2007, which lasted 100 days. This one could last at least until late June because the AMPTP has committed to negotiating new contracts with the Directors Guild of America starting May 10 and SAG-AFTRA (for actors) on June 7. Their contracts expire June 30.

The producers’ union likely won’t return to the negotiating table with the writers until the deals with directors and actors are finalized.

“Negotiations between the AMPTP and the WGA concluded without agreement today,” the AMPTP said in a statement. “The AMPTP presented a comprehensive package proposal to the Guild last night which included generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals.”

AMPTP said it was willing to improve its offer except the WGA is insisting on “mandatory staffing” and “duration of employment” in which a company would have to staff a certain number of writers for a specified period of time “whether needed or not.”

Negotiations began March 20. The last contract round in 2017 was resolved just minutes after the deadline.

Writers have complained that pay has gone down with the rise of streaming services, which feature shorter seasons and don’t usually offer residuals they get when their shows and films are repeated on broadcast and cable TV. They have become concerned about “mini writer rooms” which are smaller than traditional writer rooms and used for a shorter period of time. And writers are worried about the rise of artificial intelligence possibly displacing some of their work.

“This is scary,” wrote Ashley Nicole Black, a former writer for TBS’s “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” on Twitter Monday night. “But a future where we accept what the companies are trying to do ― low paid, freelance writing gigs with no job security ― is much scarier. You can’t make good art that way. And writers generate far too much profit for them to accept it. So, I’m on strike!”

Sal Gentile, a writer for “Late Night for Seth Myers” wrote on Twitter that he wants writing to “remain a sustainable career. The studios want to turn it into a gig economy where millionaires can exploit us at will to please shareholders.”

The writers union, in a statement announcing the strike, echoed Gentile’s sentiments saying that the producers’ “immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing.”

WGA has informed its members to begin setting up picket lines in Los Angeles and New York Tuesday afternoon. Georgia only has about 36 WGA members so picket lines are unlikely to happen in Atlanta despite thousands of other potentially impacted employees in town such as camera operators, gaffers and wardrobe managers.

TV and film production in Georgia has already slowed this year compared to a year ago as the decision makers have slowed greenlighting projects in anticipation of the strike. There are about 35 active TV and movie productions in Georgia right now, according to the Georgia film office, down from 50 a year ago at this time.

That 35 number will likely drop sharply in the coming weeks, leaving plenty of Georgians without work.

The immediate impact of the strike is the late-night talk shows like “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” on NBC and “The Jimmy Kimmel Show” on ABC, which will stop production without working writers. None are based in Atlanta. “Saturday Night Live” on NBC, which had Pete Davidson scheduled to be host this Saturday, will also go dark in New York City.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents most crew members including thousands in Atlanta, almost went on strike in 2021, seeking more work protections to ensure they didn’t get so burned out. Fortunately, a deal was struck at the last second.