Viva Reimers ‘24 / Emertainment Monthly Marketing Events & Merchandise Coordinator
Picket lines and protestors crowded around Hollywood’s biggest production studios. The writers from the labor union Writers Guild of America (WGA), ceased their work as a collective protest against their employers, which are typically studios, networks, and/or production companies. The main reason for this strike was disputes over compensation for all their efforts. The WGA strike started May 2 and ended September 27. About 99% of the WGA members demanded things such as increased compensation, better residuals, staffing requirements, and protections from artificial intelligence (A.I.) job interference.
The SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) strike started on July 14, and ended shortly after the WGA strike on November 9 2023. The SAG-AFTRA strike had similar demands. They demanded wage increases, protections against the use of artificial intelligence(A.I.), an increase in residuals from streaming platforms, and improved health and retirement benefits. With its start on July 14, the actors guild came to an agreement with studios on a new contract for the actors, which signaled the end of the immobility of Hollywood.
Writers and actors alike came together to protest this treatment. Countless shows halted production because they had no more writers or actors for their productions.
A.I. for actors is a continuous issue because they can be replaced by AI-generated figures.
For example, in Black Mirror S6 E1 “Joan is Awful,” Salma Hayek—playing herself—has her body scanned and is used for a show and doesn’t physically need to do anything. They are able to manipulate A.I. generated versions of her body to do whatever they want without her present. This in turn did lead her to grow angry when she saw the disgusting things the production company made her do that did not align with her personal brand values.
The priority for production companies that were affected by the strike is to go back to working on their greenlit projects first. Many teased films and shows from before the strike are going to be put into production as soon as possible before they take on any other projects. A24 is one of the few production companies that were able to continue production on a few projects during the strikes because they signed interim agreements.
Some production companies decided to continue filming regardless of these strikes.
Drew Barrymore is someone who crossed the picket line. She made the decision to continue filming her talk show “The Drew Barrymore Show” and faced relentless controversy. When Barrymore announced she was going to be continuing her talk show she stated via Instagram:
“I made a choice to walk away from the MTV, film and television awards because I was the host and it had a direct conflict with what the strike was dealing with which was studios, streamers, film, and television. It was also in the first week of the strike and so I did what I thought was the appropriate thing at the time to stand in solidarity with the writers. And to be clear, our talk show actually wrapped on April 20th so we never had to shut down the show. However, I am also making the choice to come back for the first time in this strike for our show, that may have my name on it but this is bigger than just me. I own this choice. We are in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind. We launched live in a global pandemic. Our show was built for sensitive times and has only functioned through what the real world is going through in real time. I want to be there to provide what writers do so well, which is a way to bring us together or help us make sense of the human experience. I hope for a resolve for everyone as soon as possible. We have navigated difficult times since we first came on air. And so I take a step forward to start season 4 once again with an astute humility.”
Barrymore’s statement caused an outrage from supporters of the WGA strike. This statement caused people to believe that she was being selfish and greedy. The diversionary tactic of mentioning her in production during the COVID-19 pandemic did not help her case either. Whether you believe she was being greedy, or that she really never cared about the writers at all, shortly after her apology video (in which she halted production again), the strike was resolved and now her show is continuing again.
So what is there to expect in the future now that the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes have been resolved? There were so many people out of jobs to protest the unfair treatment within the entertainment industry. Luckily because there are labor strike laws, workers who were striking against unfair labor practices are entitled to have their jobs restored legally.