Would WGA Build Coalition With DGA & SAG-AFTRA? –

On the party circuit during Emmy weekend, one topic inevitably found its way into every conversation, the possibility of a writers’ strike. Even in September, the consensus was that a strike was likely.

That sentiment has strengthened in the months since, amid a worsening economic environment fueled by high inflation and a deepening recession. The WGA elected board members on platforms focused on upcoming contract negotiations and appointed a negotiating committee, including several committee members who led the guild’s campaign against talent agencies over packaging. Successfully completed.


Given how difficult and deep-rooted the issues at stake are for writers, including minimum wage hikes, span protections and curbs on streaming arrears and money rooms, a strike appears likely when the current contract expires. Expires on May 1, 2023. This result is particularly evident. Possibly in light of the fact that the WGA has traditionally been the Hollywood union most willing to walk the picket lines to get what it wants. There have been six writers’ strikes till date.

“I think it’s very likely that there will be enough pressure to move toward a strike,” said one industry veteran.

Apart from commercial actors, three actors’ film and TV careers were halted, the last in the 1980s. The directors went on strike only once, in 1987, and it lasted only three hours.

However, despite the DGA’s desire to move quickly and a deal early and SAG-AFTRA’s relative silence thus far on its upcoming contract negotiations, there are factors to promote cooperation among Hollywood unions. The great confluence may never have happened.


“Interestingly, in this cycle, the DGA issues, the Writers Guild issues and the Screen Actors Guild issues are very much connected because they’re basically on minimum wages and arrears, and are such separate issues. Not that specific. Just the Writers Guild,” said one commenter. “There’s always a few more small rooms, so while it seems like it might be a separate issue, it’s really a weekly compensation issue.”

There has been talk for the past several weeks about the WGA’s informal approach to the DGA and SAG-AFTRA, whose current contracts with the studios expire June 30, and a possible alignment, particularly to the DGA. are

“I think the DGA leadership is very aware right now that the Writers Guild has negotiating power, that they need the Writers Guild to push the issues that are important to their members. , like outstanding, because those are the same issues that the Writers Guild has. People aren’t making as much money as they used to,” an industry source told in early November. “They have had a new executive director since last time. [pre-pandemic contract negotiation]I think he and the current president of the DGA are very aware of the need for some unified messaging.

Indeed, in an email to its members last week, DGA Negotiations Chair Jon Avnet and National Executive Director Russell Hollander listed “increasing streaming debt” and “winning strong wage increases” on their list of “big issues” at stake. Put it on. They sent a strong message, echoing the WGA’s willingness to strike.


“We have been preparing for over a year to fulfill our guild’s highest goal: to protect your economic and creative rights,” he wrote. “We are ready to negotiate and if necessary, we are ready to fight.”

We hear that the studios are looking to start negotiations with the DGA before the end of the year and reach an agreement that will be used as a template for other unions. Even if it does, it likely won’t be like previous times when directors would go out on their own and force the WGA’s hand by setting up a contractual framework.

“Who will do the contract first? Probably the DGA, they usually do,” said one industry insider. “But I don’t think they’ll do that without significant discussions with the Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild.”

The possibility of a writers’ strike had been on the radar of studio and network executives for months, but not on top of mind. They are expected to begin focusing on potential conflicts after the start of the year. There is not much that can be done in terms of preparation other than storing some scripts. (There is talk that studios are looking at shedding some of their overall deal rosters in the event of a strike, as they did in January 2008 when some used the “force majeure” provision. 40 contracts were terminated.)

In contrast to the Nov. 2007-Feb. 08 Writers’ strike A potential work stoppage occurs during the annual broadcast hiatus, before writers typically gather to work on a new season.


And ironically, the proliferation of so-called money rooms, which have become a key issue for the WGA in the upcoming negotiations, will nullify the effects of the strike.

This is because these writers’ rooms are usually put together to work on new or returning shows before the network or streamer decides to pick up or renew the series. Increasingly, off-air, shows have their entire seasons written before moving forward with production, which means streamers and cable networks are able to film fresh episodes of a series without being interrupted by a potential writers’ strike. will be done

Issues surrounding smaller rooms include lower pay, span protection (as extending the time writers work on a season order reduces production fees per episode). Another point of contention is the bounce of writers from one small room to another without the opportunity to gather the production experience so essential to becoming a successful exhibitor. (I’ve heard that some studios, including Netflix and UCP, have switched from per-episode to weekly compensation for writers.) The current model has greenlight decisions and mini-room weeks after wrapping. Or even months later — and that’s extra. Time that studios and streamers aren’t willing to pay writers for. This means that a generation of writers are coming into the ranks to supervise producers or co-executive producers without ever stepping foot on set.

“I think companies are very short-sighted about paying for the training to develop the next generation of people that they need to run shows – that’s a real problem,” said one industry source.

A deteriorating economic environment is likely to play a role in future negotiations. Writers’ incomes have been affected by inflation, adding extra urgency to the emphasis on salary.


Meanwhile, media stocks have had a tough time as investors’ priorities have begun to shift from growth to profitability. There is also the very real threat of a recession, which could also weigh on the negotiations. Some speculate that, as was the case in previous negotiations during the difficult first months of the pandemic, writers will be less willing to strike during an economic downturn.

However, as SVOD and AVOD have become the main means of viewing current series while streaming remains badly behind linear series, writers will have no choice if the major studios don’t agree to a big raise.

Using technology terms emerging from the 2001 negotiations, the companies have so far resisted pressure from the WGA to drastically increase streaming residuals.

“Even if the business can increase by 500%, no one is interested in increasing at least 500% through communication, how about 3-5%?” One person said.

As for the companies possibly using the argument that they’re losing billions of dollars by expanding their streamers, “it’s because they’ve chosen to compete for viewership market share.” The man added. “Writers, directors and actors should not suffer based on their choices to capture market share.”

Dominic Patton contributed to this report.

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