To Strike, Or Not To Strike -- What's The Deal as Hollywood's Clock Runs Down?

The who, what, when, and why of the Hollywood writer's strike.

by | November 1, 2007 | Comments

To strike, or not to strike? That is the question that Hollywood’s writers will be answering Thursday, and from the looks of Wednesday’s talks breakdown, it looks likely. We’ve got the rundown on what that means for your television and movie watching in 2008 and 2009.

With housing values at an all-time low and fires blazing through Southern California, many Los Angeles residents are thinking about making like Kurt Russell and planning an Escape from L.A.. And to make matters worse, the current Writers Guild of America (WGA) contract expired at midnight Wednesday. Despite months of negotiations between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP), the fear among those in the entertainment biz is that a WGA strike is just around the corner.

Had Wednesday’s negotiations gone well, the possible strike might have heldover past Thursday’s doomsday deadline. But talks dissolved Wednesday evening, leading many to believe that a strike is indeed imminent.

Even those not involved in the industry know that a WGA walkout would be bad news. Television viewers would most definitely be negatively affected by the strike — unless reruns, game shows, and reality slop are your idea of good television. For film fans the strike isn’t quite as bad, although it does mean studios are either pushing their most important projects into ultra-accelerated production or leaving them in limbo for the time being.

Why They’re Negotiating

One of the major points that could make or break the new contract is residuals, for both home video and new media. The WGA is fighting to double the payout rate for homevideo residuals. Writers strongly argue that they have lost out on profit from DVD sales, especially with the rising popularity of television shows on DVD. However, if the residual rate is raised, it would also have to include the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild, which makes for a hard selling point. With the rise of the Internet, writers are feeling left out, as studios are free to use streaming video to increase viewership and promote programs.

Another key issue is reality television. Currently, reality TV is not covered by the WGA. This hurts writers who work just as much as those employed by scripted programs, but are not given union pension and health care benefits.

Imagine: A World of Reruns and Reality TV…

If the WGA strikes, there will be plenty of reality television to watch. Many scripted programs will run out of new episodes beginning in December. This also means that shows that don’t premiere until after that, like Lost and 24, won’t be able to air new episodes until the strike is resolved. This is especially bad news considering that the last WGA strike in 1988 lasted for five months.

If the WGA does strike, the first casualties will be late-night programs. Scripted nightly shows like The Daily Show, Conan, and The Colbert Report would be forced into reruns virtually as soon as the strike is announced. Weekly programs like Heroes and Desperate Housewives would also run out of new episodes quickly, leaving new hit shows like Samantha Who? and Gossip Girl to most likely lose their new audience.

Will the WGA dance away their troubles, Newsies style?

And let’s not forget about the writers. All members of the WGA would be required to strike and would be banned from crossing picket lines. Many other employees of shows would eventually be out of jobs — including security guards, set designers, cameramen, and drivers. Other Los Angeles residents would be affected as well. Countless businesses depend on the entertainment industry to keep them afloat. Limo companies, beauty salons, catering companies, dry cleaners, and restaurants would most likely crumble without their income stemming from the entertainment crowd.

Who Wants To See A Poorly-Written Blockbuster?

Some industry veterans worry that striking for even a few months could be detrimental to the quality of programming. And if the strike continued into 2008, the film industry would start to be affected as well. While films set for release next year are mostly well into the production or post-production phase, it’s 2009’s slate that could be drastically affected by the last-minute rushes of script finalization and early production starts that the strike will prompt.

Every major studio has a handful of high profile 2009 projects in the pipeline, turning Hollywood activity into one huge last-minute cram session — good news for fans awaiting films like G.I. Joe, Star Trek XI, Wolverine, Death Race, and Bond 22 (check out Variety‘s assessment of over 50 planned productions). That is, unless scripts completed in a hurry turn out, like many rushed homework assignments, head into production before they’re really ready.

But there is still some light at the end of the tunnel. With the teamsters now ready to honor Writers Guild picket lines, even shows that have scripts ready to go might be in danger. A federal negotiator has been brought in to try and bring the WGA and AMPTP closer to agreement.

What will happen after midnight is a mystery to everyone involved, but it is unlikely that anything will be determined until a major membership meeting on Thursday evening at the Los Angeles Convention Center. No matter what the outcome, you should watch some addictive scripted television tonight. It will help to kill the suspense and also remind you of what you could be missing.

Tag Cloud

National Geographic NBC Drama Video Games Netflix TIFF OWN Rom-Com medical drama Nickelodeon CBS All Access Nominations FX Disney Channel Star Wars X-Men festivals cops APB YouTube Red Music crime drama golden globes Countdown ABC 2017 IFC Films Universal DirecTV FOX crossover hist Interview Pixar TCM Bravo Star Trek Hulu Lifetime thriller Musicals MTV Starz CBS dc Action adventure composers TV singing competition Extras FXX Calendar President transformers boxoffice TLC Certified Fresh Rocky TCA period drama political drama IFC Marathons Ellie Kemper discovery Reality biography Super Bowl 007 politics talk show Schedule Toys Warner Bros. Character Guide Valentine's Day Mystery AMC Red Carpet Paramount crime Freeform VH1 Winter TV Crackle Writers Guild of America Sundance Spring TV GoT dceu Summer Country technology HBO Polls and Games Comedy zombie sitcom Lionsgate harry potter BET supernatural serial killer Election Mindy Kaling El Rey ABC Family Mary Tyler Moore LGBTQ A&E historical drama CMT E3 Superheroes PBS social media VICE American Society of Cinematographers BBC Masterpiece robots vampires Western Infographic Holidays Sci-Fi 24 frames Opinion Best and Worst Cartoon Network Pop binge Sundance Now Tomatazos Photos Spike History CNN comiccon Oscars 2015 DC Universe Dark Horse Comics travel SDCC finale USA Network Podcast zombies The Arrangement Superheroe Awards WGN Martial Arts E! SundanceTV Sneak Peek Teen Comic Book PaleyFest 45 Tumblr aliens ratings war See It Skip It DC Comics Fall TV unscripted The CW Adult Swim Lucasfilm Animation MSNBC Fox News what to watch Emmys 20th Century Fox Showtime First Look Paramount Network Ghostbusters based on movie 21st Century Fox cinemax Creative Arts Emmys Premiere Dates ESPN Grammys Britbox Set visit Food Network TV Land 2016 science fiction Rock cats Horror police drama Musical Shondaland TBS Trivia cooking spy thriller docudrama Fantasy Year in Review BBC America Disney ITV GLAAD TCA 2017 DC streaming service Comedy Central sports Marvel diversity RT History Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Thanksgiving Trailer Logo Winners psycho Syfy Sony Pictures dramedy SXSW Pirates CW Seed Christmas Kids & Family NYCC GIFs Amazon Acorn TV justice league romance Reality Competition crime thriller Box Office TruTV TNT cults Cosplay Nat Geo USA YA Biopics Watching Series Esquire