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Hollywood Sign (Photo: Evan Symon for California Globe)

Writers and Studios Resume Bargaining Talks Wednesday, With Several Studio Heads Joining

Both sides say talks on Wednesday were ‘encouraging’ and made ‘incredible progress’

By Evan Symon, September 20, 2023 5:03 pm

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) resumed talks on Wednesday at the AMPTP headquarters in Sherman Oaks, with several studio heads joining the talks later in the day.

The WGA strike, which started on May 2nd and has lasted 141 days, has been at a standstill with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for months. The WGA, as well as SAG-AFTRA in their own strike, have been pulling for better residual fees for streaming service programs, better overall pay, a minimum number of writers on writing staff to ensure continued employment, and strict regulation on the use of artificial intelligence.

While talks between the WGA and the studios did restart last month, they soon broke down again. This month, the situation grew more dire for both sides. The studios, as well as other entertainment-related businesses, were revealed to have fired around 17,000 employees in August. The unions, meanwhile, have seen a startling rise of strikers facing rent evictions and needing help to pat for expenses as their saving run out.

In the last few weeks, new events, such as more productions starting up again without writers and new figures showing that both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes have cost the state of California $5 billion in economic losses so far, made both sides reconsider the lack of talks going on. With both sides hurting and both sides also awaiting an answer on their most recent offers, the WGA and AMPTP agreed to meet again. This led to talks resuming on Wednesday.

Reportedly, the AMPTP took the unusual step of bringing in several studio heads into the meeting to show their seriousness in ending the strike. This included Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos, Disney CEO Bob Iger, Universal Chairwoman Donna Langley, and Warner Brothers Discovery CEO David Zaslav. While this isn’t the four they have met with the WGA during negotiations, as they were present at the last meeting on August 22nd as well, the fact that they have continued to meet in tandem has differed from previous Hollywood strikes. The four also met several times in the last few days to prepare for negotiations.

As of Wednesday afternoon, it is currently unknown how the talks have gone. Both sides have remained tight-lipped about what has been discussed, with nothing likely to come out until a deal becomes closer, or if progress stalls. The studios only said that the session on Wednesday was “very encouraging” with the WGA saying that there had been “incredible progress.” Strike experts told the Globe on Wednesday that it was a good sign that no special arbitrator was coming in, and that both sides met under their own accords.

“The studios and writers are in ever growing perilous situations,” said Theresa Stevenson, an arbitrator in Michigan who has helped settled union disputes and strikes in the past. “More and more writers are getting angry about losing everything over this, and studios don’t want to lose any more money than they already have.”

“Both sides really want this to end, so talks are coming back. It is clear that neither side is really flinching here, so sitting down, at the very least to see the lay of the land, is a good sign.”

If things are not resolved in a few weeks, the 2023 strike will likely break the record of the 154 day 1988 strike.

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