After three months of no talks, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents studios and streaming services, agreed on Wednesday to meet on Friday, reigniting hopes that the writers strike could end soon.
The WGA has been on strike since May 2nd, following the breakdown of talks over a new contract covering residuals over streaming service content, a more structured deal for better pay, a minimum number of writers on writing staff to ensure continued employment and regulation on the use of artificial intelligence. While right out of the gate in May, the writers union had to quickly shift to a longer-term strike when studios gave an offer and the WGA refused to budge. The strike was cycled out of the news despite the work stoppage disrupting many late night and scripted TV series, and was then overshadowed by the SAG-AFTRA strike which began in Mid-July.
Currently, the Hollywood strikes have postponed most productions, although many, including 39 independent films, can continue shooting due to deals with SAG-AFTRA. However, for the WGA, the situation is far more urgent. While SAG-AFTRA has planned out scenarios that can make the strike last for the rest of the year, most in the WGA have only enough savings to make it until October.
Some executives are expressing that they want the strike to last that long to force their hand on key issues. With only a few months before the situation becomes more untenable, the Writers Guild’s negotiating committee received a surprise request on Wednesday for a meeting with the studios at the end of the week. The WGA and AMPTP are also still far apart on critical issues, with the massive gaps unlikely to be solved through a single meeting.
Although it is unknown if the AMPTP and the WGA will continue negotiations or if the meeting is about another matter, many in the industry were hopeful on Wednesday that the meeting could help bridge the two sides together for a compromise.
“We’ll be back in communication with you sometime after the meeting with further information,” the WGA said on Wednesday. “As we’ve said before, be wary of rumors. Whenever there is important news to share, you will hear it directly from us.”
In a short statement, the AMPTP added, “We remain committed to finding a path to mutually beneficial deals with both unions.”
WGA, AMPTP to meet for first time in months
Those on the picket lines on Wednesday told the Globe that while they’re happy that the sides are meeting once again and that the WGA has stood firm, confidence over union leadership, specifically the WGA contract negotiating committee, has been greatly lowered over the last few months.
“Our contract negotiating committee needs to be disbanded with a whole new group in there,” said Sarah, a WGA television writer who only wanted her first name used. “They’re the ones who got us into this mess in the first place when they were too stubborn to reach an agreement. I know they think they’re doing what is best for us and we really do want residuals and AI to be out of the picture, but how they went around doing it was plain wrong.”
“And don’t let the coverage of all of this fool you. A lot of writers only joined the union for work, and many are just out there on the lines because they just want more money. A lot of us really don’t care about solidarity or anything like that too. We just want a fair deal and then just go back to work doing what we love. That’s it.”
“A huge step in the right direction would be a completely new negotiating committee. This one is pure garbage. There are many to blame for this, but they are the ones most responsible.”
Another writer, who only wanted to be known as “Tim,” added, “If the guild was reasonable and came to a compromise solution, we could be indoors right now doing our jobs. But we’re outside now, hoping to go back to work as soon as possible. I never want to go through this again. This is a pretty miserable experience. A lot of people here are thinking that.”
The AMPTP and the WGA are set to meet in Los Angeles on Friday.
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