By Nicholas Carpenter || Staff Writer

Starting on July 14, 2023, the Hollywood film and television industry has been indefinitely shut down. Two unions, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), voted to go on strike against their employers, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). This trade association consists of all the large American film and television companies, including Disney, NBCUniversal, Warner Bros, Sony Pictures, Netflix, and Paramount, among others. Among their reasons to strike are fairer pay, streaming residuals, and regulation of artificial intelligence — proposals that the AMPTP has rejected, often without a counter-proposal. This is the first WGA strike since 2007 and the first SAG-AFTRA strike since 1960, which also was a double strike with the WGA.

On July 13, the President of SAG-AFTRA, Fran Drescher, shed light on the importance of the movement: “The eyes of the world and, particularly, the eyes of labor are upon us…What’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor.”

What does a combined WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike mean for the film and television industry? Without writers, no new productions can be started, which will lead to a drought of traditional content if the strike carries on. Films and television shows that are in development will be delayed or canceled. The productions that will be able to release on time may struggle in the box office and streaming market more than usual, as actors are obligated to promote no content during the strike. Scripted talk shows have already been indefinitely paused, and will be airing reruns. However, there will likely be a rise in reality television that is unscripted and does not feature actors. The WGA and SAG-AFTRA have stated that they can allow writers and actors to work with independent producers on a case-by-case basis.

The double strike came in two waves: WGA’s began on May 2, 2023 and SAG-AFTRA’s in early July. According to the WGA, the rise of streaming services had led to writers getting paid less for their work. To remedy this, the WGA proposed a set minimum wage for streaming television writers and a minimum staffing requirement for their writers’ rooms. The WGA also wanted streaming residuals for writers based on viewership, which would give the writers of a show extra payment when their work is streamed. According to the WGA, writers of streaming television received far fewer residuals than those of broadcast television, and the higher-ups at the company did not give any of the profit from successful streaming content to the writers. The last point of contention was the use of artificial intelligence (such as ChatGPT) in the writing process, which the WGA views as a threat to the jobs of writers. The WGA proposed that AI should not be able to write new material or revise existing material and the work of writers should not be used to train AI. After weeks of negotiations, the WGA and AMPTP failed to reach an agreement. (Click here to learn more).

Shortly after the WGA went on strike, SAG-AFTRA began to authorize a strike in solidarity with the WGA if they could not agree on a new contract. Among SAG-AFTRA’s concerns were the low payment of actors and the use of artificial intelligence in film and television. According to SAG-AFTRA, AMPTP wanted to use artificial intelligence to put actors into films and television shows without their permission, with no compensation for their AI-generated appearances. The studios refused SAG-AFTRA’s proposals, and SAG-AFTRA voted to strike once their contracts ended. 

While announcing the strike, Fran Drescher brutally attacked the AMPTP and their leaders, stating that writers and actors are “being victimized by a very greedy entity,” and that they pay their CEOs millions of dollars while refusing to give their workers living wages. “It is disgusting. Shame on them,” she stated, “They stand on the wrong side of history.”

For the striking workers of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA unions, a lengthy strike may lead to the loss of their homes, which insiders have said may be a strategy of the AMPTP. However, the threat of suffering heavy financial losses from empty slates of content could scare the AMPTP into accepting the demands of the unions. It is unknown when the double strike will end, allowing Hollywood to get back up and running again. The impact of this historic double strike could bring large changes to the Hollywood film and television industry and likely the entirety of the labor market.

Sophomore Nicholas Carpenter is a staff writer. His email is