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"Not a dollar without us." The screenwriters have won concessions from the studios and are ending their strike

"Not a dollar without us." The screenwriters have won concessions from the studios and are ending their strike

September 29th, 2023

Hollywood screenwriters can go back to work. Their guild decides to approve a three-year contract, which, among other things, ensures higher rewards and provides protection against the use of artificial intelligence. The preliminary agreement with the studio and streaming services must be approved by the members after the union representatives. The actors continue their strike.

The management of the Screenwriters Guild (WGA) unanimously approved the end of the strike. The union's more than eleven thousand members now have until Oct. 9 to vote on the negotiated contract, which the WGA estimates is worth $233 million a year.

Film and television screenwriters went on strike in May after they were unable to agree on terms of further work with major studios such as Walt Disney, Warner Bros or Netflix. According to Reuters, the screenwriters appear to have managed to win concessions from the studios on all demands – the new contract calls for salary increases, health and pension contributions and an artificial intelligence (AI) guarantee over its three-year term.

The studios have pledged to discuss plans for the use of artificial intelligence in film development and production with unions at least twice a year. While the contract doesn't completely prohibit the use of AI to create content, screenwriters can resort to lawsuits if studios use their work to train artificial intelligence.

On the other hand, the screenwriters themselves can use AI in the preparation of the screenplay, but the studios must not require work with this software and must declare any materials created by artificial intelligence to the screenwriters.

The WGA also said it had obtained guarantees on minimum staffing levels on creative teams, which had been a key concern for many guild members. The number of screenwriters will depend on the number of episodes in the series.

Screenwriters celebrate victory Minimum wage rates will increase by more than twelve percent over three years, rewards for the use of TV shows and movies outside the United States will also increase, and the most popular shows on streaming platforms will receive a bonus.

"This is a crucial protection that the companies have told us to our face that they will never give us," scriptwriter Adam Conover, a member of the guild's negotiating committee, wrote on the social network X (formerly Twitter). “But thanks to our solidarity, because without us they literally don't make a dollar, they bent, then broke and gave us what we deserve. We won," he continued.

TV writer David Slack commented: "We are all confident that we will succeed: Our strike was necessary. Our strike was effective. Our strike is a victory.”

“It's rumored to be an extraordinary deal. In the past, if they approved some terms for one union, other unions would use it as a model for their own agreement," commented screenwriter and actress Mel Shimkovitz.

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Actors continue to strike The end of the strike also means that daytime and nighttime talk shows can return to the air. Bill Maher, host of HBO's Real Time, said on social media that he will return with new episodes starting Friday.

Maher and Drew Barrymore angered writers this month by announcing their talk show would return before the strike ended. The presenter later apologized for her statement.

The end of the WGA strike is not yet returning Hollywood to business as usual. Since July, the actors' union SAG-AFTRA has also been on strike, which has not yet reached an agreement with the study and has not even started negotiations with the alliance of film and television producers. But according to Reuters, the screenwriters' agreement with the studio could serve as a template for a contract with the actors.

"We have been here since the start of their strike and the solidarity and enthusiasm is incredible. We are very optimistic," said actress Jeri Ryan.

Actors have their own specifications, for example they request a return to personal castings instead of sending recordings. They want the possibility to work outside the contract in case of long breaks in the filming of series. This week they also voted to make demands against the very lucrative gaming industry. There, too, as with the film, it is about the use of artificial intelligence. They don't want their jobs and earnings to be taken away by their digital clones.

The screenwriters do not forget about the less visible professions, without which creation cannot do. Their contracts will be up for negotiation next year.

Film columnist: The extras are completely scanned According to film publicist Václav Rybář, the agreement is a triumph for screenwriters. “There was definitely a shift towards what the writers wanted. If I had to put it in numbers, I would say that they achieved eighty percent of the requirements, which is a big victory,” he stated. "It will certainly be a boost for the actors' union," he added.

According to him, artificial intelligence is already being used in Hollywood. "We've had failures from extras who are completely scanned and then replaced in the background," he pointed out. The recycling of this data and its proper payment is one of the requirements of the actors' unions.

According to him, there is a "wave of optimism" in Hollywood. "However, if the actors were to come to an agreement next week and the new contract would be ratified quickly (...), even the most optimistic estimates that the first shutters could fall between Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays," he added, adding that the likely full-fledged return of the actors to work is expected at the beginning of next year.


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