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Now it's official: the writers' strike in the United States will end tonight - voila! culture


Highlights: The writers' strike that began on May 2 will end tonight at midnight (Pacific Time) This comes after the Writers Guild and the major studios and streamers reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract. The deal includes major gains when it comes to protection in the context of artificial intelligence use, royalties and transparency of viewership data for screenwriters. As long as the actors' strike continues, the screenwriters will return to work, but productions still won't be able to get underway.

The writers' strike that began on May 2 will end tonight at midnight (Pacific Time), and the guild is reporting to its members significant gains in wages, royalties and more

Meet Wensday Adams/Netflix

Now it's official: the writers' strike, which lasted 147 days and took a heavy toll on the entire content industry, is coming to an end. It expires tonight at midnight Pacific Time in the United States (25 a.m. Thursday in Israel). This comes after the Writers Guild and the major studios and streamers reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract, which officially begins on September 1 and ends on May 2026, 2. Although the strike is ending, guild members will soon receive the details of the agreement and the means to ratify them in a vote between 9 and 2024 October. In the unlikely event that the majority decides to reject the proposal, the strike will resume.

Negotiations between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the American Production Companies (AMPTP) reached the finish line on Sunday, before Yom Kippur began, after five consecutive days of negotiations. The deal includes major gains when it comes to protection in the context of AI use, royalties and transparency of viewership data for screenwriters — issues that have been at the core of the dispute between the writers and the studios. These achievements may also replicate the upcoming negotiations between the AMPTP and the Players Guild (SAG-AFTRA), which also have some of the rocks of contention surrounding the use of artificial intelligence and royalties. Discussions between the sides in this case are expected to resume next week.

As long as the actors' strike continues, the screenwriters will return to work, but productions still won't be able to get underway. Studios and streamers, of course, are aware of this, and will probably do whatever it takes to resolve what is needed on this front as well, and as soon as possible. Still, the vast majority of series and movies will not tan screens before the beginning of 1960, in the optimistic scenario.

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People like her will be able to guide. Kim Kardashian, "Saturday Night Live"/Screenshot, Yes

The achievements of screenwriters

"The guild negotiated new royalties according to the number of spectators," it wrote to its members. "The companies agree to provide the guild, subject to a nondisclosure agreement, with the total number of hours streamed, both domestic and international, of high-budget self-produced streaming programs (e.g., a Netflix original series). The guild may share aggregated information with its members."

The guild also made gains in terms of minimum salaries, annual pay raises, paid maternity leave, pensions and health insurance, but its greatest achievements were in terms of staffing in the writers' rooms. So far, there hasn't been a minimum of manpower for companies to hire, but starting Dec. 1, there will be a minimum threshold for writers to hire and the length of time studios have to hire them.

"Development rooms: Once three writers get together before ordering a series, three writer-producers (including the showrunner) are guaranteed ten consecutive weeks of employment. Development rooms where writers are guaranteed 20 weeks of work or more will be considered rooms for a series that has already been given the green light. For these rooms, for series that are in the first season, the minimum crew size required will be three writer-producers (including the showrunner). For such rooms in the second season or beyond, the minimum required number of screenwriters will be determined in the expected order of episodes."

For the rooms of a series that has already been officially greenlit, a formula has been formulated for a minimum crew that depends on the number of episodes ordered, unless a single screenwriter writes all the episodes. In producing series filmed only in the U.S. and Canada, two writer-producers will be employed for the production period along with the showrunner. This standard may be divided into more than two rotating writers, provided that the position is always filled throughout this period.

When it comes to artificial intelligence, the guild has also made significant achievements. Under the terms of the agreement, "AI will not be able to write or rewrite literary material, and material generated by artificial intelligence will not be considered source material," meaning that AI-generated material cannot be used to undermine the screenwriter's credit.

According to the contract summary sent to members, "a screenwriter may choose to use artificial intelligence when performing writing services, if the company agrees and provided that the writer follows company policy, but the company cannot require the writer to use artificial intelligence software (e.g. ChatGPT) when performing writing services." The company must also disclose to the screenwriter whether any materials given to him were created by artificial intelligence or include material created by artificial intelligence.

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The writers will return, but not the actors yet. Grey's Anatomy/ABC

What were the reasons for the strike?

The structure of the American entertainment industry has changed dramatically over the past decade, with the rise of streaming services and massive investment in them by the world's largest technology and entertainment companies. When this process began, it seemed like a paradise for all professionals: a huge hunger for content of any kind, fierce competition for talent, the possibility of creating niche content for specific audiences as had never happened before, and more. But this utopia ended very quickly.

At a time when the television industry was dominated by podcast networks, screenwriters were hired to write seasons of 20 episodes or more, effectively providing job security for most of the year. In addition, they were entitled to handsome royalties if the series was successful and subsequently sold for broadcast in syndication. In the days of streaming, that stability has disappeared. Most new shows consist of seasons of eight to ten episodes, and streaming companies don't share any information about successful content, so there's no way to collect royalties accordingly. This meant that the screenwriters earned less and had to jump from job to job several times throughout the year.

Winners of prizes but not royalties. Abbott Elementary School/Disney

According to WGA figures, about 50% of screenwriters who are members of the organization earn minimum wage, and in hindsight the average salary has shrunk by about 23% (taking inflation into account). But that's just the beginning. Major streaming companies have developed new cost-saving practices, including mini-rooms. Two or three screenwriters hired to write the first episodes of one or several series in a limited period of time and for low pay. This allowed companies to have several series in development with written episodes at once, and choose what to invest in for an entire season. The writers were not rewarded if the series they began writing progressed, and were not promised to return and write the remaining episodes of the season.

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Another issue that bothered union members was artificial intelligence. The use of services like ChatGPT is gaining momentum and the fear was that the day was not far off when entire chapters would be written by computer. There is already no shortage of shows that look like they were built based on an algorithm of "things people like to watch," but these are still professionals who write them under the guidelines of streaming companies. The screenwriters demanded that a clear regulation be created regarding the nature of the use of artificial intelligence services, in order to maintain their ability to make a living in the future as well.

Finally, the industry itself has been in crisis for a long time. All the leading companies in the field of television have lost tens of billions of dollars in recent years due to the need to build content libraries and invest in original content. The idea was that this investment would pay itself back in the future, as more and more users connected and paid companies, but this economic model is unrealistic. Investors who were very enthusiastic about the growth in users of streaming companies in the early years of the arms race decided to stop the celebration and demand sane economic conduct and real profits. The result was a storm of huge layoffs, project cancellations, an escape from niche creations or anything that felt like a risk. In practice, this means far fewer jobs with much lower wages and non-existent occupational safety.

Now, with the new agreement, these problems are likely to be resolved — at least until May 1, 2026.

  • More on the subject:
  • Strike
  • Hollywood
  • Writers Guild

Source: walla

All tech articles on 2023-09-27

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