The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

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The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

Guide Post

The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

Guide Post

When Will Movies be Back?

The recent Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strikes have been campaigning for higher payments and compensation, as well as safeguards against the use of artificial intelligence to render their job obsolete. Last month, the writers’ strike ended, however the SAG-AFTRA strike is ongoing.

Where have all the movies gone? 

If you’ve been following a TV series or a popular author, you probably noticed the pause in film production.  

The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have been striking against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The SAG-AFTRA strike began on July 14, 2023, and the WGA strike began on May 2, 2023. 

During these strikes, participating actors did not act in or promote any film or video productions. Meanwhile, participating writers did not discuss, write, or negotiate writing projects, including scripts and outlines. 

As a result, many productions were placed on hold and pre-filmed productions were released without any cast promotion while actors were on strike. 

Both the SAG-AFTRA and the WGA’s reasons for striking were similar: Increased pay and job security. Recently, on Sep. 27, 2023, after a nearly five-month strike, the WGA came to a unanimous agreement to accept the memorandum of agreement (MOA) agreed upon by both the screenwriters and AMPTP. 

Now, the SAG-AFTRA strike is ongoing, though negotiations are expected to resume on October 25. 

The WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, both guilds supporting each other’s efforts (Credit: Variety).

The screenwriters’ strike was concerned with financial compensation and security from artificial intelligence threatening their occupations. Writers demanded higher royalties on their work and mandatory staffing of TV writers’ rooms.

This was heavily due to the growing prevalence of streaming services, as writers have been seeing less financial compensation when receiving fewer royalties on streamed content over other platforms such as broadcast shows. 

As a result, one of the WGA’s demands was for better residual pay, a royalty where writers are compensated when their work is reused in a rerun or new broadcast. This is seen as a vital stream of income for writers impacted by streaming services. 

Another complaint regarded writers employed in mini rooms, composed of a smaller group of writers hired to develop or screenwrite, possibly before the show has officially been greenlit. Despite being crucial members of any project, writers employed in mini rooms are not guaranteed a job for the duration of the film production, and sometimes work short durations before having to find another job. Writers in mini rooms are often paid less, with the justification that they aren’t working in a formal writers’ room. 

The MOA agreed upon by the WGA and AMPTP addressed many of these concerns. Writers are offered higher health and pension, as well as guidelines on the use of AI. This includes regulations that allow writers to use AI services, though companies can not require AI use and the prohibition of using writers’ work to train AI. 

The MOA also included pay raises, mandatory staffing of writers’ rooms throughout development, after greenlight, and during production.  Junior Danni Zheng said, “Actors and writers deserve more for all the work they put in.”

There was significant fallout from the strike, with thousands of workers laid off from Disney, cable and broadcast companies rapidly losing viewers, and Netflix dropping in subscribers. Many companies adopted cost-saving measures to deal with these hits. 

Additionally, disruption of these production companies led to the loss of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, with a low possibility of being resolved until AMPTP reaches an agreement with SAG-AFTRA. “These changes are needed because the careers of writers and actors are ones that they are most committed to,” said sophomore Jacqueline Chen. “These people are having their jobs on the line with new artificial intelligence, which could replicate a writer’s skill. The lack of support from their job is impactful to the person in many negative emotional and financial ways.” 

The WGA estimated that the deal would cost studios a combined $429 million a year, in comparison to the billions of dollars generated annually. Broken down, it amounts to Netflix losing about 0.1% of its income, and Warner Bros. losing about 0.108% of theirs. 

Statistics that demonstrate writers’ pay, and the reason the WGA decided to strike. The MOA agreed upon by AMPTP and the WGA seeks to address some of these issues (Credit: WGA).

Meanwhile, the SAG-AFTRA strikes persist, having hit their 100-day mark on October 24. Their demands reflect some of the WGA’s, with concerns about minimum wages, the use of AI, streaming residuals, and pension and health plans. 

With AI able to produce human likenesses, many actors seek protection ensuring their jobs wouldn’t be replaced by artificial intelligence likenesses. One concern was that studios would scan the image of a background performer and use that likeness eternally, without consent or financial compensation in future films or to train AI systems. 

Other demands addressed the need for higher wages to keep up with inflation or compensation for wages in regards to streaming, which has also cut off residuals for actors as well as writers. 

Members participate in the SAG-AFTRA strike, aiming to secure higher payment in light of the increased use of streaming services, as well as job security regarding artificial intelligence (Credit: Vanity Fair).

“It is necessary for writers and actors to strike so that they can achieve better and fair working conditions,” said junior Valerie Lan. “For instance, the wages of actors and screenwriters were not increased to match the inflation, and actors/writers also felt AI would lessen their value and exploit their work.” 

Lan continued, “The WGA was highly successful in that it secured increases in minimum wage, pension, and health fund rates through the MOA. The success of the strike is significant as it can inspire others to fight against exploitative corporations and achieve just conditions through unity.” 

With renewed negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the studios, we can look forward to a resurgence of our favorite shows on the horizon. 

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About the Contributor
Gloria Hsia
Gloria Hsia, Managing Editor
Gloria Hsia is one of Guide Post’s managing editors. She is an officer of several clubs, including DECA and Art Club. In addition, she plays doubles on the girls’ badminton team. Outside of school, Gloria enjoys doing various mediums of art, reading random books, and contemplating existential questions in her free time. She also likes anything space related (and Highland Cows).

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