Why Is Hollywood On Strike?

By Rufus Punt | 20th July 2023
Writer Actor Strike

As you may have seen in the news recently, Hollywood is on strike: writers and now actors across America are refusing to work after negotiations with major Hollywood studios fell through. Stars have been protesting for a change in tune from companies like Apple, Netflix and Warner Bros. But why are they striking? Has this happened before? And what does this mean for the future of TV and film? We’ve put together this explainer to bring you up to speed with a story that’s dominating the entertainment industry.

What’s going on?

On 2nd May, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike. The vast majority of TV/film screenwriters in the US are represented by the guild (some 11,500) and have been calling for better pay and conditions for their work.

Streaming might have made it easier to watch what we want than ever, but writers have felt shut out from being paid their due, with the changes in how TV and film work since streaming took off. The first show to feel the effects were nightly talk shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, but pre-filmed, pre-scripted series like Stranger Things, The Last of Us, and American Horror Story are reported to be delayed by strikes, as are upcoming films.

Writers Strike

Has this happened before?

There have been a few writers’ strikes over the years, with the last big one being in 2007. Things developed when, last week, it was actors who decided to join picket lines, meaning Hollywood was effectively shut down for the first time (outside COVID) since 1960.

The Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) voted to strike, meaning that pretty much nothing is being worked on or made right now. Actors are also not allowed to promote their work as part of the strike action, so the cast of Oppenheimer left the red carpet in London early as the strike got underway to show their support.

Big names like Mark Ruffalo , Olivia Wilde , Rosario Dawson , Robert Downey Jr and more might be on strike, but the aim is to support the actors (and writers) who aren’t superstars to get their fair pay.

Concerns that studios will use AI tech to scan actors’ faces in digitally to play parts, without needing their presence, is one of the big driving factors.

Are British actors/writers striking?

British writers and actors are mostly represented by different organisations than those living in the US (unless they’re working on a US show), but several are still showing support.

Cillian Murphy Actors Strike

Back in June, writers like Russell T. Davies participated in a London protest to demand fairer conditions, and actors like Brian Cox have spoken out. Tom Cruise might be filming the next Mission Impossible in Surrey, but he has stopped production while the strike continues.

British director Christopher Nolan , who also holds US citizenship, stated he’d not be working on anything for the foreseeable future.

How will TV and film be affected?

Strike action means that TV shows and new films will be put on hold. Some shows, like The Rings of Power, filmed their latest season before the actor strike began. House of Dragon is still filming, as it’s covered by the British union, Equity.

Other projects like Avatar 3, Mission Impossible and Gladiator 2 are all affected and delayed by strikes, and release dates for new seasons of TV have been pushed back. The 2007/08 writer strike meant that films like Quantum of Solace and Star Trek had tricky, improvised productions, something that will likely happen again. The strike also looks set to continue for some time, and Hollywood may change as we know it.

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