Hollywood Studios and Writers Guild reach agreement, but actors still on strike


Film, TV, radio, and online writers may soon be back at their keyboards, but actors won’t be returning to set until SAG-AFTRA makes a deal to lift the strike.
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher joins the picket line in Downtown, Manhattan on August 03, 2023. (Photo by Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

The Writers Guild of America issued a statement Monday morning AEST, stating that in principle, an agreement has been reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture Television Producers (AMPTP). A formal contract between the Writer’s Guild and the Hollywood studios will now be drafted detailing the negotiations on residuals, streaming and the use of artificial intelligence as a writing tool.

Ratification of the agreement by WGA members needs to take place before writers can return to work, the WGA confirmed. Some 11,000 writers have been on strike since May 2, 2023. At issue in the last days of negotiations for the new agreement was generative AI, according to Hollywood business publication Variety. It seems the WGA and AMPTP has come to a meeting\-of-the-minds regarding the controversial new technology that was popularised by OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional—with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership,” a WGA statement reads. The terms of the deal have not been released publicly yet.

Once the WGA deal is squared away, AMPTP will commence negotiations with SAG-AFTRA, the Union representing actors in film, television, radio, and online. That organisation — overseen by President Fran Drescher of ‘The Nanny’ fame — has walked hand-in-hand with writers throughout the strike.

WGA Negotiations—Status as of May 1, 2023. Source: Writers Guild of America

“Since the day the WGA strike began, SAG-AFTRA members have stood alongside the writers on the picket lines,” a statement from the Union reads. “We remain on strike in our TV/Theatrical contract and continue to urge the studio and streamer CEOs and the AMPTP to return to the table and make the fair deal that our members deserve and demand.”

In addition to actors, SAG-AFTRA also represents announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists, according to the website.

The union represents more than 160,000 workers in the U.S. and called on its members to strike on July 14, 2023. At issue in the SAG-AFTRA negotiations are wage increase to cover inflation, and compensation when a digital replica of a performer is used in film, television, radio, and online.

“While we look forward to reviewing the WGA and AMPTP’s tentative agreement, we remain committed to achieving the necessary terms for our members,” a statement by SAG-AFTRA says.

The WGA and SAG-AFTRA deals are important because they will inform other protections around likeness and compensation for a digital replica of an individual being used in the media. The creative industry in California makes up nearly 7.6% of the workforce and contributes more than $500 billion to the state’s $3.4 trillion economy, according to the 2023 Otis College Report on The Creative Industry.

California Governor, Gavin Newsom, said he is looking forward to the industry that powers his state getting back on its feet.

“I am grateful that the two sides have come together to reach an agreement that benefits all parties involved and can put a major piece of California’s economy back to work,” says Newsom.

“California’s entertainment industry would not be what is today without our world class writers. For over 100 days, 11,000 writers went on strike over existential threats to their careers and livelihoods — expressing real concerns over the stress and anxiety workers are feeling.”

Look back on the week that was with hand-picked articles from Australia and around the world. Sign up to the Forbes Australia newsletter here or become a member here.

More from Forbes Australia