Hollywood, Both Frantic and Calm, Braces for Writers’ Strike

TV writers are scrambling to meet earlier deadlines, while late-night shows are preparing to go dark. Other segments of the industry are unaffected.

Hollywood, Both Frantic and Calm, Braces for Writers’ Strike

The writers scramble to finish their scripts. Producers and late-night hosts from rival shows convene group calls to discuss contingency planning. Screenwriters and union officials design picket signs in conference rooms with slogans such as "The Future of Writing is at Stake!"

There has been a mad dash in the entertainment industry to get ready for a Hollywood strike that could happen as early as next week.

Will they strike, won't it, and how? Since weeks, the topic of conversation in the industry has been the possibility of a television and movie writers' strike. In recent days there has been an interesting shift in the conversation: people have stopped asking each other whether a strike will take place, and instead started talking about its duration. How long did the last strike last? How long was the last one? What was the longest? How long was the longest one?

Laura Lewis, founder of Rebelle Media (a production and funding company) behind independent films like "Mr. Malcolm's List."

The unions that represent screenwriters are currently negotiating with Hollywood’s largest studios to create a new contract in place of the one which expires Monday. Contracts for actors and directors expire on 30 June.

We could go into a strike just as we start to recover from pandemic.

Recently, TV writers have been rushing to meet studio-imposed deadlines. Some TV writers are worried about not having income for several months. They have tried to rush new projects to "commenced," Hollywood's slang term for a written contract that typically comes with an upfront payment.

A prominent talent agent who, like others in this article, spoke under the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the situation, stated that there was a rush to close deals before the end of next week. In anticipation of a walkout, some writers started removing personal items from studio offices.

Studio executives also began calling producers to let them know that a strike was imminent and to ensure all script changes were made so that production could continue on certain series even if writers were not on the set. In cases where the executives felt that scripts weren't ready, they have delayed production of other series to fall.

This week, the president of a production company expressed her "freaking-out" about a TV project that was in danger of failing because the star's availability was limited and the script wasn't ready.

The ABC sitcom "Abbott Elementary's" writers room is scheduled to meet on Monday, the day after the contract expires.

Brittani Nichols is a writer and producer on the show. She said, "I am making plans to return to work when it's time to do so." "And if it doesn't, I'll work on the picket lines."

The late-night shows hosted by Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, as well as Seth Meyers are likely to be shut down if there is a walkout, which could start as early as next Tuesday. The late-night hosts, along with their top producers, have held conference calls in order to coordinate a response if there is a strike. This was done during the pandemic.

Even though writers were still on the picket line, late-night programs went dark during the walkout of 2007. They began to gradually return in early 2008 despite their absence. Jimmy Kimmel, who paid for his staff during the strike out of his pocket, explained later that his savings had been nearly wiped out.

Mr. Kimmel, and other hosts like Conan O'Brien tried to create shows without the writers or standard monologues. Jay Leno wrote his "Tonight Show monologues" himself, angering the writers' unions.

Hollywood is not all uncertainty. There are segments where business has continued as usual.

The executives of streaming services exhibited a "frightening and freakish sense" of calm, perhaps because they bet that any strike would not last long. The majority of streaming services are under pressure to reduce costs - even Amazon Studios, which has a deep budget, laid off 100 employees on Thursday - and a strike would be able to accomplish this quickly.

Rich Greenfield wrote this month to investors that "it could lead to a notably better than expected streaming profitability".

There is little alarm at several studios. This is partly because a striking would not have a significant impact on the release calendar until next spring. The movie industry works almost a year ahead. A movie agent told me that everyone in her circle was preparing to attend the Cannes Film Festival which starts on May 16. The festival will feature premieres of films such as "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny", and "Killers of the Flower Moon", the latest film from Martin Scorsese. This week, many movie executives also focused on CinemaCon, a convention in Las Vegas for theater operators.

John Fithian said that the writers' process takes about 18 months to 2 years before movies are released in cinemas. You wouldn't notice an impact until then. Fithian is the departing CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners. There is already a lot of scripts in the can - or on the computer - for the projects that the studios will be putting into production.

Walt Disney Company is the biggest supplier of TV dramas and comedy shows with unionized actors (890 episodes in 2021-22). However, there are more pressing concerns. Disney started issuing thousands of pink slips Monday, as part of a separate plan to eliminate 7,000 positions worldwide by the end June. On Wednesday, the company was in the news once again when it sued Governor. Ron DeSantis is the Florida governor.

During previous walkouts by writers unions, TV networks ordered more reality shows, which are not under their jurisdiction. The 1988 strike was the catalyst for the long-running show "Cops", while the 2007-8 strikes helped boost shows like "The Celebrity Apprentice," and "The Biggest Loser."

Paul Neinstein said that reality TV pitches have increased dramatically over the past month. His production company is not known for producing unscripted TV.

He said, "All of the sudden everyone has a reality program." "And to me, that feels very strike related."