WGA, studio heads continue talks in efforts to end Hollywood writers strike

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Friday, September 22, 2023
WGA, studio heads continue talks in efforts to end writers strike
Striking Hollywood writers are back on the picket lines Thursday as union leaders and studio heads continue talks that restarted earlier this week.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Striking Hollywood writers are back on the picket lines Thursday even as union leaders and studio heads continue talks that restarted earlier this week.

The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers met Wednesday and again on Thursday - reopening discussions that had stalled since August and igniting a sense of cautious optimism that a deal to end the strike could be closer.

The meetings have included the heads of major studios, including Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Universal and Netflix.

The two sides have been divided on issues of pay, the size of writing staffs on shows and the use of artificial intelligence in the creation of scripts. Actors, who joined the writers on strike in July, have their own issues but there have been no discussions about resuming negotiations with their union yet.

Some on the union side hope a continued public-relations battle, as well as pressure on corporate earnings, can push the studios into making a deal.

"They're seeing this drag on and they're seeing it seem like an endless stalemate of overpriced CEOs not talking to what everyone agrees are underpaid writers," said Dominic Patten, senior editor at Deadline Hollywood. "And ultimately as polls show us, a vast majority of Americans are supportive of the writers."

Writers remain on picket lines amid optimism for end to strike

Members of the Writers Guild of America are optimistic the strike can end soon even as they remain on the picket lines.

The WGA strike is nearing record length. Should it continue through Sept. 30, it will be the longest in the union's history and the longest Hollywood strike since 1945.

Many on the picket lines said having the talks resume - with the direct involvement of the studio heads - is leaving them "cautiously optimistic.

"Negotiating is a lot better than not negotiating," said television writer Aaron Ginsburg. "So after 100 days of them stonewalling us, any movement in that direction is positive."

Even if the writers and studios agree to a new contract, many productions are likely to remain in limbo as the actors union, SAG-AFTRA, is also on strike, with no updates indicating a deal is close.

The two unions together represent some 170,000 workers in the entertainment industry.

George Clooney weighed in on the strike during an appearance in Germany on Wednesday.

"Listen, no one wants to hear me talk about being unfair, right? Because I have had a very lucky career. But our industry has 160,000 actors, for instance, and they're struggling to make a living just to, you know, to eat," Clooney said.

"And many of them were making a very decent living before doing the exact same job. So it's right to stand up. I think we're going to get through this soon."

Stars contribute to help striking workers

In the meantime, some in the entertainment community are preparing for the possibility of the strike continuing for some time.

The Entertainment Community Fund has been raising funds to support workers who no longer have jobs, recently launching an effort to bring in another $10 million.

Writer and producer Seth MacFarlane recently made a $5 million donation to the fund, on top of $1 million he donated in July.

"There aren't enough words to express our tremendous gratitude to Seth as he continues to help those in need, all while inspiring others with this call to action to do the same," Annette Bening, chair of the Entertainment Community Fund board, said in a statement.

"At this rate, we'll need at least $10 million to continue helping people in the coming weeks. Seth's gift is an incredible contribution to help us be able to do that, and we hope others join in as well."

McFarlane is the creator and star of the television series "Family Guy" and "The Orville."

According to the Fund, it has raised over $10.1 million from more than 10,800 donors to support film and television workers.

Steven Spielberg and wife Kate Capshaw previously donated $1.5 million to be dispersed between the Fund and the SAG-AFTRA Foundation's Emergency Financial Assistance Program.

Additional notable donors include Bening, Greg Berlanti, Nancy and Steve Carrell, Vince Gilligan and Shonda Rhimes.

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.