Directors, actors support Hollywood writers as they prepare for their own contract negotiations

Residuals are definitely an issue for the directors' guild, whose negotiations start Wednesday.

Christiane Cordero Image
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Writers strike: Directors, actors prep for their own contract talks
Experts say directors and actors are coming in with the leverage of the WGA strike at their back, but could it make a difference? Here's a breakdown.

HOLLYWOOD (KABC) -- Television and film writers returned to the picket lines Tuesday during the second week of a strike that's brought Hollywood to a halt and two other entertainment unions will soon begin their own contract talks, which could affect what the writers get and when.

Here's what's happening now:

The issues that led writers to strike go back six years upstream.

The Writers Guild of America's contract expires every three years and considering where Hollywood was three springs ago, it has clearly escalated.

"In 2020, the guild pretty much just did a performa deal and continued on," explained Variety Co-Editor in Chief Cynthia Littleton. "This is really the first time the labor and management have sat down to talk about fundamental massive shifts."

Shifts that writers have not experienced alone.

"I was here maybe on Thursday of last week and it was exponentially bigger today and there's more energy and I think it's only going to grow," said SAG Member Alan Smyth, who spoke with Eyewitness News outside of the Netflix offices in Hollywood, which saw dozens of SAG-AFTRA members and actors scattered along the picket lines.

They share similar concerns as the writers, particularly when it comes to residuals. People earn a small fraction in streaming world residuals compared to those in network television.

"On the years that where maybe it's quieter, when it's harder to get a job, my experience since I've lived here is that in those years, you can live on the residuals," said Smyth.

That will likely be an issue raised during SAG's contract negotiations, which start next month.

Residuals are definitely an issue for the directors' guild, whose negotiations start Wednesday.

"They come in with the leverage of the WGA strike at their back, because the companies know business is slowly but surely grinding to a halt as they run out of scripts," said Littleton, who wrote a book about the 2007-2008 strike.

The directors' contract negotiations were pivotal in ending that strike. This time, however, Littleton said things look a little different.

The WGA has a long list of issues specific to writers while the DGA has priorities specific to directors.

The studios see several of the writers' proposals as non-starters.

"I think a big move on a streaming residual, a big move on a strong hike for just general minimum pay rates, and if the companies came in starting at a 4%, if they boosted that to more like a 6%, I think that would also get the WGA's attention," said Littleton.