The Hollywood strike enters its final act, as writers come to an agreement

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Dust-pages cover the sets inside one Hollywood studio with soundproofing, as writers and actors with placards make as much noise as they can outside. The covers have been on since May, when America’s writers put down their pens; in July the actors of the country joined them on strike. But on September 24 the writers said they had reached an indefinite deal with the studios. The stage is now set for the actors to do the same, after which the dust sheets can be put back.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) or the studios have not disclosed the exact terms of the three-year deal. On the face of it, the writers have won concessions: bonuses for writers on shows that do well on streaming, a format whose success metrics have so far been unclear; minimum staffing levels for writers’ rooms; and terms governing the use of artificial intelligence (AI), which is feared by writers who may soon release big scripts. The WGA calling it a “special” deal. The studios are more careful. Until the agreement is approved by the Board WGAand members, both sides have reason to say that the agreement is good for writers.

The union’s governing councils are expected to approve the contract as early as September 26. Next it must be confirmed by the group WGAand 11,500 rank-and-file, that may take several weeks. After 146 days without work, they are likely to vote “yes”. “If I lose my rent-controlled apartment, I’ll have to leave Los Angeles,” said one Hollywood worker marching in the heat outside Disney last week. The WGA to allow members to resume work while the verification process is still ongoing, meaning production of things like talk shows could resume soon.

Elsewhere, the cameras aren’t quite ready to roll. With actors still on strike, there will be no filming of scripted content (and even the talk shows will feel a little thin, as popular stars are barred from guest appearances). Their union, the Screen Actors Guild, is demanding a revenue-sharing agreement with the streamers, as well as an 11% increase in base pay, which the studios have rejected. Several more weeks of negotiations are likely. Including a similar verification process, things are unlikely to get back to normal much before Thanksgiving, in late November.

That means a production crisis at a time when Hollywood is usually winding down. After nearly five months on hold, film and television schedules in 2024 are looking rather bare, so studios are rushing to produce as much as they can. Time is running out to save next year’s summer hurdles.

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