On May 2nd, the Writer's Guild of America—a union that consists of roughly 11,500 writers—went on strike against the working conditions of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. As of today, the strike has lasted 140 days, quickly catching up to the longest strike in history, which took place in 1988 and lasted 154 days. This is hardly the first time the WGA has had to take a stand against Hollywood Goliaths, but in an age of streaming and artificial intelligence, new issues have arisen amidst growing greed.
We at The Lineup love horror television and films, but more than that, we are fiercely supportive of the writers who make these incredible productions possible. The WGA is set to meet with the AMPTP for another round of negotiations, but as we await news, we'd like to take the time to discuss which beloved horror shows have been affected by the strike—and how we can save them by supporting the WGA.
Horror shows affected by the WGA strike
American Horror Story
Production has been suspended on the 12th season of American Horror Story, though this is more to do with the concurrent SAG-AFTRA strike than the writers' strike. Showrunner Ryan Murphy was very determined to continue production while the WGA strike was gaining traction, defying the picketers that targeted the show specifically. Murphy's reputation has been darkened a bit by his lack of support, and there will undoubtedly be some distaste surrounding the series moving forward, as it has already received criticism for crossing the picket line.
A Murder at the End of the World
This limited thriller series was supposed to premiere on Hulu on August 29th. However, due to the WGA strike, the premiere has been delayed to November 14th. With the simultaneous WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, productions can't be as heavily promoted by the talent themselves, and poor marketing could mean a series will become a flop.
This Marvel series about an iconic vampire hunter has been halted in pre-production. Filming was supposed to begin in June, but the WGA rendered this schedule impossible. Remember: a writer's work doesn't stop when filming begins, and anyone pretending otherwise isn't valuing the way stories progress.
Unfortunately, the filming of season 3 of Chucky resumed during the writers' strike. Does this mean that the production crossed the picket line? That's a yes, unless they opted to film without ad-libs or rewrites, a decision which would certainly undermine the quality of the season. But with the start of the SAG-AFTRA strike, production was eventually halted on this series as well.
Interview with the Vampire
Much like Chucky, season 2 of Interview with the Vampire continued filming during the writers' strike, but agreed to move ahead without any changes to their scripts. Will this negatively affect the quality of the upcoming season? Undoubtedly.
While the SAG-AFTRA strike briefly paused production in July, they were able to continue filming outside the U.S. in Prague, following a special waver from the union.
Production of the final season of Stranger Things was halted in a strong show of support from the Duffer brothers. On Twitter they wrote, “Writing does not stop when filming begins. While we’re excited to start production with our amazing cast and crew, it is not possible during this strike. We hope a fair deal is reached soon so we can all get back to work. Until then — over and out. #wgastrong.”
The Dark Tower
Mike Flanagan's adaptation of Stephen King's Dark Tower series has come to a complete halt in pre-production due to the strike. While being suspended at this stage of development often sees the cancellation of projects, Flanagan has assured audiences that the project is currently "healthy." He has openly expressed solidarity with both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.
The Last of Us
The writers' strike began in the midst of casting for season 2 of The Last of Us. As such, the production moved ahead without scripts, having auditioning actors read dialogue taken directly from the video game source material. Depending on how much longer the writers' strike persists, the delay in scripts could cause a delay in filming.
While the second season of Wednesday won't be hitting Netflix this fall, the lapse between seasons was always planned. Though the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes have forced production to pause, as of yet this suspension will not disrupt the planned rollout of the next season. Of course, this is dependent on when an agreement is reached.
Season 3 of Yellowjackets was brought to a near-immediate standstill by the WGA strike. The writers' room got in one single day of work before production was paused. Co-creator Ashley Lyle tweeted, “It was amazing, and creatively invigorating, and so much fun, and I’m very excited to get back to it as soon as the #WGA gets a fair deal. #1u #unionstrong.”
Why is the WGA on strike?
Anyone who remembers the last WGA strike, which ran for 99 days in 2007 and 2008, remembers how much television suffered. Television shows in the wake of the strike were hastily thrown together, and the haphazard plot lines resulted in the untimely demise of many series. More than that, the financial toll studios faced resulted in a period of television and storytelling which took fewer risks. To line their pockets, studios focused on projects that were a sure thing, as well as low-budget easy projects like reality television and talk shows. As creativity suffered, the landscape of television changed.
With the rapid rise of streaming services, it seemed like there may have been a glimmer of hope for television! Suddenly there was a way to explore stories from a different angle, away from the confines of strict cable formatting and censorship. As many series became more unique and fresh, more streaming services hopped into the game. Today, most people rely on streaming services over cable subscriptions for original content and standard cable series.
Endless stories have been provided at viewers' fingertips, but in this monumental industry shift, screenwriters—and their actor colleagues—have been shafted.
The largest issue at the center of the WGA is the streaming residuals offered to screenwriters. Most writing contracts to date mainly deal in residuals paid out through reruns on cable televisions, where the profit is coming from commercial advertising. Writers receive a minuscule portion of profits for work on streaming services, despite the large number of viewers that flock there.
Since so many people in their audiences now access content from streaming rather than cable, writers have seen a dramatic and concerning decrease in their yearly salaries. Meanwhile, the studios and streaming services themselves are raking in the cash.
Another issue hotly debated during the strike is "mini rooms." Before the peak of streaming and straight-to-series orders (a situation that calls for the complete production of a premiere season without a pilot or test run), Hollywood functioned off of writers' rooms. Here, a large group of writers came together to develop a pilot episode that introduced the concept of a series to an audience to gauge their interest. Following that, these writers would then move on to write for the rest of the series under the guidance of a showrunner.
However, in today's production climate, mini rooms see a much smaller group of writers working on projects. Besides the fact that this limits diversity and scope of experience on staff, these mini rooms don't have the same contracts as a traditional writer's room might. In these environments, writers get paid the bare minimum, regardless of how long they've been working in the industry.
Artificial intelligence has also been a subject of grief for screenwriters—much as it has been for other creatives across all forms of writing and art. While studios perceive AI as a means to cut costs and shrug off the complaints of unions, writers see it as a looming threat. If fully implemented, AI would not only generate ideas, but generate full scripts, taking jobs from living, breathing creatives. Talk about the death of creativity.
But even beyond the artistic outrage and horrendous disrespect to writers, this would mean that studios would be able to produce content at a significantly lower cost, bringing in even more money to studio heads while leaving the writers out of the equation entirely. While the WGA does not wish to eliminate the use of AI altogether, they desire for producers to agree to safeguards around its usage.
As the strike has continued, there have been some largely heinous responses from those in power at production studios. One unnamed studio executive is quoted as saying, "The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses." Such a statement affirms that studios are resting on their piles of wealth and taking advantage of the fact that writers have always been underpaid, thus leaving them at the mercy of the Hollywood machine.
The WGA has already rejected the AMPTP's attempts at "compromising" once this strike, and it's anyone's guess how the next meeting will unfold. But in the meantime, we as viewers are capable of supporting the work of writers.
How can viewers support the WGA strike?
The most important way you can support the WGA strike is by using your voice! Social media is the quickest way to spread your support. This toolkit directly from the WGA website provides graphics and tips for supporting them across socials, including following their official union accounts, calling for specific studios to give writers what they are fairly owed, using the #WGAstrong hashtag, and expressing why writers are important to you.
Your voice is also important on the picket lines. Seeing a central unifying force is essential to any cause, and your time and energy could be vital to the WGA. For information on where and when to find picketing events, check out the WGA listings.
As the studios have made clear, money is a very important matter in a strike, and there are several ways it can support the WGA efforts. Firstly, you can donate to support writers through the Entertainment Community Fund, which provides financial assistance to those losing money while work is halted. For any businesses that would like to support the WGA with any special offers in their time of need, the WGA can be contacted here.
There seems to be a divide over the best approach to consuming content on streaming services. While some people are canceling subscriptions and boycotting services like Netflix and Disney+, other people are rallying to stream as much as you can, not only to rack up the meager residuals for writers—but to prove that the content they've written is beloved. The union doesn't seem to have taken a stance on either approach, but continues to insist that the most helpful thing viewers can do is be vocal about the impact of storytellers.
If the studios aren't going to value the people who are the backbone of their projects, then we the viewers have to take a stand. The alternative is resigning ourselves to sloppy, heartless content churned out by algorithms. While writing may be a labor of love, all labor deserves a living wage. For this strike to end we need to let the studios know that we don't stand for cutting corners, and we certainly don't stand for this mistreatment of writers.