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Hollywood writers return to work, after a nearly five month strike

Placards are gathered together at the close of a picket by members of The Writers Guild of America outside Walt Disney Studios, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Burbank, Calif.
Chris Pizzello
/
AP
Placards are gathered together at the close of a picket by members of The Writers Guild of America outside Walt Disney Studios, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Burbank, Calif.

Updated September 27, 2023 at 11:27 AM ET

The 148-day Hollywood writers strike is finally over, thanks to a new three-year deal the Writers Guild of America made with major Hollywood studios. Film and TV writers in the union still have to ratify the contract, but they're allowed to get back to work.

"The deal is exceptional in that it is something that will protect writers, not just now, but in the future," David Goodman, co-chair of the WGA's negotiating committee, told NPR. Last week and over the weekend, he and the union's negotiating team met with the top executives of Disney, Netflix, NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. Discovery to hammer out the new three-year contract.

"There's a bunch of things the companies told us they would never do: minimum staff size is one of them. Preserving the writer's room: that was a key gain. Residuals in the success of streaming: another thing they said they'd never do. They couldn't figure out success. They did it here," said Ellen Stutzman, WGA's chief negotiator. "And really key to writers: some real A.I. protections."

The studios agreed to use writers for screenplay and teleplays, not material generated by or incorporated by artificial intelligence. And for the first time, streaming companies such as Netflix promised to be transparent about their viewership data. Successful shows would generate bonuses for writers.

Goodman says the studios finally made all these ground-breaking changes because the WGA and the actors' union SAG-AFTRA demanded them. Members of both unions have been on the picket lines in front of studios in Los Angeles, New York City and elsewhere.

"Two major unions were out on strike, the business was shut down and there was no end in sight. That's what convinced the heads of those companies to sit down at the table and try to make this deal," Goodman said. "Once they did, they realized that everything we were asking for was not only reasonable but affordable."

According to the WGA, the deal's total value was $233 million. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers initially offered the guild $86 million.

Goodman and Stutzman say they're so confident writers will seal the deal by ratifying the contract in October that they're allowing them to resume writing now. But the saga's not over yet; SAG-AFTRA remains on strike until the AMPTP makes a deal with them.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: September 29, 2023 at 12:00 AM EDT
In the audio of this story, as in a previous web version, we incorrectly identify David Goodman as the current president of the WGA West. Goodman is a past president of the WGA West and current co-chair of the WGA's negotiating committee.
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As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.