Hollywood on Hold: Key Studio Employees Continue Four-Month Strike

By Leo Rodriguez September 4, 2023

Hollywood's key studio employees maintain a resilient stand, offering lessons in unity as they continue a four-month strike over contracts.

Labor Day marked a rather grim milestone for Hollywood studio chiefs as their influential employees extended their strike into a fourth month, a scenario that reveals a miscalculation on the part of these high-powered executives. Typically, studio giants have leveraged their sizeable financial reserves to comfortably sail through employee strikes. However, this time, the situation has turned rather uneasy as digital giants such as Amazon and Apple have also joined the ranks.

Negotiating through their industry body, The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the studios were counting on a game of attrition, assuming that financial pressure would eventually break the unions' resolve. This view was epitomized in a quote on the Deadline trade website from an anonymous executive who said, “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.”

However, what the studios failed to account for was the collective determination of the writing and acting guilds. Seeing this as a turning point for the entertainment industry, they decided to stand their ground, firm in the belief that their united front would prevent future impasses.

Parallels have been drawn with the shared Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild strike action in 1960, under the then-SAG president Ronald Reagan, which resulted in crucial benefits for performers over time. Gracefully accepting their sacrifices now, the guilds are hoping to secure better prospects for future generations.

Robert Iger, CEO of Disney, has been signaling difficulties on the horizon due to the advent of streaming services which have disrupted the traditional movie and television model. While it's true that the seismic shift toward streaming has put the film industry in uncharted waters, the onus also lies on the guilds. Any production cutbacks by the companies will undeniably affect their members.

In the face of warnings from business leaders like Iger, guild leaders have cleverly shifted the focus to the inflated income of studio heads. Figures like the $50 million earned by Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos in 2022, which led to a shareholder vote against the company's executive compensation package, have served to bolster their argument.

As it stands, the studios seem to have lost the sympathy of the public, and calls are growing for them to step down from their high horses and make a meaningful deal. Should they give in to most of the demands of the guilds, it would undoubtedly put more strain on their finances, potentially leading to further layoffs and austerity measures.

Of course, resolving the current strike does not necessarily spell the end of Hollywood's troubles. Yet, if these conglomerates believe that producing movies and TV shows is a viable business, they're going to need writers and actors. One thing is clear, after months on the picket lines, guild members will not simply give up their demands, displaying a unity and resilience that outstrips any strategic plan the studios may have conceived.