Hollywood Writers’ Strike Halts ‘Stranger Things’ Production, Others

Members of the Writers Guild of America East hold signs as they walk the picket line outside the Peacock NewFront in New York City on May 2, 2023.

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Members of the Writers Guild of America dropped their pencils and headed to the picket lines a week ago, and their walkout is already hurting Hollywood productions.

More than 11,000 film and TV screenwriters, who say their pay doesn’t match the revenue generated in the streaming era, are on strike for the first time since 2008. Immediately, daily late-night shows went on off, alongside the weekly comedy staple “Saturday Night Live.”

Since then, several notable movies and shows have halted or ended production early, including by Netflix “Stranger Things”, disney and Marvel’s “Blade” AppleTV+ “compensation” and from Paramount “Evil.”

Beyond the delayed production and likely delayed releases of these titles, industry pundits fear the labor hiatus will have a greater financial cost than the previous writers’ strike.

Writers who picketed 15 years ago went on strike for 100 days, costing the industry an estimated $2 billion, according to data from the Milken Institute. It has also had major economic repercussions for ancillary businesses such as hotels, restaurants and construction companies that often work with film and television productions.

It is the first such strike in the streaming era and is hitting many companies in three different facets of their media business: film, linear TV and streaming.

The WGA is seeking higher compensation and residuals, particularly for streaming shows, as well as new rules that will require studios to staff TV shows with a certain number of writers during a specific period. The WGA is also asking for compensation throughout the pre-production, production and post-production process. Currently, writers are often expected to provide revisions or create new material without being paid.

Several productions with finished scripts, like from Amazon “The Rings of Power” decided to continue filming without writers or showrunners on set. Others chose to postpone production.

Apple’s drama series “Severance” halted production on its second season on Monday after members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Teamsters refused to cross the WGA picket line at the York Studios in New York.

It’s the second Apple TV+ series to shut down due to the strike, after Maya Rudolph’s “Loot” series halted filming last week in Los Angeles.

Over the weekend, “Stranger Things” creators Matt and Ross Duffer announced that production on the show’s fifth and final season has been delayed due to social unrest.

“The writing doesn’t stop when filming begins,” the duo tweeted. “While we are thrilled to begin production with our amazing cast and crew, that is not possible during this strike. We hope a fair deal will be reached soon so we can all get back to work.”

Paramount’s “Evil” finished filming season four ahead of schedule, in part because of disruption from picketing WGA members and, in part, because one of its cast members is taking over. leave for a family matter. The season was supposed to be 10 episodes, but it’s still unclear if the early end of production will affect those plans.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming show “Hacks,” Showtime’s “Billions,” and Starz’s “The Venery of Samantha Bird” have all halted production.

Theatrically, Marvel has halted production on its vampire thriller “Blade.” Filming for the film was scheduled to begin next month in Atlanta, Georgia. “True Detective” creator Nic Pizzolatto was recently tapped to work on the script, but hasn’t finished. Production is expected to resume once the strike is over.

The Alliance of Film and Television Producers, in response to a request for comment on the production shutdown, declined to comment beyond statements released last week with the organization’s position on the points of negotiation pending.

Training effects

The strike is already having ripple effects across the industry as stars and talents stand in solidarity with writers.

Drew Barrymore has quit her role as host of the MTV Movie Awards to support the WGA. Several presenters, including Jamie Lee Curtis, also indicated that they would not attend the ceremony. The show eventually canceled its live broadcast and aired a recorded version of the event on Sunday night.

Home viewers may not immediately notice the effect of the strike, as episodes of popular shows continue to air. However, future seasons may experience significant delays or shortened episode counts.

The writers of ABC’s “Abbott Elementary” were scheduled to reunite May 2 to begin work on the popular comedy show’s third season. However, this room is closed for the strike.

Likewise, the writers’ room of Showtime’s “Yellowjackets” only met for one day to work on season three before breaking up for the strike. At Warner Bros. Discovery’s “Game of Thrones” prequel, “A Knight Of The Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight,” also closed its writers room for the duration of the strike.

Netflix’s “Big Mouth” had been writing its eighth and final season for six weeks, but was put on hiatus due to the labor dispute. The streamer’s hit “Cobra Kai” also saw its season six writers room shut down.

The longer the strike lasts, the more productions should be affected.

“A prolonged strike is a definite possibility,” TD Cowen analyst Doug Creutz wrote in a research note released Friday. He defined prolonged as more than three months.

“It is clear that a significantly prolonged strike would impact the number of new shows available to streaming services and linear networks, which could eventually start to increase both SVOD churn and cutoff. of linear cord,” he said.


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