Writers Strike Begins: ‘No One Wants This, but It’s Necessary’

The Writers Guild of America is on strike for the first time in 15 years, as writers will fan out on Tuesday afternoon to walk picket lines outside the major studios in L.A.

“No one wants this, but it’s necessary,” said Courtney Perdue, a writer on “Up Here” and “Gossip Girl.” “This business starts on the page. No pages, no profits.”

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Talks on a new contract broke down just before 8 p.m. on Monday night, as the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers remained far apart on a host of key issues. The guild has said that writers are facing an existential crisis brought about by the shift to streaming, with fewer TV episodes and lower residuals.

“The future of writing as a profession is at stake,” said Charese Castro Smith, writer of “Encanto.” “My life has been shaped by stories — created by writers. And it’s my job, and I love it, and I want this to keep being a viable career for future generations.”

Late-night shows will be the first to feel the impact, as “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Late Show,” “Tonight” and “Late Night” are all going into reruns.

The AMPTP said Monday night that the primary sticking points are a guild proposal for a TV staffing minimum and a minimum number of weeks of employment on a TV show. The studios are not willing to entertain either idea. The guild is also seeking a rewrite of the streaming residual formula to account for international subscribers and to pay more for hit shows. But the studios are unwilling to give up viewership data.

“I stand with all my fellow writers because they deserve what they are asking for and none of it is unreasonable,” said John Leguizamo, who is an actor, writer and producer. “All the profits are in streaming and we are not sharing in that wealth.”

The guild is also seeking sizable increases in minimum weekly rates for writer-producers, with a new tier that would be 25% higher than the minimums for story editors and executive story editors. Overall the guild estimated the cost of its proposals at $429 million per year. The guild estimated that the studios are willing to give only $86 million per year.

“I was naive,” said Bryan Cogman, Emmy-winning writer for “Game of Thrones.” “I thought we’d be closer on the negotiations even if we had to strike, but the AMPTP basically told us to piss off with no counter of their own on SO MANY important issues. I fully support the strike and the WGA. This is an inflection point and we have to stand together on this.”

At an event on Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass was asked about the strike. She said she would “reach out to all parties to see what is going on.”

“I am certainly very concerned,” Bass said. “We understand that the entertainment industry is one of our number-one industries, and I am hoping that they will reach resolution soon. I know that, as I understand it, they are far apart right now. But I am interested and hopeful that I’ll be able to connect up and at least get a handle on what’s going on by talking to all parties involved.”

Jazz Tangcay, Adam B. Vary and Clayton Davis contributed to this story.

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