LOS ANGELES – After 148 days on strike, television and movie writers will begin returning to work Wednesday.
The Writers Guild of America, which represents 11,500 screenwriters, said Tuesday that three internal boards had voted unanimously to end the strike and send a tentative contract with entertainment companies to members for ratification. The vote will start Monday and end Oct. 9.
Members are expected to approve the three-year deal.
“Our negotiators knew the kind of deal they had to deliver – anything less than exceptional was not going to fly with a membership that has become younger, more active, possibly more radical,” said Bryce Schramm, a writer whose credits include the CW’s “Dynasty” and Disney’s “Runaways.”
The Writers Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of the studios, reached the tentative agreement Sunday after a bitter standoff that contributed to a near-complete shutdown of film and television production. Guild leaders have repeatedly called the terms of the accord “exceptional.” Studios have declined to comment.
For the first time, the Writers Guild made those terms public Tuesday. While not receiving everything it asked for, the union achieved major gains.
Residual payments (a form of royalty) for overseas viewing of streaming would increase 76%, according to the union. Netflix’s foreign residual, for instance, would total $32,830 for a one-hour episode over three years, up from $18,684.
For the first time, writers will receive a bonus from streaming services that is based on a percentage of active subscribers. The guild had demanded that entertainment companies establish a viewership-based bonus to reward programs that become hits.
On the contentious issue of minimum staffing for television shows, at least three writer-producers must be hired for writers rooms for first-season shows running 20 weeks or longer. Minimum staffing for additional seasons will be tied to the number of episodes.
Studios had initially refused to negotiate at all on the guild’s demand for minimum staffing, calling it “a hiring quota that is incompatible with the creative nature of our industry.” The union had been seeking a minimum of six writers.
The Writers Guild said the tentative contract includes enhancements worth an estimated $233 million annually. When bargaining started in the spring, the guild proposed $429 million in enhancements, while studios countered with $86 million, according to the guild.
The tentative contract also contains guarantees that artificial intelligence technology will not encroach on writers’ credits and compensation. Studios cannot use AI tools to rewrite original material. Writers, however, can use the technology for assistance if the company they are working for allows it; studios cannot force them to use it.
In a concession by the union, studios will be able to use film and TV scripts they already own to refine AI tools and experiment.
During negotiations in April before the strike, studios refused to engage on the topic of AI, saying too much was unknown about the technology. They said the guild would have to wait until contract negotiations in 2026. Studio leaders have since called their early refusal to negotiate on the issue an error. It was one of the reasons the guild called a strike.
Even though writers rooms can begin running again, much of Hollywood will stay at a standstill: Tens of thousands of actors remain on strike, and no talks between the actors union, SAG-AFTRA, and the studios have been scheduled.
The only productions that could quickly restart are ones without actors, like late-night shows hosted by Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert and daytime talk shows hosted by Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Hudson.
In addition to actors, more than 100,000 behind-the-scenes workers (directors, camera operators, publicists, makeup artists, prop makers, set dressers, lighting technicians, hairstylists, cinematographers) will continue to stand idle, many with mounting financial hardship. The impact extends beyond California and New York. There are production hubs in Georgia and New Mexico, for instance.
About $10 billion in TV and film production is on hold, according to ProdPro, a production tracking service. That equates to 176 shows and films.
While the Writers Guild suspended picketing Sunday, the union encouraged members to join the actors picket lines this week – a symbolic show of solidarity before returning to work.
“Today is an important day to pay a debt to the actors who came out to support us early during our strike, when they still had a contract,” Schramm said Tuesday as he arrived at Paramount Pictures with a picket sign. “It’s also nice to gather with other writers and feel some ownership over our victory.”
About 80 people were marching outside Paramount by midmorning. Roughly one-third wore blue Writers Guild shirts. A smattering of people had donned sparkly tutus in honor of a “tutu Tuesdays” theme. Someone had brought a boom box, which was blaring “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John.
Comedic actor Jack Black (“Jumanji”) carried a picket sign reading, “We Ain’t Done Yet,” while Emmy-winning Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”) sported a black SAG-AFTRA shirt.
The mood was buoyant, even euphoric.
“I can’t imagine that it will be drawn out,” Kari Nicolle, an actress whose credits include “CSI: Vegas,” said about the negotiations that remain between her union and the studios. “If the writers were satisfied with the AI protections that studios offered, then hopefully SAG will be able to piggyback.”