9:58 pm EDT, April 24, 2017

Writers Guild members approve potential strike, paving way for major Hollywood shutdown

Remember the big Writers Strike of 2007 – 2008? We could be in the same situation again — in a matter of days — if negotiations don’t pan out very soon.

The Writers Guild of America is currently at odds with studios over higher minimum wages, exclusive employment, and better health care. Talks between the Writers Guild and studios are set to resume on Tuesday, April 25, but the existing contract ends on May 1, so the clock is quickly running out.

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Making matters even more serious, today 96% of the Writers Guild of America voted to green light a strike should no agreement with the studios be reached. By comparison, 90% of the 2007 – 2008 guild had voted yes to authorizing a strike.

The last writer’s strike lasted three months, crippling TV shows across the board. There’s no show without its writers, and a writers strike would mean most of your favorite shows would halt production.

While many shows due to be released in the near term (like Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black) are safe since they’ve already been written and filmed, other shows with air dates in the fall and beyond would be seriously affected if a strike occurred.

Basically: If the scripts aren’t finished yet, shows are in serious danger of receiving a shorter season, a poorly written season, or no season at all.

Of course, it’s important to remember that a strike would affect everyone involved in a TV show — if there’s nothing being filmed, no one is making money. That’s a very bad thing for Hollywood.

And yes, this includes movie writers. But since movies take longer to develop, scripts can be prepared for movies several years in advance. A strike of a few months wouldn’t have as great of an affect on the big screen.

A recent feature in the New York Times explains why it’s come to this. Despite this era of “Peak TV,” networks have been cutting the number of episodes per season, and studios have been making fewer movies:

There are definitely more union-made series — at least 300 last season, or about 40 percent more than two years before that. But networks are ordering fewer episodes per season (10 to 13) than in the past (22 to 24). So a series writing job pays less.

At the same time, in a contract provision known as exclusivity, most TV writers can write for only one series at a time, taking them off the market for up to a year. And to top it off, reruns don’t attract very many viewers anymore, limiting residual payments.

Movie writers say they are hurting because the major studios are making fewer films. Studios have also cut way back on what is development, or the polishing and reworking of scripts to find a good one.

Let’s hope the Writers Guild and the studios come to a fair agreement so that workers get what they deserve, and viewers get their shows.

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