The huge turnout Wednesday, with thousands of people filling up at least two blocks outside the Paramount Pictures lot, was intended to be a demonstration of resolve at a moment when union members fear that studios are trying to divide them. At the same time, the long-running job action is creating increasing economic difficulties for some writers and actors and the support staffs that work with them. The gathering appeared to be the biggest rally the unions have staged thus far, although they picket together on a daily basis.
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Speakers tried to cast the strike as a historical moment in a summer characterized by labor actions from a variety of industries. They said the outcome would define the entertainment industry for decades to come.
“History is in the making right now,” said Fran Drescher, president of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, speaking in front of a Jumbotron screen that broadcast her image to the cheering crowd. “Do not give up, because this is the moment that is going to change the future.”
Of the studios, Drescher said: “They have to do a major pivot. This is their opportunity to grow as human beings.”
The Hollywood strikes, explained
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the major studios and streaming services, said in a statement: “Every member company of the AMPTP wants a fair deal for writers and actors and an end to the strikes, which are affecting not only our writer and actor colleagues, but also thousands of others across the industry.”
Writers are seeking higher wages overall, a greater share of residuals — especially from streaming content — and assurances about the number of writers hired per show. That last issue has turned into a major sticking point.
The actors are also seeking higher pay, and both groups want strong language in the contracts to ensure they will not be replaced or cannibalized by AI.
Actors and writers say that Hollywood has become increasingly beholden to Wall Street, with short-term earnings reports driving decision-making more than the long-term health of the industry. Yet there’s little dispute that the strike, which has lasted longer than some expected, is now hurting studios as well as actors and writers and others in the industry. A recent financial filing from Warner Bros. Discovery disclosed that the studio could lose $500 million this year.
If the strike is not over by October, studios probably will end up without new content for their fall seasons, which would be a first in TV history. Yet both sides seem unwilling to give on some fundamental issues.
Wednesday’s rally featured remarks from leaders of both unions and other officials, as well as a few actors, including longtime actress Jean Smart.
“This strike is going to be remembered for a very, very long time,” Smart told the crowd. “Stay strong.”
The traditional TV season has been upended by streaming services, which are increasingly airing shows with fewer episodes that take fewer people to write and act in. Actors and writers say that unless some new rules are established, it will become impossible for many writers and actors — except for the stars at the very top — to make a decent living in Hollywood.
“This is about the future of the human workforce for years to come,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, head negotiator for the actors.