- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Flipboard
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Tumblr
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
On the company’s earnings call April 18, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said the streaming giant could weather a writers strike better than others due to its large library of content.
“If there is one, we have a large base of upcoming shows and films from around the world. We could probably serve our members better than most,” Sarandos said at the time. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav made a similar statement about his streamers’ library.
Standing in front of Netflix’s office in Manhattan, which was picketed Wednesday by a large, roving crowd of Writers Guild of America members, stagehands from IATSE Local One, musicians from Local 802 AFM and members of SAG-AFTRA, writers expressed skepticism about that statement. Several prominent names joined the picketing lines including Cynthia Nixon, Bowen Yang (who spoke about the impact of the strike on SNL), Ilana Glazer and Jeremy O. Harris.
Greg Iwinski, a former writer for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and a negotiator for WGA, said he thought that Netflix’s statement was odd given that the streamers were partnered with major studios who did see an urgency to ending the strike swiftly.
“It’s very interesting to me for one partner to say, ‘Actually, we’re fine with a strike,’ when there are other ones who have upfronts and need to sell ads this week and have fall schedules that have to get filled up right now and have late night shows that are off air,” Iwinski said.
Steve Bodow, former executive producer of The Daily Show for both Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah as well as Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj, added that Sarandos’ comment was “pointing out the problem, not the solution.”
“The fact that we have this stuff stockpiled with streaming is one of the major structural changes that’s happened in the industry since the last strike, and that’s a lot of the reason why we need to do this,” he continued. “We need to be compensated for that.”
As for what it would take to get the two parties to reach a resolution on issues such as AI and streaming residuals, Iwinski noted that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will soon be in negotiations with the Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, who will likely bring up similar issues.
“All of this is on the table for all of us, so there’s not a way to run away from all of these issues for too long,” he said.
Still, the strike is interrupting some projects that had been in play. Glazer, co-creator and star of Broad City and a WGA member, said she had pitches and was in development with projects for TV before the strike happened, all of which are now paused. But the comedian already had a cross-country stand-up tour planned for the summer and she does not mind the pause, given her support of the writers’ demands.
“We need living wages, our basic needs met, and the writing portion of TV and film has been squeezed and squeezed and squeezed over the last few years and it really shouldn’t be surprising to the big studios that the human beings who are creating this content, who are the beating hearts and minds of this behind this art and content want to be treated with basic dignity,” Glazer said.
She outlined the mini writers rooms and the potential emergence of AI in scripts as particular concerns.
“For us to be creating formula based on stories already told deepens the systems of oppression that brought us here to fight today. As humanity and consciousness move forward, our art must reflect that. And to go backward and have ChatGPT, or whatever the fuck, write stories based on John Wayne or something, I’m like, ‘What are we talking about?’ We have to keep moving forward. This is conservatism, and it’s really directly related to the global threat of fascism that we’re seeing,” Glazer said.
Bodow noted how streaming’s specific push for inclusion and diversity — coupled with its mini-rooms — has now left the platforms with a conundrum about their own talent pipelines, as the path “for younger writers to get trained up and qualify themselves to rise up the ranks and become producers and showrunners” is now challenged.
“It’s a way in which I think the industry could be biting itself in the ass in the long run — having brought a lot of different voices and different kinds of talent on board, but not really giving them the path to the higher levels where they’re really creating and writing projects,” he said.
Bodow added that he’s seen firsthand the disparity in terms of writer treatment on linear versus streaming in the comedy-variety space. And while “Netflix was generally supportive” of Patriot Act, “the pay structures and protections that are in place at most comedy-variety shows — on network TV, basic cable, premium cable — were just not there.”
Jeremy O. Harris, the playwright of Slave Play, as well as the co-screenwriter of Zola and a co-producer on Euphoria, came to the picket line as a WGA member and as someone who stands in opposition to the current business model in Hollywood. He also has multiple projects that are impacted, but he said he feels that it’s necessary to halt the work in order to fight for better conditions.
“I think the demands are completely right. I think that the fact that every major studio and streaming service right now is beholden to Wall Street and demanding this sort of exponential growth is completely inhumane because then commercial growth is at odds with the human nature of our business. Our business is about telling stories, and stories are not told on the deadlines of Wall Street,” Harris said.
Nixon shared a similar sentiment, recalling how the “specter” of the last strike and “how long the time that the writers went out” hangs over this one. “They were long strikes, and I think that that is one reason everybody is pouring onto the picket line to try and make as much noise as possible right at the beginning,” she said. “We’re here. We’re not going to be broken. No one’s budging. We’ve got to negotiate.”
As for what writers will do in the interim, on Tuesday, Harris had tweeted asking: “Which of my famous actor friends just found out their shows are on hiatus bc of the strike and wanna do a play in the fall?” Speaking at the protest, he said he feels the strike could be an opportunity for the theater world.
“I’m willing to wait this out for as long as possible, and I feel very lucky that I write in a lot of mediums. So the fact that theater gets to be a space where I can write … I came here with Will Arbery today, another playwright, and we’re both talking about the amazing ways that we can be using this moment to refocus on theater too,” Harris said.
Harris is not the only one in Hollywood who is considering how they’ll use their various platforms across mediums amid the strike. Nixon also said she’s going to be using her time ahead of and amid the season two release of And Just Like That… to keep the strike front and center.
“I certainly feel like I’m going to make statements about supporting writers anywhere and everywhere I go,” she told THR. “I’m interviewing [And Just Like That… writer] Samantha Irby in a couple of weeks at Symphony Space, and we’re going to spend some of that time talking about the writers strike and her thoughts on it.”
Matt Rogers — a comedian, podcaster, Fire Island actor and WGA member — said that while there’s a “delicate line to walk right now,” he doesn’t think “we should be shutting down our platforms.”
“Am I personally canceling meetings where I’m discussing — even as an actor — the script or workshopping the script or talking about a role? Yes, but it’s a delicate walk. I think if you can be somewhere where you can use your platform to push our agenda here and get everyone listening to what we need, that’s fine,” he said. “I have a podcast that I can use. I have a platform that I can use. Fire Island is nominated at the GLAAD Awards next week, and I think that several of us will be attending because, if given the opportunity to give a speech, I will absolutely be ringing the bell on this.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day