What’s Behind the Hollywood Scriptwriters’ Strike?

More than 11,000 Hollywood scriptwriters working in film and television are demanding better working conditions and limitations on the use of AI in the industry. Here we tell you more.

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LatinAmerican Post | July Vanesa López Romero

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The film and television industry is undergoing many processes, but perhaps one of the most important, at the core of any audiovisual production, is the story that is told. It's simple: without a good story, there is no good movie or series. Behind that good story there are writers who have the ideas, present them and develop them. Today there are around 11,500 Hollywood scriptwriters who are on strike demanding better working conditions and limitations on the use of AI (artificial intelligence) within the industry. The strike is led by the Writers Guild of America, an organization that encompasses two groups: the Writers Guild of the East and the West.

Why are the writers on strike?

Every three years, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) meets with the largest Hollywood studios to define the conditions of contract for scriptwriters. However, this year, the talks have dragged on. While the studios claim they are offering a "generous" profit increase for screenwriters, the WGA says the studios are unwilling to budge, that their offer is unfair and does not align with the paradigm shift in the film industry. and television in the streaming era. Audiovisual productions have grown exponentially in the last decade due to this phenomenon, but screenwriters say their salaries, unlike the billions invested by studios, have stagnated.

This isn't the first time the writers have been in discussions with the studios. 15 years ago, in November 2007, the WAG called a strike that lasted 100 days and paralyzed Hollywood. In 1988, it lasted 5 months. The difference with this, as we already mentioned, is that we are in the streaming era. The productions are many, constant and fast. Hollywood doesn't stop.

In 2007, movies and series like "X-Men: Origins", "James Bond" or "Breaking Bad" were delayed. At the time, this was problematic, but today, it is more so. “Stranger Things” season 5, “Big Mouth” season 3, “Rings of Power” season 2, and “Severance” season 2 are just some of the titles that are stalled by strikes. There are even threats to release spoilers for how series like “The Last of Us” and “Succession” end, two of the most successful productions of the last year.

Also read: The 6 Countries in Which Netflix Invests the Most With its Local Productions

The problem with AI

Added to this is a very recent problem: the use of AI in creative works. Recently, late last year, thousands of graphic and visual artists protested the misuse of their works as feed for the AI-generated imagery database. These illustrations that became a trend on social networks used the works of artists who did not give their consent and who did not receive credits as raw material.

Hollywood's scriptwriters are now in a similar position. The use of AI for writing was popularized with Chat GPT and its paid version, GPT-4, is already being used for writing SEO or digital marketing-related content. This tool has been presented to many of the managers in charge as an opportunity to reduce costs. The problem? That artificial intelligence, as we saw with graphic artists, does not get its information out of thin air. The databases they use are originally made by humans. In this sense, it is morally questionable that these tasks are assigned to AI, leaving aside the entire creative process and the experience behind the writing.

Although the use of AI in the major leagues of the film industry is not a real thing today, the threat exists and will surely arise sooner rather than later. That is why the WGA is also demanding limitations on the use of these tools, which could mean the loss of employment for thousands of Hollywood scriptwriters who are today protesting for their dignity.

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