The Hollywood Writers Guild (WGA) strike by September 27 is officially over. It lasted 148 days and paused production on most major releases. Due to the protest, the organization was able to obtain more favorable working conditions, but this method of dialogue would hardly have worked in Russia, experts say. Read about how the strike ended, what problems domestic screenwriters face, and whether Russian producers will be able to take advantage of the “pause” in the schedule of overseas premieres.
Back to work
According to the new agreement published on official website Screenwriters Guild, wages will increase, the use of artificial intelligence for writing scripts will be limited, authors will receive royalties for their successful works from streaming services (Netflix, Disney+, Max and other platforms agreed to such conditions). The WGA’s new contract with the Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance will run until May 2026. but some changes may still be made to it: the document must receive approval from the guild members, and voting will take place from October 2 to October 9.
The most affected by the strike was the production of blockbusters from industry giants: Disney (including Marvel), Warner Bros., Sony. Major streaming services were also affected by the forced break. Companies and studios have not yet made official statements about new dates, but it is already known which films have definitely been moved to later dates.
Among the postponed releases: three Avatar sequels (third part – December 2025, fourth – in 2029, fifth – in 2031), continuation of the popular animated film “Spider-Man: Web of Universes”, “Deadpool 3”, “Mission: Impossible. Deadly retribution. Part 2″ with Tom Cruise, “Gladiator 2” from Ridley Scott, “Venom 3”, “Beetlejuice 2” by Tim Burton, several superhero blockbusters and sequels to “The Avengers” from Marvel, etc. Among the series, the second season of the HBO show “The Last of Us” was postponed from 2024 to 2025. The fifth season of Stranger Things was also put on pause: filming, scheduled for May, did not start.
The Western press greeted the end of the protest positively, noting that it was one of the largest events in the industry. The Hollywood Reporter was cautiously optimistic about the end of the strike: Many studios will resume production on their projects at the same time, and this may provoke a shortage of staff, film sets and actors.
But the writers’ victory does not mean the end of the conflict: the studios have not yet reached an agreement with the Hollywood actors’ union, which joined the general protest in mid-July. All this can also slow down film production.
According to Andrei Zolotarev, a nominee for the Golden Eagle award for the best script for the sports melodrama Ice, the end of the conflict was expected.
“It seems to me that everyone is paying so much attention to this because they want to quickly see new seasons and something interesting on the platforms. It’s simple for everyone, it has already begun to be felt. The process of a strike itself is a natural path to rapprochement through blackmail. On the one hand there are screenwriters, on the other there are producers, some want money, others don’t want to give it. All of them, sooner or later, come to an agreement using mutual blackmail. The question was how quickly it would happen, — Andrei Zolotarev explained to Izvestia.
Who’s in charge in the movies?
The 148-day strike was one of the largest actions in the last 15 years – a similar thing happened in 2007, and then everything was resolved in 100 days. This time, one day of downtime cost the studios approximately $30 million – a serious blow to the studios’ wallets.
Kirill Zhurenkov, who worked on scripts for the films “Lenin. Inevitability”, “Ninth” and “Demon of the Revolution”, explained to Izvestia that the basis of most such conflicts is precisely the money issue.
— The fact that they managed to achieve indexation of the minimum wage and bonuses for views on streaming platforms is a big plus. The last strike was in 2007-2008, and then I talked with the American screenwriter Michael Tolkin. I was wondering how they looked at this strike from the inside, what it was all for, for the sake of money or to prove to the producers the importance of writers. There is such a competition in Hollywood: who is the boss in the movie. It is no coincidence that one of the founders of Warner Bros. Jack Warner once said that a screenwriter is a complete noob with a typewriter. Michael Tolkien answered me that he could find self-respect and dignity at home among his family and friends, the main thing is that they get paid properly,” said Kirill Zhurenkov.
The completed strike is an indicator of how the film industry is changing due to new technologiesthe screenwriter added. Another pressing problem is the monetization of content on streaming platforms, and the growing popularity of artificial intelligence did not frighten the domestic screenwriter muchalthough the effectiveness of modern graphics is especially noticeable in the new Indiana Jones.
“You can’t tell the difference between young Jones, who was made with the help of computer technology, and good old Harrison Ford. From a writer’s point of view, I don’t see any major threat from the AI. I haven’t tried it myself, but my colleagues have dabbled with ChatGPT and they weren’t very happy. Just as a computer that completely replicates the human brain has not been invented, ChatGPT, fortunately for us, will not yet replace the screenwriter. It may make some rough drafts, but for now it is an interesting and promising toy. Hollywood is at the forefront of progress, they are already preoccupied with these issues,” added Kirill Zhurenkov.
Production should already be moving forward, and fans around the world will see delayed new releases in the coming years. This means that they will be able to reach Russian cinemas, albeit with some delay. Some of them will most likely be released in the format of shadow releases and pre-show service, as was the case with the summer hits “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” Domestic manufacturers will be able to take advantage of the resulting window in the release schedule. But, according to Andrey Zolotarev, the Russian industry is capable of competing with foreign products without such interruptions.
— Our competition now is ephemeral: we are not allowed to see them, we almost don’t have them. We don’t need a head start, we can compete on the open market, even if everything works 100% for them. Our industry is small but strong now, we are developing well. Hypothetically, if they tell us “welcome” again, then we will be able to compete with them, our product is no worse than what they do, — Andrei Zolotarev told Izvestia.
Another advantage of such a large-scale strike is the precedent. Specialists from Russia can also use the experience of foreign colleagues to solve problems in the domestic market, but, according to Kirill Zhurenkov, it is too early to talk about large strikes.
– You need to have a large structure, associations. I know that withThere are recommended prices from the Screen Writers Guild, but in practice it is a matter of your personal work, name, negotiations with producers. Compared to the 90s, we have already advanced a lot, screenwriters have agents who look after their interests, know everything about payment, minimum prices and regulate relationships with customers,” explained a market participant. — There is exactly the same system in Hollywood, it’s just more developed. I think that We are catching up with them in the formalization of scenario and creative activities. But so far there is no such strong and powerful screenwriters’ union in Russia that can stop many projects.
Andrey Zolotarev added that One of the real and serious problems of Russian screenwriters is copyright, but this can be solved without a strike.
— In the USSR, the screenwriter was the author of the work, but now, by law, he is not. This means that he does not automatically receive royalties at the box office. It’s very strange that we still don’t have this, because it would give a big boost to the industry. There are still many small things that would be worth discussing, but not in a strike formatadded Andrey Zolotarev.
The President of the Guild of Film Writers of the Union of Cinematographers of Russia, Alexey Aleshkovsky, told Izvestia that this strike will be beneficial for film production, but in Russia this format is not entirely suitable.
— Colleagues very often give us the American Guild as an example and ask a funny question: why don’t you go on strike? In such cases, I ask: are you personally going to go on strike? The question is removed,” he explained. — By the way, the English or Canadian guilds are not on strike either. And not because there are bad writers. Everywhere has its own historical conditions. Russian screenwriters, in my opinion, simply have no reason to go on strike. Now demand is outpacing supply: on the one hand, this is good for screenwriters, on the other, it has a negative impact on the quality of screenwriting work. We have never even dreamed of competition like in the USA.
Children of the pandemic
World events in recent years have shown that making long-term forecasts for the domestic film industry is not so easy. According to Andrey Zolotarev, We are in a turbulent market that is affected by many external shocks.
“This is a hard-to-predict business that operates over a long period of time, which creates great difficulties. I see that the quality of scripts is definitely improving, I see a large number of young screenwriters. The pandemic and the events that followed it, oddly enough, gave birth to a powerful young generation [сценаристов], which works quite professionally. A large amount of money was invested in Internet services, young authors were able to immediately achieve decent budgets, gained valuable experience, which was already transformed into qualitysays Zolotarev.
Alexey Aleshkovsky added that aboutOne of the most important tasks of the Union of Cinematographers is the revival of the domestic screenwriting school.
— Let’s not forget that cinema is not only entertainment, but also an instrument of social reflection, which is simply necessary now, an instrument for representing our country in the internal and external environment. The implementation of this task is impossible without the development of scenario education, first of all: both in a qualitative and quantitative sense. Development of regional cinema,” emphasized Alexey Aleshkovsky.
A strike by US screenwriters is unlikely to seriously affect our cinema, he believes. Russian projects can win even more viewers if they meet their interests and needs.
“Unfortunately, in the cinematic environment there is a very common idea: “people are gobbling it up.” Disrespect for your audience is directly related to box office performance. People do not need chewing gum, but an honest conversation about real life. Such films are in short supply. In Hollywood, almost all films are patriotic. But here, “patriotic cinema” is a niche product, which for the most part only causes surprise among the patriotic public,” explained Alexey Aleshkovsky.
According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, There are distinct problems in the Russian film industry that affect not only financial issues. It will not be possible to solve them using the method of colleagues from the United States: a more comprehensive approach will be required. But now domestic filmmakers have every chance to develop the market.
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