Writers Strike 2023 Explained: Why the WGA Is Battling With Hollywood Studios

Here's what to expect as the writers go pencils down this week

Writers on strike in 2008, photo by David McNew/Getty Images

    It’s official: As of 12:01 AM PT on May 2nd, Hollywood’s writers are on strike. This isn’t the first time the Writers Guild of America has stopped work to pick up picket signs in protest of their current working conditions — and as we saw during the last strike, which began in November 2007 and lasted for 100 days, the effects can be seismic on the films and TV shows which would normally be in production.

    It’s early days in what may be a protracted fight between the studios and the writers, so for right now here’s a basic explainer of what the news means, what repercussions to expect in the immediate future, and why exactly this matters.

    What Does a Writers Strike Mean, In the Simplest Terms?

    It means that starting Tuesday, the 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America, having overwhelmingly voted their approval, are going to go “pencils down” and refuse to work any further on any current or future film and TV projects made by any major studios or production companies.

    Why Are the Writers Striking?

    Every few years, as the previous contract’s expiration date approaches, the WGA signs a new contract for further work with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the collective bargaining representative for the industry’s studios and producers. This time, the WGA was negotiating for a contract that would address many of the concerns writers have about the current state of the industry, and couldn’t come to an agreement with AMPTP to address those concerns before the previous contract expired on May 1st.

    What are those concerns? In short: Things are a mess, if you want to be a professional writer for film and television these days, due to the massive changes to the industry caused by streaming services. This March 2023 report from the WGA details how the TV landscape’s shift to shorter seasons (per the dictates of streaming services) means that many writers are being paid less in 2023 than they were just 10 years ago. This Vanity Fair piece is just one article covering the current existential crisis writers today are facing — and why they feel a strike is necessary now.

    What Immediate Effects Will I Notice, Now That There’s a Strike?

    From an audience standpoint, the first shows that will be immediately impacted include late night scripted series like Late Night with Seth Meyers and Saturday Night Live — these shows will likely shut down production and not air new episodes this week. (Pete Davidson may be sighing in relief right now.)