Alfred Hitchcock once said that "to make a great film you need three things -- the script, the script and the script." Now, for the eighth time since the 1950s, Hollywood is learning this lesson the hard way, as the Writers Guild of America has officially been on strike since May 2, 2023.
In a statement announcing the strike, which followed "six weeks of negotiations with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP)," the WGA said that it was driven by the companies' creation of "a gig economy inside a union workforce," and that the AMPTP had "closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession."
The last WGA strike took place in 2007-08, and its impact can still be seen in the movies and television shows that were being produced at the time. Recalling what it was like the make "Quantum of Solace" with only the "bare bones of a script" and no writers actively working, star Daniel Craig said: "We were f***ed."
Some productions are attempting to power through the strike without writers. Filming continues on "Andor" season 2, and showrunner Tony Gilroy says that the scripts were locked two days before the strike began -- "not because of the strike, but because our thing rhymed with the strike." Studios, including Disney, have sent legal letters to striking writer-producers like Gilroy, ordering them to continue with their "non-writing" obligations on shows. But Hitchcock wasn't kidding about the importance of the script. Here are the productions that have been impacted by the writers' strike so far.
Last updated: May 7, 2023.
Abbott Elementary Season 3
When the creator and star of a show is on the picket line, it's safe to say that production will have to wait until the strike ends. Such is the case with "Abbott Elementary," ABC's school-based sitcom that won two Primetime Emmy awards last year, and was renewed for a third season in January 2023. Quinta Brunson clarified on Twitter, in response to a fan's plea for her to help the writers: "I am a writer. I'm in the [WGA]. I'm also on strike! I have no real power here other than to join my union in demanding fair compensation for writers!"
According to Vanity Fair, the writers room for "Abbott Elementary" was scheduled to reconvene on May 2nd, but the start of pre-production for season 3 has now been put on hold. Writer Brittani Nichols explained to Democracy Now:
"We are a show that writes while we air, and so if this strike goes on for a significant period of time, our show will not come out on time, and that could change the amount of episodes which I'm sure people will be very upset about."
Marvel Studios' reboot of "Blade" hasn't exactly been in a hurry to reach the big screen. The company regained the movie rights to the vampiric vampire-killer back in 2012, and had a script for a "Blade" movie by 2013. But it wasn't until 2019 that a new "Blade" movie was finally announced at San Diego Comic-Con, with Mahershala Ali set to play the titular role (which will be his second Marvel Cinematic Universe character, after playing antagonist Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes in "Luke Cage").
"Blade" has experienced several delays since then, and was pushed back from its planned November 3, 2023 release date to September 6, 2024. Just as it seemed to be getting back on track, with "True Detective" creator Nic Pizzolato hired to work on the script and the start of filming planned for June 2023, pre-production has shut down again due to the WGA strike. According to an insider who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter, "time simply ran out," and the current plan is to resume production after the strike ends. Depending on how long it lasts (the longest WGA strike on record was 1988, when tools were downed for 153 days), "Blade" may have to bump its release date again.
Cobra Kai Season 6
"Cobra Kai" is a show where words can sometimes hit harder than fists, so the writers' strike certainly throws a wrench in the works for season 6. Co-creator Jon Hurwitz wrote on Twitter: "We hate to strike, but if we must, we strike hard. Pencils down in the Cobra Kai writers room. No writers on set."
That last part is indicative of filming going ahead without the writers -- at least for a while. On May 4, costume designer Frank Helmer posted a photo of the costume room on his Instagram story with the caption "Welcome to Shoot Day 1," which is in line with Ralph Macchio saying earlier this year that the start of filming was penciled in for May. Production can begin using scripts that were written prior to the strike, but having no writers available for rewrites, no writers on set, and episodes still to be written could eventually force a full shutdown.
Evil Season 4
There's a natural swagger to declaring that "evil has been shut down," especially if it comes after a battle. While some productions have been halted willingly (albeit reluctantly) by studios, others have been forced to shut down due to disruption from the WGA strike. In the case of Paramount+ series "Evil," which has ended production on its fourth season prematurely, the exact reason for the shutdown is somewhat muddy.
Variety reports that filming ended because of "a cast member [taking] a leave of absence due to a personal family matter," adding that "a source close to the series would only confirm that the early end to filming was a result of the unnamed actor's temporary exit from the show." However, the departure of this unnamed cast member comes coincidentally after filming was shut down by a WGA picket line.
"A handful of us walking in a tiny circle cost them the day's shoot," radio producer and "Search Party" writer Starlee Kine wrote on Twitter. She said that production finally shut down at around 1am, after the crew had been kept on the sidewalk for hours. The camera operators, grips, costume designers, and other crew members belong to a different union, IATSE, which came close to a nationwide strike in 2021. Kine told Variety that there was great solidarity from their colleagues, who even bought ice cream for the WGA strikers. A video shared on TikTok shows crew members in apparently good spirits despite the long hours on standby.
Hacks Season 3
If any show is going to shut down production during a writers' strike, it's a show about the importance of writers. Deadline reported that filming on season 3 of "Hacks" -- HBO Max's comedy-drama about a stand-up comedian (Jean Smart) whose agent foists a comedy writer (Hannah Einbinder) on her -- has halted production until the strike ends. Co-creator Jen Statsky confirmed the news on Twitter, writing:
We are devastated to not be with our incredible crew and cast right now, but there was no other option here. Writing happens at every stage of the process - production and post included. It's what makes shows and movies good. It's what makes them possible.
Production on "Hacks" season 3 has been ongoing since Thanksgiving 2022, with a break for the Christmas holidays and another in February while Smart underwent and recuperated from a heart procedure. Filming resumed in mid-March, per Deadline, so this production shutdown sends a clear message that shows need writers right up until the end of filming (and beyond).
Loot Season 2
Like "Evil," production on Apple TV+ comedy series "Loot" was shut down following direct picketing of the shoot. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "picketing members of the Writers Guild of America arrived at the Bel-Air mega-mansion that is used for filming the series" (which was in production on season 2). Star and executive producer Maya Rudolph "is said to have retreated to her trailer, unwilling to return to work."
We don't yet know if this production shutdown is temporary or whether it will continue for the duration of the WGA strike, but the latter seems likely. In addition to Rudolph reportedly refusing to resume filming, co-creator Matt Hubbard said on Twitter that he "enthusiastically voted yes" in the strike authorization vote. Rudolph's co-star Joel Kim Booster (who is also a screenwriter and on strike as a WGA member) has been vocal about the industrial action on Twitter.
In theory, Rudolph and Booster are not excused from their acting duties by the strike, and Apple could also put pressure on Hubbard and his co-showrunner Alan Yang to continue their "non-writing" duties. However, it's very difficult to extricate the writing parts of running a show from the producing parts when the smallest change to a line on set qualifies as writing duties. For similar reasons, actors rewriting or improvising dialogue is considered by many to be scabbing.
Also, given that "Loot" is a show about a billionaire-turned-philanthropist who is trying to reconnect with ordinary people, any form of strikebreaking during production would be kind of a bad look.
Stranger Things Season 5
The beleaguered town of Hawkins, Indiana, will remain in limbo for a while longer, as the start of production on the fifth and final season of "Stranger Things" has been postponed. Creators Matt and Ross Duffer used the official Twitter account for the show's writers to declare that it was "not possible" to move forward without writers:
Duffers here. Writing does not stop when filming begins. While we're excited to start production with our amazing cast and crew, it is not possible during this strike. We hope a fair deal is reached soon so we can all get back to work. Until then -- over and out.
"Stranger Things" writer Caitlin Schneiderhan took things one step further with a terrifying threat:
We can only hope that the strike ends with a satisfying outcome for the WGA. Who wants to live in a world without Steve Harrington and his gravity-defying hair?
Fortunately, "Stranger Things" season 5 was already set to begin with a time jump following the cliffhanger ending of season 4, in order to explain the ages of the cast. The main group of kids were canonically 15 years old during season 4, but the actors who play them are now all in their late teens and early 20s. Since the puberty ship has already sailed, production can afford to wait a bit longer to start up. Besides, "Stranger Things" fans are used to waiting; three years passed between the release of season 3 and the arrival of season 4.
Yellowjackets Season 3
"Yellowjackets" season 2 is currently still airing, but the hit Showtime mystery-thriller was renewed for season 3 before the second season even premiered. Depending on how long the writers' strike lasts, it may take a while longer than expected to return to the wilderness after the current batch of episodes finishes airing. Co-creator Ashley Lyle wrote on Twitter:
Well, we had exactly one day in the YellowJackets S3 writers' room. It was amazing, and creatively invigorating, and so much fun, and I'm very excited to get back to it as soon as the WGA gets a fair deal.
According to Showtime (via Variety), the "Yellowjackets" season 2 premiere became the network's most-streamed premiere ever with two million viewers across all platforms -- a figure that doubled to four million within the week (per Deadline). If the WGA strike stretches on to the point that the planned production start date has to be pushed back, it could be a painful blow for Showtime (and parent company Paramount). Meanwhile, Misty Quigley is with the union; actress Samantha Hanratty was photographed on the picket line with "Abbott Elementary" showrunner Quinta Brunson.
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The post Marvel's Blade, Stranger Things, and All The Other Productions Halted As WGA Strikes appeared first on /Film.