Hollywood breathed a collective sigh of relief Sunday night when the Writers Guild of America and the major studios announced a tentative deal for a new contract.
The nearly five-month strike — among the longest in the union's history — secured what the guild described as significant wins for writers, but also had a devastating effect on the livelihoods of thousands of cast and crew who've been out of work for months.
"We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership," WGA's negotiating committee wrote in a memo to members on Sunday night. The union did not release deal points, but the proposed contract is said to include bonuses tied to the success of high-budget subscription streaming programs and address the guild's deep concerns around artificial intelligence, among other topics.
But optimism and elation surrounding the agreement, which came after 146 days of picketing, has also been tempered with a sobering recognition that Hollywood's return to work won't be immediate or easy.
The Sunday pact is but one of several pieces in a complicated puzzle that must be completed before writers, actors and crew members can get back on the job, even once the strike officially ends and the WGA contract is ratified by the union's 11,500 film and TV writers.
The union's negotiating committee is expected to recommend that the union's board approve the contract as early as Tuesday, before it is sent to members for a vote. WGA members will be able to return to work before the ratification vote, but they must first wait for the guild's authorization.
Indeed, it may be weeks or even months before production activity returns to anywhere close to the levels that existed before the work stoppage began on May 2. Late-night shows and talk shows are expected to be the first to go back to production.
"It's one of those things that doesn't happen just overnight," said Todd Holmes, associate professor of entertainment media management at Cal State Northridge. "There's gonna be a ramp-up time to get the writers back to work and to get productions moving again."
Chief among the remaining hurdles: studios must now find a way to settle their differences with SAG-AFTRA, whose members have been on strike since mid-July.
The WGA deal could provide a template for the actors guild, which has raised similar concerns about artificial intelligence and compensation for successful streaming shows.
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