What the Writers’ Strike Means for the Future of Hollywood

What the Writers’ Strike Means for the Future of Hollywood

Hilary Swift for The New York Times Here's my attempt to summarize the context of the Hollywood writers' strike in three sentences. First, the entertainment business, floated on easy money and encouraged by the unusual conditions of the Covid era, committed itself to an unsustainable expansion — the great streaming experiment, in which every major brand would have a Netflix of its own. Then, as the unsustainability of this growth became apparent, the studios and streamers began wringing more and more out of their writers, at longer and less-predictable hours and with fewer long-term rewards, even as the corporate suits looked hopefully to A.I. to render certain writerly duties obsolete. This context makes the writers' demands appear reasonable and just, but it also means that the striking scribes could lose while winning — wringing concessions around pay and working hours as a prelude to a larger contraction, a collapse in the number of scripted shows that Hollywood puts out. The question for those of us who watch and write TV shows and movies, rather than creating them, is what this means for the art that justifies all of this commercial wrangling. One sees an opportunity in the strike to reconsider the larger way that Hollywood has evolved, especially the Marvel-era fixation on franchises, reboots and “presold” storytelling, which is variously attributed to a profit-mad venture-capital mind-set taking hold in Hollywood or the effects of consolidation in the film business. Against this backdrop, the monopoly critic Matt Stoller argues that the goal of the strikers should be finding allies in the cause of big, structural change — breaking up the vertically integrated corporate behemoths, separating production and distribution once again and thereby making the alchemy of the midbudget movie more competitive with the superhero sweatshop. A somewhat more pessimistic analysis, offered by writers like Sonny Bunch and Jessa Crispin , emphasizes that the superhero-sweatshop corporate strategy evolved because it's giving audiences what they want. The people are buying tickets for comic book movies and “Super Mario,” Bunch points out, not “Air” or “The Last Duel.” The fan […]

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