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When Writers Strike, LA Feels It ... Everywhere. And More Headlines

A group of people wearing blue T-shirts and holding black and white signs with the words "Writers Guild of America on Strike!" are picketing underneath a big sign that reads "Walt Disney." Scattered wisps of clouds break up the otherwise blue sky on a sunny day, and the man and woman closest to the viewer are wearing sunglasses.
Members of the Writer's Guild of America went on their first day of strike on May 2, 2023, picketing in front of Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.
(Brian Feinzimer
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If you took a drive past major studios and streaming companies like Paramount Pictures, Amazon, Walt Disney Co. and Netflix yesterday, you likely saw several people with picket signs with the words “Writers Guild of America On Strike." The WGA, the union that supports TV and film writers, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers failed to reach a contractual agreement on Monday night.

Writers On Strike

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For the first time in 15 years, Hollywood writers are putting down their pencils for things like more pay; a better share of supplementary compensation, like residuals; and for an expansion of protections for all television writers. Late night TV has already gone dark because of the strike, but there are broader ripple effects when writers walk off the job.

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In the latest podcast episode of How To LA, host Brian De Los Santos spoke with veteran entertainment reporter and host of LAist Studios Retake podcast, John Horn, about the impact of the 2007-2008 strike and what might happen this time around. Already, people across the industry — art directors, electricians, costume designers and others — have been feeling the effects of a work slow down just due to the anticipation of picket lines. Now that the strike is on, some contemplate a career change if it continues for too long.

“I have a friend who has decided to work in a different industry altogether,” said Kedra Dawkins, an art director with credits like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. “I have another friend who is struggling with health insurance and myself, I am looking at six months out of work — longer than the pandemic.”

Businesses outside of entertainment could also be affected — the restaurants, the florists…even the gas stations.

My colleague Josie Huang spoke to Amber Dedman, manager of the Mediterranean restaurant Sotta, which is in Burbank, just down the street from Disney and Warner Bros. “I just found out about the strike. So I'm still calculating, in my mind, how we'll be able to fluctuate,” said Dedman. “I feel like we're reverting back to almost COVID times where it was scary. And that's just something that I am fearful of.”

The strike 15 years ago lasted 100 days and cost the industry an estimated $2.1 billion in economic losses and more than 37,000 jobs connected directly and indirectly to the entertainment business.

Who knows how long this current strike will last but stay tuned to our reporting on LAist for all the updates.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

We’re here to help curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

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Wait! One More Thing....

A Look Back At How The Last Writers Strike Impacted Late Night TV

A sign being held by a a light skinned man in a white T shirt and black baseball hat says "on strike". Behind him a sign says 'The Tonight Show" in gold letters
Writers Guild of America members and supporters picket near the Tonight Show with Jay Leno theater at NBC studios in 2008
(David McNew/Getty Images
Getty Images North America)

Just to keep with the theme of the day here, I want to take a little trip on this Way Back In The Day in L.A. Wednesday to the last time writers dropped their pencils for better work conditions: 2007-2008. That was the era of some of America’s favorite shows of all time, like The Office, Two and a Half Men and Grey’s Anatomy. Many of those scripted shows ended up with shortened seasons. But on this trip, we’re going to specifically focus on what happened to late night television during the 100-day strike.

My colleague Mike Roe has 12 “blast from the past” videos that show how late night shows like Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Late Show with David Letterman all managed to keep the cameras rolling while the writers were out of the room.

I gotta say, the creativity is pretty inspiring! Check it out here.

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