On this week’s Lever Time, David Sirota is joined by The Bear writer and Writers Guild of America (WGA) union member Alex O’Keefe to discuss the stakes of the current Hollywood strikes.

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A rough transcript of the episode is available here.

The WGA has been on strike since early May after failing to secure a contract with the country’s major film and television producers. This past week, SAG-AFTRA, the union representing film and TV actors, joined the strike after failing to secure their own contract, putting Hollywood on standstill for the first time since 1960.

Over the last decade, the economy of Hollywood has been completely upended by the advent of streaming services like Netflix, as well as the consolidation of major entertainment companies such as the merger of Warner Bros. and Discovery. This has led to a “content arms race” as companies have competed to amass their own libraries of movies and TV shows. The result has been a shift to faster and cheaper film productions, which have adversely affected almost all of Hollywood’s workers.

In the face of such rapid changes, David speaks with Alex about what the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are demanding from the studios. This includes increased pay for shorter production schedules, residual payments for content on streaming platforms, and protections against AI programs taking over their jobs. The two discuss what’s at stake if workers’ demands aren’t met, and whether or not the unions are being “unrealistic,” as Disney CEO Bob Iger recently put it.


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