Filmmaking Screenwriting Vancouver/Vancouver Island Film/TV Industry

The WGA and SAG Strike: A Crossroads for Hollywood But a Boon for Vancouver’s Independent Filmmaking?


Even for those who are not “in the industry” a hotly debated topic of conversation these days is, of course, the ongoing WGA and SAG/AFTRA dual strike. It’s a hot bed of complex issues, with far-reaching implications for the global film industry.

It is also a powerful testament to the power of collective action, a leading example for other industries who struggling against the exploitation and abuse of corporations to learn from.

The ‘Hollywood unions” are standing together to demand fair compensation, better working conditions, protections against the technological advancements of Generative Artificial Intelligence which threaten their livelihood.


Predicting the duration of the strike is a bit like predicting the plot twists in a television drama. The AMPTP refuses to negotiate on items which address the way the industry has structurally changed since the last contract with writers and actors. They have stated that they will wait until the union members are losing their homes before they return to negotiations.

In a show of support for less fortunate actors on strike, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson donated a 7-figure sum to the organization that supports those actors hardest hit in the industry. Will such actions enable the actors to keep their homes and strike long enough that the AMPTP production companies bleed out and their shareholders insist they negotiate to get everyone back to work?

There are those who say that the real ‘hold outs’ are the big streamers, who are guided by tech leaders obligated to generate profit for their shareholders. Their primary objective is to drive down operating costs – costs which stand to be drastically reduced with the application of AI technology that goes beyond algorithms to recommend shows to their subscribers, but which utilize the likenesses and performance of actors.


Which leads us to a key point of contention. Producers want a one time play for pay deal whereby they pay the actors one time to scan their image and then use it in perpetuity for whatever projects they want. I mean, did they really think actors would go for that?

And then there’s the subject of residuals for writers and actors. The streamers are notoriously vague about their viewing statistics, numbers which writers and actors insist should be transparent and inform their residual payouts.

With so much at risk, neither side is willing to back down anytime soon and, even if the AMPTP comes back to negotiating by October, which is when many have speculated they would come back to the table, it is quite likely negotiation would continue into 2024.

All of this to say that we’re at a turning point in the history of the industry. AI is changing the world and, as we’ve seen in the past, when technology revolutionizes the way we work, it is the people who actually do the work that pay the price for change.

The ripple effects of the strike are already felt acutely by those of us who have been squeezed out of work since the producers’ anticipatory slow-down of production. While the studios and streamers grapple with the struggle to show their shareholders a strong profit, the rest of us can’t make our rent or mortgage payments, literally risking losing our homes. This is the price we pay to stand against those who make millions of dollars off the work we do.

For what? Why?

Because in the long run, the way the producers are being led by the tech geeks and shareholders, our livelihood will be reduced to nothing anyway. 


Every cloud has a silver lining, and in this case, it’s the potential for increased independent filmmaking. Writers and actors are advocating their people to turn to independent filmmakers. SAG is offering interim agreements to indie filmmakers who agree to the terms they have offered to the AMPTP.

Yes, you read that right! The small indie filmmakers agree to the value and protections the actors have been seeking from the big studios and streamers who say they “can’t afford to”.

With Hollywood productions on pause, there’s a unique opportunity for independent filmmakers to step into the spotlight.

In Vancouver, the bulk of the work we do is service to the Hollywood studios and streamers. The city has always been a hub for film production, but the strike could catalyze a new wave of independent filmmaking. It’s a chance for fresh voices to be heard, for diverse stories to be told, and for the boundaries of cinema to be pushed in exciting new directions.

Independent productions offer creative freedom, inventiveness, and flexibility that can sometimes be lacking in Hollywood productions who curb creativity within the criteria of what meets their ‘brand’. Independent production allows us to explore new themes, to experiment with different styles and techniques, and to connect with audiences in unique and meaningful ways.

The strike is a chance for us to reflect on the value of our work, to stand up for our rights, and to explore new avenues of storytelling. And for Vancouver’s independent filmmakers, it’s a golden opportunity to step into the spotlight and show the world what we’re capable of.


As we navigate these uncertain times, let’s remember the power of cinema to inspire, entertain, and educate. Let’s remember the importance of standing up for our rights, and the value of our work. And let’s look forward to the exciting new stories that will emerge from this period of change.

Yours in solidarity.

(photo credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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