The U.S. writers strike began 1 month ago. Here's how it's affecting the Canadian industry

by Lindsey Francy Jun 3, 2023 News
The U.S. writers strike began 1 month ago. Here

The Ontario film and television industry had a record-breaking year in 2022, thanks in part to U.S.-produced shows like The Boys, which shoot in Canada.

Marguerite Pigott, the city's film commissioner and director of the entertainment industry, said that there were only 15 projects in Toronto this year.

Hollywood writers picket for job security, pay, residuals and to artificial intelligence restrictions at Universal Studios in California.
Workers and supporters of the Writers Guild of America protest outside Universal Studios Hollywood after union negotiators called a strike for film and television writers in Los Angeles on May 3, 2023. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

We knew what to expect when scouting slowed down. The entire industry was aware of what to expect, according to Pigott.

The Canadian film and television industry is bracing itself for the effects of the labour action in Hollywood.

There is a similar effect to what Pigott described. The CEO of Martini Film Studios in Langley said that British Columbia hit a low of 28 active productions just before the strike began.

Canadian film and TV staff who work across borders have suffered losses.

People working in the industry are feeling the pain.

Canadian independent productions that work with the Writers Guild of Canada are unaffected by the strike south of the border.

A lot of U.S. series have been delayed. Ditto for Canadian co-productions like The Last of Us, which will film its second season in Canada.

Pigott said that it's a matter of when the U.S. industry comes back to Toronto. Outside of Ontario, Canadian cities such as Montreal,Halifax andCalgary are popular shooting locations for Americans.

The writers strike is going to end at some point. There will be a boom when it's over.

Solidarity overrides everything, says Canadian writer

A man with a dark beard wears a navy blue baseball cap.
Abdul Malik, a screenwriter and former labour organizer in Edmonton, said he has stopped working on his U.S. projects in solidarity with the writers strike. (Gabrielle Brown/CBC)

The Writers Guild of America is supported by many Canadians who have developed projects in the U.S.

When the strike began last month, AbdulMalik put all of his U.S. projects on hold.

I would like the Americans to do it for me if the roles were reversed. Solidarity sort of overrides everything in that case, he said.

The streaming era has resulted in more U.S. based opportunities for Canadian writers.

Canada isn't sustainable for me right now but the upside of America is really high for Canadian writers if they can make it there.

There is a chance that U.S. networks will use Canadian content as a contingency in case of a strike. The CW Network is picking up Canadian programming unrelated to the strike.

If the roles were reversed, I'd want the Americans to do it for me, right?- Abdul Malik

NBC renewed its show for two more seasons. There may be more of these deals this summer.

It's reasonable to assume that a lot of American networks are looking at the quality content we produce in Canada and brokering deals with producers to air it in the U.S.

The working conditions of his friends in Los Angeles have declined over time. Smaller writers rooms and shorter timelines are some of the issues Canadian writers are facing.

It doesn't mean that we're not feeling the squeeze, but I think there's a vested interest in keeping writers in the country.

Writers gave studios 'a gift,' says prof

There is a triple threat on the horizon for the Hollywood studios.

The Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild have contracts with the studios that will be up for renewal on June 30. The writers on the picket line have the support of high-profile actors.

Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University, said that the writers guild has miscalculated their leverage against the Hollywood studios.

Studios said that their profitability is declining because of intense competition and high costs and that they would not negotiate with writers.

"The studios need to adjust their costs, and they couldn't have imagined a bigger gift than a union forcing everyone to slow down and cut costs," he said.

Studios have been preparing for an action with so-called "strike-proof" lineups, mostly a combination of non-scripted reality shows, and international series like CanCon, though you'll see South Korean and Indian.

A bald man with a gray beard wears dark glasses with a thick frame.
Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at New York University, said the writers have 'terribly miscalculated their leverage' against the Hollywood studios. (New York University)

The content bank of these studios is deeper than the personal bank accounts of the writers.

TikTok is a platform that is pulling young people away from traditional Hollywood entertainment.

A nuclear winter for writers is what he thinks all of the leverage and incentives point to.

The writer disagreed with the analysis.

He thinks networks will lose eyeballs from their "strike-proof" slates, and that TikTok and YouTube aren't built to support the kind of dramatic entertainment that people love.

The strike is expected to last until September. He said that it was a matter of who flinches first: the writers guild or the studio.

I hope I'll be able to go to the U.S. with the knowledge that they have a better contract for writers like me.