How the Hollywood writers' strike is impacting Virginia

Posted at 8:43 PM, May 22, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- As the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike nears its fourth week, Virginia's T.V. and film industry is feeling the effects and it could only get worse the longer it goes on.

"The industry is statewide, though, it's not just productions that are coming into the state spending all kinds of money…really there's a big indigenous industry, too. Post-production activity from Northern Virginia down to Hampton Roads region," said Virginia Film Office director Andy Edmunds. "The industry, in fact, is a $1.2-billion industry in Virginia, with about 5800 full time jobs."

Since May 2, the WGA has been on strike after being unable to reach a new contract with the trade association that represents Hollywood studios and production companies -- the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Among what the WGA is seeking is higher minimum pay, more writers per show, and restructuring how residuals are calculated -- issues they said have been exacerbated by the increase in streaming.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has said that it had offered “generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals,” including the highest first-year wage increase in a WGA contract in more than 25 years, and the creation of a new category of rates that would mean a new, higher minimum for mid-level writers.

"I'd certainly like to see the writers get some of their demands met. I think no matter what industry you're working in, seeing a decline in pay in the last few years and a time of such inflation is certainly problematic," said Virginia Tech School of Communications Professor Dr. James Ivory. "I think that we often talk about how our programming is best when it's well written, whether it be entertainment television, educational television, news -- so, we need to appreciate where that comes from…that said, in most part, we see people that are doing the actual work within the film and television industry is being supportive of the writers strike because they understand the importance of their role to their industry."

As for the impact on Virginia's portion of the industry, Edmunds said the strike has been expected for several months and work began to dry up in the spring.

"It was looking like it was going to be a slow year in that particular category of content, for a lot of labor that works in that type of content," said Edmunds, who added that productions that would have been paused by the strike are ones that had unfinished scripts, needed rewrites, or episodic content. But he said that other work remains unaffected. "A lot of high end commercial work. But, certainly, we want as many jobs as we can create in Virginia into content creation field because it is a growing industry."

Even though the industry has not shutdown completely, those who work behind the scenes on projects are feeling the slowdown. David O'Ferrall is the business agent with I.A.T.S.E. Local 487, which represents over 1,000 workers in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, and said his union was feeling the slowdown even before the strike began.

"A lot of companies held projects up in anticipation of this happening. So, they didn't want to get started -- and specially series work -- didn't want to stop in the midst of it…Our members have been traveling, where there is work, there's not a whole lot of work going on all over the country right now. The normal places like New York, Los Angeles, and certainly Georgia -- production is way down because people were anticipating this strike," said O'Ferrall. "It's certainly going to be difficult for some people as if this drags out."

O'Ferrall added he supports the writers who are striking.

"We want to support them, but we want to see work come back, we're hopeful that they'll come to a resolution in the not too distant future. And we'll get back to the normal level of work that we've had in Virginia and elsewhere around the country," he said.

"For us here in Virginia, what this means is a temporary pause at some of this work. I believe that will create a big demand for even more content. So, when this when this temporary strike is over, there will be even more demand here in Virginia for our great locations and great crews to go to work on a lot of different work. So we wanted to be ready for that," added Edmunds.

However, those CBS 6 spoke added that while they are hopeful for a quick resolution to the current strike, contracts for the unions representing actors and directors end in June and if either group opts to strike that could compound the problems already being felt.

EAT IT, VIRGINIA restaurant news and interviews



Watch 'The Jennifer Hudson Show' weekdays at 3 p.m. on CBS 6!

📱 Download CBS 6 News App
The app features breaking news alerts, live video, weather radar, traffic incidents, closings and delays and more.