Hollywood film and television writers announced strike action effective Tuesday, and the ripple effect of the strike could be felt north of the border if it drags on.
Late Monday night, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) said that 11,500 unionized screenwriters were headed to the picket lines.
The guild informed its members that all script writing is to immediately stop after it failed to reach a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) before the old one expired just after midnight Pacific Time.
Already, late-night talk shows have shut down, and daytime soap operas are likely to be impacted relatively quickly.
In British Columbia, where both episodic network television shows and streaming series employ hundreds of industry workers, the strike could delay the start of some productions if it continues into the summer.
"It will effectively cripple the majority of the television work that happens in Vancouver," said Shawn Williamson, a producer with Bright Light Pictures.
Williamson recently wrapped production on The Good Doctor, an ABC network medical drama shot in the Lower Mainland. He told CBC's The Early Edition that the plan was to open a writers' room within a week to prepare for the next season, which is scheduled to air in September, but that timeline likely won't be possible now.
Potential delays have Williamson worried that late scripts will mean a late start to shooting, saying that scripts for episodic television are produced within mere weeks of when the scenes are shot.
"If the writers' strike carries on, it will delay the start of production," said Williamson.
Writers are seeking pay increases from production companies like Disney and Netflix, as well as from large studios. According to the WGA, working conditions have declined due to streaming and compensation, and jobs have suffered due to smaller writer rooms and shortened seasons.
The guild is also pushing studios to regulate the use of artificial intelligence in script writing.
"What the writers are seeing is a reduction over the years as the studios look to decrease their costs. They have been reducing the number of writers that have traditionally been hired," said Williamson.
The board of directors for the WGA, which includes both a west and an east branch, voted unanimously to call for a strike.
"The companies' behaviour has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing," the WGA said in a statement.
"The survival of our profession is at stake."
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the trade association that bargains on behalf of studios and production companies, said it presented an offer with "generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals."
In a statement, the AMPTP said that it was prepared to improve its offer "but was unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the guild continues to insist upon."
The last WGA strike, which began in November 2007, lasted more than 100 days. TV networks replaced their usual programming with reruns and reality shows. Nowadays, streaming sites have a backlog of content they can release in case of a strike.
Rachel Ho, film critic and editor at Exclaim Magazine, said in the golden age of cable when shows like Friends and Frasier were appointment television, writers were well-paid based on audience numbers and when the shows went into syndication. But streaming has changed things.
"This is part of the contention with the writers, they have been giving (streamers) a wealth of content that they can live off of in perpetuity and yet the writers are not really seeing the benefits of that," said Ho, speaking on B.C. Today Tuesday.
Ho said the cost of living has to be considered as well.
"Most of these writers live in cities like New York City and L.A., very, very expensive cities to live so they need an increase to their rates," she said.
According to Creative B.C., the film industry contributed $3.6 billion to the provincial economy in 2022. The strike comes in the midst of a local industry slowdown, with some workers who have been steadily employed for years already worried about securing their next gigs.