Hollywood is at a standstill.
While movie theaters had their biggest opening weekend since Covid with the release of Barbie and Oppenheimer, with tickets still sold out for many showings around the world, the WGA writers and the SAG-AFTRA actors remain on strike picketing the big Hollywood studios. The writers have been on strike for almost 3 months now and the actors joined them earlier this month and there doesn’t appear to be a solution to end the strike in immediate sight. The Hollywood pipeline relies on more production from writers and actors to perform to ensure that the constant entertainment monster is fed. Without those key pieces, many projects will be delayed and the pipeline could come to a halt.
Although the big studios may not be able to churn out as much product during the strike, this doesn’t mean that the world’s appetite for entertainment and content is going to stop. This offers an opportunity for creators around the world.
The world’s viewing habits have drastically changed since the turn of the century. The movie theater or broadcast TV is no longer the only way to watch stuff. The Barbenheimer opening weekend is the exception these days, not the expectation. Aside from streaming platforms, which have now become extensions of the big studios’ Hollywood system, social media platforms’ rise has completely changed how people watch video.
In a 2016 interview with BuzzFeed, Mark Zuckerberg declared he “wouldn’t be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video.” His statement turned out to be true, if not only on Facebook then on other platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Every day millions of people upload video content to these platforms. More video than any one person could ever comprehend how to watch it all. On the other hand, people are using these platforms constantly, endlessly scrolling from video to video. The volume of videos being uploaded and consumed on Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube alone is just astounding. The quality of the video can vary, but it does in Hollywood too, just on a different scale. Already many people have made careers from creating videos on these platforms and made real money from it, a trend that is only expected to continue. As Hollywood comes to a standstill then there is more opportunity for creators who make high-quality content.
One way or another, Hollywood will change as a result of the current strike. Not only by what deal is struck with the unions to resolve the current crisis, with many issues on both sides revolving around streaming and emerging AI technologies, but also by what the studios do in the meantime.
The last time the WGA went on strike was in 2007. It lasted 3 months and revolved primarily around residuals on DVD sales and Web streaming. During that time the Television networks, fearing a long strike that could go onto the next year’s television season, ordered a lot of reality shows. When the strike ended, they kept the reality shows and kept ordering more season after season. They were cheaper to produce and rated very well. People wanted to watch them so they gave them what they wanted. Keeping Up with the Kardashians premiered in 2007, and has been running in one form or another ever since.
Original scripted programming rebounded though, mainly through high-quality series from platforms like HBO and Netflix. Bingeworthy series became part of our lexicon and a topic of conversation amongst friends around the world. Just this past year HBO and its streaming service, now rebranded as Max, had cultural hit after hit with The White Lotus, The Last of Us, and Succession’s final season. The strike will put all of that on hold. The next season of The Last of Us has already been delayed as have many series in the pipeline.
This void is going to need to be filled, and most likely people will just continue scrolling on Instagram or TikTok and then put it down to stream the new show that won’t be there. The eyes are on these platforms now, and the money for creators making what people want to watch will follow. Making videos on these platforms or independently on the Internet is the only game in town now and creators are going to take advantage of the moment. SAG-AFTRA has even given their members guidance and permission to continue to make videos on the web knowing that for many is a major income source.