With the chances of a US writers strike rising by the day, Arrested Industries co-CEO and founder Anthony Kimble provides his latest take on life in LA and reflects on the ability of C-suite execs to wangle their way onto red carpets
This has been my first full awards season since relocating to Los Angeles and the first really in full flow since the pandemic.
I didn’t make it onto any of the red (or champagne coloured) carpets, but so many creative friends and colleagues did – all justly getting their moment of recognition for coming up with, writing, directing and producing content for the big behemoths of Hollywood.
The only real drivers in our creative business appear to be the dollar signs and decimal points on the balance sheets of the big studios
Alongside the talent, the awards ceremonies bring out the suits from their executive floors and corner offices: the CEOs, CFOs, CMOs and COOs that love to bask in the glory of the creative machine – mostly without possessing a creative bone themselves.
And that is, of course, fine. Our wider ecosystem needs all types of skillsets to make it function properly. But let’s not forget, without the incredible talent of the writers and showrunners that they employ there would be nothing for them to hitch their wagon to and certainly no awards shows or glitzy galas.
As the SVOD bubble bursts and studios and platforms cancel shows and turn to an over-reliance on the reboot, any appetite for true creative risk seems to be going the way of the dodo. The only real drivers in our creative business appear to be the dollar signs and decimal points on the balance sheets of the big studios, all tightly controlled by these C-suite titans.
Cost vs creativity can be a delicate consideration – I’m not so naïve to think that balancing the books isn’t important, especially during the tough times. But in the case of the likely writers’ strike, surely it’s an obvious case of biting the hand that feeds you and therefore hugely short-sighted?
After all, writers are the start-point for virtually every programme that makes it on air; they provide the fuel for the engine. So, it’s hardly fair they should be penalised when the industry keeps changing lanes, especially when they exert little or no control themselves.
Eating away at the core
At the core of the negotiations, ahead of the current contract with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers) expiring on 1 May, is the issue of the sharp decline in residuals.
Global streamers have taken an increasingly covetous stance on rights ownership and the broadcast orders of many series that would have once been 20+ episodes a season have been halved to a more typical 10 episode run.
The old-world order would mean that jobbing writers could rely on their residuals cheques to see them through leaner times. But now, the syndication market – even for shorter run series – has all but disappeared, with limited overseas sales once a show is on a global platform.
With writers on strike, Hollywood crumbles. The last writers’ strike in 2007/08 lasted for 100 days and resulted in losses of more than $2bn and countless jobs across the entertainment industry. And not just amongst creatives – catering, transportation, equipment rental. So many different businesses suffered.
I have been talking to lots of LA-based agents and many are planning on spending time in London and Canada over the next few months, looking to bolster their rosters with non-guild writers in a bid to mitigate risk
So as the Writers Guild of America (WGA) gears up for what look to be increasingly fraught negotiations with the AMPTP, everyone is worried. If the strike moves ahead, Hollywood will lose again.
There might be some winners though. I have been talking to lots of LA-based agents and many are planning on spending time in London and Canada over the next few months, looking to bolster their rosters with non-guild writers in a bid to mitigate risk and find ways to work around the imminent strike.
Some of the bigger players have already future-proofed themselves by buying large UK talent firms: UTA recently acquired Curtis Brown and 42 Management recently divested a stake in the firm to Lionsgate.
This does of course present opportunities for overseas writers but for Hollywood, it is a short-term fix for a longer-term problem. We need to come together and champion the real heroes of the small and silver screens – the writers, producers and brilliant creative minds that promote joy, bring people together and keep us entertained. Oh yes – and whose stories keep the wheels of the industry turning for us all.
As Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) said in his extraordinary acceptance speech at the recent WGA Awards: “I have dropped the ball, I have wasted years seeking the approval of people with money. Don’t get trapped in their world of box office numbers. You don’t work for the world of box office numbers. You work for the world. Just make your story honest and tell it.”
Check out Anthony Kimble’s other recent TBI columns: