Year After Screenwriters Strike, Scribes Say Situation Worse, Work Scarce Amid Downturn

Painters stand on platforms as they repaint the Hollywood sign in preparation for its 100th anniversary in 2023, in Hollywood on September 28, 2022. - A team of 10 painters will work eight weeks and use almost 400 gallons of paint as the iconic Tinsletown landmark gets a makeover ahead of it's 100th anniversary in 2023. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

A year after Writers Guild of America members walked out in pursuit of higher wages, enhanced streaming residuals and limitations on the use of artificial intelligence, The Los Angeles Times checked in with multiple writers of varying experience levels spanning film and TV.

Some declined to be named to avoid risking future employment. All said that either they or their colleagues have struggled to find work for at least 12 months amid a contraction that has led to unstable production and employment levels across the entertainment industry.

The so-called peak TV era that enabled 599 original scripted series to land in a single year is over, likely never to return.

Film, TV, commercial and other production activity in the first quarter of 2024 was 20.5% lower than the five-year average, according to FilmLA, a nonprofit organization that tracks on-location production in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Globally, film and TV production lagged by about 7% in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023, per tracking company ProdPro.

For 14 straight years, Ted Sullivan was consistently paid to pen stories for the screen. The Hollywood-based, 53-year-old TV writer and producer’s résumé boasts credits on hit shows such as “Riverdale” and “Star Trek: Discovery.”

Now, he spends seven to eight hours a day writing without pay, preparing for the unforeseeable moment that Hollywood studios start greenlighting projects and hiring writers again.

“I feel like I’m in the worst ‘Twilight Zone’ ever,” Sullivan said, “where I wake up and I’m now 20 years old again writing spec scripts for free in my apartment.”

Read the full story from The Los Angeles Times.