The second problem lies with “residuals”—what a writer gets paid each time an episode or film they worked on is rebroadcast.
In the Netflix era, films and TV shows can be rebroadcast on demand.
Writers argue that the industry has not yet found a way to equitably adjust their payment system to account for this huge change.
A writers’ strike is felt across Hollywood.
When shows stop production, camera people, costume designers and others are also out of work.
Late-night talk shows are the first to go dark.
The Milken Institute, a think-tank in Santa Monica, reckons the previous strike in 2007 and 2008 cost California’s economy $2.1bn.
Striking screenwriters may inspire less sympathy than factory workers who down tools, or even the cash-strapped graduate students who went on strike across California last year.
“There’s a notion out there of the spoiled, entitled, glitz-and-glam lifestyle of Hollywood writers,” admits Mr Collins-Smith.
But “I know people who, when they got out of their last room, immediately started driving for Uber.”
Los Angeles is the fourth-most-expensive city in the world, according to an annual cost-of-living survey from EIU, The Economist’s sister company.
“You come to LA for the land of opportunity,” says Jake Lawler, a 24-year-old writer who moonlights as a stuntman to make ends meet.
“But the peace-of-mind tax is way higher than anywhere else in the country.”
For studios, the question is whether the film industry can make money.
Before covid-19 shuttered cinemas, theatrical releases accounted for about 45% of a studio’s revenues for a big-budget film, according to FTI Consulting.
Americans are again going to the movies, but not in pre-pandemic numbers.
The streamers are also hunting for profits.
Netflix laid off hundreds of workers in 2022 after it lost subscribers for the first time since 2011, and the firm recently said it would restructure its film department to focus on fewer, better flicks.
“There’s going to be a precipitous drop in investments in movies in general, because it’s just hard to make a profit,” warns Howard Suber, who taught film at the University of California, Los Angeles for 45 years.
In some ways, the writers’ strike and the business-model woes are what Hollywood is accustomed to.
“Every five to ten years there’s some kind of crisis, going back to the introduction of sound,” says Mr Suber with a chuckle.
Hollywood is celebrating its century the only way it knows how: chaotically.