The throng started a new chant, as if on cue. “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! This corporate greed has got to go!”
Similar scenes of solidarity unfolded across the entertainment capital. At Paramount Pictures, more than 400 writers — and a few supportive actors, including Rob Lowe — assembled to wave pickets with slogans like “Despicable You” and “Honk if you like words.” Screenwriting titans like Damon Lindelof (“Watchmen,” “Lost”) and Jenny Lumet (“Rachel Getting Married,” “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”) marched outside Amazon Studios. Acrimony hung in the air outside Walt Disney Studios, where one writer played drums on empty buckets next to a sign that read, “What we are asking for is a drop in the bucket.”
Another sign goaded Mickey Mouse directly: “I smell a rat.”
But the strike, at least in its opening hours, seemed to burn hottest at Netflix, with some writers describing the company as “the scene of the crime.” That is because Netflix popularized and, in some cases, pioneered streaming-era practices that writers say have made their profession an unsustainable one — a job that had always been unstable, dependent on audience tastes and the whims of revolving sets of network executives, has become much more so.
The streaming giant, for instance, has become known for “mini-rooms,” which is slang for hiring small groups of writers to map out a season before any official greenlight has been given. Because it isn’t a formal writers room, the pay is less. Writers in mini-rooms will sometimes work for as little as 10 weeks, and then have to scramble to find another job. (If the show is greenlit and goes into production, fewer writers are kept on board.)
“If you only get a 10-week job, which a lot of people now do, you really have to start looking for a new job on day one,” said Alex Levy, who has written for Netflix shows like “Grace and Frankie.” “In my case, I haven’t been able to get a writing job for months. I’ve had to borrow money from my family to pay my rent.”