Three Strikes: The Consequence of a Self-Imposed Creator Shutdown


SAG is on strike. WGA has been striking for months now (welcome to the party, y’all). Even Southern California’s hotel unions are on strike, and for real, shame on the outfits who, unable to use AI replacements as a credible threat in the negotiations, have instead just called temp service app InstaWork to undermine union bargaining power. Cute.

Los Angeles minus Hollywood and the tourism trade is hardly a Los Angeles at all; and when combined with crippling heat and the general end of days vibes — or is it the rumble of the Barbenheimer hype train causing those Doomsday fish to start appearing off the coast of Taiwan? — the lights of Tinseltown are faltering.

This is a city where making $70,000 a year constitutes a low-income household. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, as of April 2023, the average screenwriter brings home $69,510 per year. Actors’ median income, per the Department of Labor’s 2021 survey, was $46,902. Both figures are sure to decrease if the studios continue on with their plan of paying bupkis residuals for streaming and replacing background actors with their own AI dopplegangers. The upshot is that soon, LA may be such a deep fake deadzone after humanity is priced out that the dystopian Westworld/Blade Runner future that Hollywood helped normalize becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe a few Iger-esque and Zazlov-ian types survive the fallout, but they’ll be left staggering around the shambles of their former lots, the Ozymandiases (Ozymandiasi?) of entertainment. 


“Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair” was actually the title of yesterday’s Netflix shareholders earnings call

Hollywood does not exist in its own little bubble, either geographically or as an industry;  and the nuclear fallout caused by the greed of these behemoth studios are an existential threat. We’re seeing the entire taxonomy of internet creators have to make the impossible choice between continuing down their incredibly hard-earned career trajectory of making content around TV and film online, or standing in solidarity with the unions they are either members of or one day hope to join. The former might get them labeled scabs and affect their current or future eligibility in SAG-AFTRA. The latter would constitute throwing away years–sometimes decades–of work fighting for scraps on the frontlines of an emerging media landscape with no bargaining positions to speak of.

So maybe the last thing we see before the mushroom cloud comes from Hollywood and its pink plastic city is a Barbenheimer double-feature. At least we’ll be going out with a bang.


Living in the Gray: When Does Content Creation and Commentary Become Promotion?

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