Nobody knows how long the current Writers Guild of America strike will last — but Judd Apatow thinks that the studios might have a plan for when they end it.
Speaking to Variety at the Rock4EB benefit in Malibu on Saturday, the “Knocked Up” and “Trainwreck” director discussed the WGA’s work stoppage and the picket lines that have formed at all major studios in Los Angeles and New York after they rejected the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers’ final contract proposal on May 2. Apatow said he thinks studios likely knew the strike was coming, and although they currently haven’t offered to bend on several key points in discussions — including regulation of AI in screenwriting, increased minimum wages, and updated residual models — those in charge likely already know on what issues they’ll concede.
“I think they probably already know what they’re going to bend on,” Apatow told Variety. “I would assume they already know what date this is going to end. They’ve probably been planning this for years.”
Apatow further explained that he thinks the studios are planning for the strike to wear down union members until they accept a new contract that isn’t as radical and covers less of the union’s demands.
“I always think that whatever happens, they could have figured it out already. When these things conclude, you never go, ‘I understand why it took that long.’ It’s never something so inventive and groundbreaking, that you think, ‘Oh, people needed to go to war for months over it.’ It’s always a very obvious position,” Apatow said. “So that’s what’s scary about it, is that there is a solution but I’m not sure that all of the business interests are interested in getting to it quickly.”
Apatow currently does not have any projects in production, but told Variety that he had to stop working on projects in development. Still, he said the strike and the WGA’s demands were important, as the current model of limited residuals streamers use does not reward writers and creators for their success, limiting the number of people who are able to afford to pursue screenwriting as a full career.
“We have a system now that that does not reward success for a lot of these projects,” Apatow said. “If you make something and a billion people watch it, you don’t make more money than if it was a disaster, right? That’s not good for creativity because it takes away a lot of the motivation for the creative people, because people work really hard to create some sort of cushion for their lives. All of our work is ebb and flow. The successes pay for the time when things aren’t going well. Sometimes they go well and sometimes they don’t, but you can live off of the time that you wrote something that had a lot of residual [fees paid out]. It’s always been a tenuous career. But if you take away most of the linchpins, it’s a career that a majority people can’t survive.”
Since the WGA strike began, writing on covered shows across networks and streamers has ceased; late night talk shows have gone dark all together, while series like “Hacks” and “Loot” have ceased filming. AMPTP responded to the strike with a statement expressing disagreement with WGA on several key issues that caused the strike, including mandatory staffing on covered programs.