A five-month screenwriters’ strike and a 100+ day actors’ strike brought Hollywood film and television production to a standstill this year. With residuals and artificial intelligence topping the list of concerns, could a web3 model empower creators and help prevent future work stoppages?
In May, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) representing over 11,500 screenwriters initiated a strike over reduced residuals from streaming platforms and suppressed incomes. Half of TV writers now work at minimum rates compared to one-third a decade ago, while pay at upper levels has dropped four percent in that timeframe per WGA statistics .
However, negotiations collapsed in June when legacy compensation structures for broadcast TV failed to carry over to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon.
Actors union SAG-AFTRA joined the picket lines in July, marching side-by-side with writers for the first time since 1960. Like the WGA, they sought residual improvements, particularly audience-based payments resisted by opaque platforms.
Growing fears about AI and the misappropriation of actors’ likenesses added urgency to the movement. Prominent backers included Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, George Clooney and Margot Robbie.
With productions delayed, could emerging web3 models introduce transparency to profit sharing while better rewarding work? Many believe so. Seeking to embed web3 ideals into the entertainment world, a vanguard has coalesced around a concept dubbed “Film3” – a rallying cry to transform old Hollywood into an open, creator-driven landscape.
“All during the SAG strike, Web3 has been waiting in the wings as the transformative solution,” Cyko KO Director and Producer Rob Feldman told CCN. Feldman’s company is a signatory to the SAG agreement, although luckily, his productions had wrapped-up before the strike began.
Feldman explained that with web3, there is no way to manipulate or delay payments, as there is real-time visibility into verification and money transfers. He urged that talent representatives should quickly adopt these technologies to benefit their clients.
A more radical solution could include decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), which many hope will someday replace studios and production companies to give creators direct governance. Tokenized securities and smart contracts could encode profit-sharing agreements on blockchain networks, ensuring automatic compensation as soon as benchmarks are hit.
To put studios at ease, these payouts to talent (on and off screen) could be tied to measurable outcomes like viewership, ensuring transparency and accountability for all involved.
“While [the strikes] have accomplished many things, the system remains broken,” believes The Squad founder, Jordan Bayne , speaking to CCN.
“The pillars of Film3 are self-sovereignty, owning your own IP, and building creator-led communities which become mini-studios that harness the passion of fans to power direct to consumer marketing and distribution. By engaging and activating your communities – by giving them skin in the game – which is the Web3 way – creators can eliminate the middle men of the industry and retain the majority of the revenue stream.”
Theta Labs’ Andrea Berry , who used to work at Vimeo as an executive, adds that even post-strike, streaming faces subscriber, infrastructure and content strategy obstacles that strain stakeholders. “Accountability and transparency will ultimately lead to fairer compensation for creators and a system where everyone wins,” she told CCN.
WGA negotiations finally yielded an “exceptional” deal in late September after nearly five months. SAG-AFTRA subsequently reached a “historic” tentative deal in early November. With work resuming, only time will tell whether web3 can prevent future unrest by building a more equitable entertainment ecosystem. Yet improving compensation models to unleash wider creativity could lead to prosperity for all.