Fun article in the BBC today documenting Hollywood’s strike issues, asking “Is Hollywood self-destructing?” The short answer is no, but let’s take a moment to talk about why. Understanding what Hollywood is, and isn’t, is crucial for anyone who wants to be a professional storyteller.
To recap – Hollywood’s writers have been on strike since May 2 (AKA the WGA strike). A separate, parallel strike is happening with the American actors’ union SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). It’s been 60 years since we’ve seen two strikes (the WGA and SAG-AFTRA) happening at the same time.
The sting is in the tail of the BBC article: “Even if the strikes resolve in time to allow Hollywood to resume normal service for the Oscars et al, the damage that will have done in the meantime could still be seismic – and the ramification for the studios could extend far beyond Dune: Part Two’s rescheduled premiere.” People are understandably surprised and alarmed if they’ve never seen a labor action before – does this mean the end of Hollywood as we know it?
I’m not here to discuss why the strike is happening and what the terms are. You can learn more about that on Wikipedia and the newspaper and there are paid analysts who understand the situation MUCH better than I do. The point I want to address is the original title of the post – ‘Is Hollywood self-destructing?’ The answer, again, is no – here’s why.
The Simple Truth About Hollywood
Forget the glitz and glamor of Hollywood – they’re an industry town and Hollywood’s industry is entertainment. Just as Detroit builds cars, Manhattan runs financial systems, Hollywood makes movies. That industry employs thousands of people as it has for over one hundred years, surviving the Depression, World War II, and Uwe Boll. When one aspect of an industry is in disarray, you wouldn’t be surprised to see uninformed people going ‘OMG, the sky is falling!’
Calm down, Karen – Hollywood ain’t going anywhere. Did Wall Street fold up after 2008? Did Tesla kill Detroit? Industries have faced deeper, more existential crises than two simultaneous strikes and survived to tell the tale. Heck, the last time this happened to Hollywood was back in the 60s, right? If the strikes didn’t make Hollywood shrivel up in the 60s, why would it die now?
The Show Must Go On
Hollywood is changing into something else, but at the end of the day people still want to be entertained. If the current system doesn’t work, people will invent something new. That’s how Hollywood got its start – from Vaudeville. Before Vaudeville there were concert saloons, minstrelsy, freak shows, dime museums, and literary American burlesque. Before that, you had guys named William Shakespeare writing plays at the Globe in London.
No, Hollywood isn’t self-destructing. It’s changing, it’s reckoning with the realities of twenty-first century industry. If anything, Hollywood has an opportunity to become a more sustainable, vibrant community for creative professionals. I hope that they take this moment to do so.