Actress Patricia Arquette has told Sky News she understands why TV and film writers are striking and that it can be hard for them to earn a living, as walk-outs in the industry take place in the US for the first time in 15 years.
The star was speaking while promoting her upcoming show High Desert, which she executive produced and also stars in.
Earlier this week, about 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) stopped work in a dispute over fair pay in the streaming era.
Negotiations between Hollywood writers and the studios began in March, but failed to reach a new contract before the current deal expired.
Arquette, best known for films including True Romance and Stigmata, and more recently the Apple TV+ series Severance, told Sky News she is sympathetic to their cause.
“I love the writers and I understand what they’re fighting for,” she said. “Every time we turn around, there’s a new kind of streaming service, or I remember when videos came in and then it was DVDs and cable television, all these different kinds of things; it’s very hard as a union to stay ahead of it and see where it’s going.
“And it’s hard for writers to make a real living, especially being locked down to exclusive contracts – they may just get a few episodes and it’s hard for them to make a living. So really, I don’t know where to be without writers as an actor – they are the beginning and they contribute so much.”
Her High Desert co-star Matt Dillon agreed.
“The business is constantly changing,” he said. “There have to be adjustments made, you know, [it] has to be fair. And I think that’s what this is all about and it’s going to work out eventually.”
The comedy series – about an addict who makes a new start as a private investigator following the death of her mother – is directed by Jay Roach, whose previous work includes the Austin Powers series, Meet The Parents and Bombshell.
Roach, who is a member of the WGA himself, said: “I always have writers involved on my shows, even when I’m directing and not writing. They’re always right next to me at the monitors and prep, they’re in casting and even in post and marketing I like to pull the writers in.
“No one craves a strike, but I just am so glad to say that writers are where it starts – and if we can help create an environment that supports and nourishes that culture, those things are worth fighting for and sadly, you know, potentially worth striking for, so I’m very supportive of the writers.”
Josh Gad and Cynthia Nixon are among the stars who have publicly shown their support for the strike.
The impact is already being felt in the US, where late-night talk shows are off air. Daytime soap operas could be next to be interrupted, since they are traditionally written not long before they are filmed.
The WGA is calling for higher minimum pay, more writers per show, and less exclusivity on single projects – saying the industry has been squeezed and conditions have worsened due to the boom in streaming.
The last walk-out in 2007 and 2008 lasted 100 days and cost the California economy an estimated $2.1bn (£1.68bn).
‘It really is feast or famine’
All Quiet On The Western Front screenwriter Lesley Paterson has also voiced her support for those striking, describing them as “underpaid and marginalised”.
She told Sky News: “With the development and progression of the streaming industry, everything has changed, and so the current situation is just not the same and things have to be negotiated and put straight.
“The reality is very, very tough. You are going from gig to gig and often you are pitching for a lot of projects, putting a lot of time and research in, and you are not getting paid for that.
“So when you do get a gig, maybe the gig lasts for three months or six months, and then you are trying to find the next one. So it really is feast or famine. And with the wages going down for writers and the pay getting less, it is just getting tougher and tougher.”
German-language anti-war epic All Quiet On The Western Front was one of the big winners of the 2023 awards season, picking up four Oscars and seven BAFTAs, including best film.
Scottish-born triathlete and filmmaker Paterson secured the rights to the novel for screen adaptation 17 years ago alongside producer Ian Stokell, and spent years campaigning for it to be made.
“I think everybody is really standing together because we will not budge on a lot of these points,” she said. “We are being taken advantage of and as a consequence unfortunately I think it could go on for a while.”
Earlier this week, Deadline reported British writer Jack Thorne, whose credits include the BBC’s His Dark Materials and Harry Potter And The Cursed Child in the West End, had paused work on two projects in solidarity with the strikers.
High Desert will debut on Apple TV+ with the first three episodes on 17 May