Sunday, January 27, 2008

Last Act For WGA Strike?

The trades and omnipresent Nikki Finke seem to imply that it is:

... With no advance fanfare, CBS Corp. supremo Leslie Moonves broke bread with WGA leaders Patrick Verrone and David Young on Friday. The trio, along with CBS labor relations chief Harry Isaacs, had dinner at a private dining room inside the Four Seasons Hotel.

Both the Moonves dinner and the off-the-record chats are being interpreted as hopeful signs that the two parties will restart formal talks soon ...

... the informal writer-mogul meetings are going "in a positive direction" enough so that it's beginning to look possible for the Academy Awards to proceed normally. Friday's was an especially productive session, I've learned. "I feel optimistic. In my opinion, today was productive and collaborative and respectful. I thought it was a very good day," an insider told me ...

Me, I think there's a 65-70% chance that the WGA reaches an agreement in the next few weeks. The studios/AMPTP will give the scribes a slightly different deal than the DGA, but the overall bucket of money will be pretty much the same. (The way it mostly works is, AMPTP says: "Here's the amount of cash we have to work with, how do you want it divvied up?" Then the parties go into side bar and commence divvying.)

Assuming current talks don't blow up, the WGAw/e reaches its deal by February or early March. Then the tub-thumping to sell it will start, one faction grousing about "cave-in" and "selling out", another group saying "Let's ratify this pup and go back to work." And the Screen Actors Guild will have minimal leverage for any job action it might be contemplating.

Even now the Directors Guild is trumpeting its own sweet deal:

"This has been a great achievement for the DGA," said DGA president Michael Apted. "Ten days ago we reached a tentative agreement with the studios and today the Board approved it unanimously. We achieved our three primary goals: jurisdiction in new media, which was absolutely essential; compensation for the use and reuse of our work in new media; and significant gains on issues of real importance for our work in traditional media."

I'll be ecstatic when the town is fully back at work, a sentiment no doubt shared by a lot of unemployed film workers.


Anonymous said...

On the SAG Awards red carpet tonight, actors questioned about it seemed optimistic that the Writers strike would be resolved within two to three weeks.As the Oscar deadline approaches,it's likely some of these a-listers are getting buzz from WGA insiders.

hoopcooper said...

It'd be nice to settle the strike. It'll take a fair deal. The writers I know aren't letting themselves get optimistic.

The good news was that when John Wells wrote his much linked-to letter on the cancer-curing, walk-on-water qualities of the DGA deal, people thanked him, then told him to sit down and shut up.

The AMPTP has leaked positive buzz before...only to walk away from the table. He hasn't really worked the last couple of times, let's hope they're not trying it again.

Maybe they've finally accepted that workers organization in Hollywood is not going away...

for the clearest take on the context of the strike, I recommend John Sayles interview on the Huffington post....

Steve Hulett said...

The good news was that when John Wells wrote his much linked-to letter on the cancer-curing, walk-on-water qualities of the DGA deal, people thanked him, then told him to sit down and shut up.

You're saying that the WGA membership rose up as one and told its former President to cease and desist?

Or was it a chosen few who didn't like what Mr. Wells had to say? (I'd like to find out the demographics on this, because knowing what I know of labor dynamics, I know there are always various factions with different philosophical agendas.)

hoopcooper said...


It'll come down to the deal, to see how the rank and file react, but I haven't seen much support for what he said. It was a ground-breaking deal, no doubt. But there were just to many creator-specific issues that weren't included. That's what they're hashing out now. If there's a deal where writers can share in some small way in the success of their shows, then you'll see everyne jump on board. But that'll mean opening the books...which the studios are loathe to do.

And at the same time, the much touted "alliance of A-list screenwriters" who came out in support for the deal seem to be a myth, based on Paul Haggis's assessment and every other analysis. Unless the group is completely silent and perfectly anonymous, no one has actually come forward in the way the "Union Blues" group did in '88. That said, the sense I get is writers will jump at anything that doesn't represent a rollback. And to me, the real value of John Wells's statement was that it's not in the studios long-term interests to burn their programming by running it forever on the kills their syndication value.

Also...and if I can go on a little longer...this is an important issue for us in animation as well. As someone who has been through the "Internet shorts" as backdoor pilots system. First, we have all learned what executives have trouble realizing...that what makes a rockin' five minute short rarely transfers seamlessly to longer-form television. But heaven help the artist who creates an internet cartoon that does make the transition. This is our main concern on this side of the fence. For next to nothing, the studios are going to pay for pilots. It's lousy to create a show for less than half our usual rate. "It's just an internet cartoon" is a mantra that the studios are chanting to save themselves from paying for actual pilots. A separate issue, somewhat, but one that hits quite a bit closer to home.

Site Meter