THURSDAY NIGHT UPDATE: Hollywood Writers Strike Called; Timing Announcement To Come Friday; Actors Agree To Walk WGA Picket Lines
I’ve obtained instructions issued tonight to WGA contract captains who turn into strike captains once the Writers Guild of America calls its walkout. That’s right: it’s not “if”, but “when”. Since there will be no bargaining talks on Thursday, a strike call could come Thursday night when the leadership meets with the general membership at 7 pm inside the incredibly inconvenient downtown location of the Los Angeles Convention Center. Picketing could start Friday or Monday. (See my previous: URGENT: Talks Come To An Abrupt Halt; Thursday Night’s WGA Meeting A Strike Call?) Here are memo excerpts:
Show captains need to compile a personal contact list for everyone who could participate in pickets (including actors, writers’ assistants, staff and crew, etc) or other strike actions.
Showrunners and all WGA members should assemble drafts of every unproduced script and other literary material for the so-called “Script Validation Program”. (Details here.)
Showrunners, hyphenates with projects in development, and other hyphenates may … Read More »
I’ve obtained an internal (not for public consumption) WGA account of today’s negotiations and the guild’s new “Comprehensive Package Proposal” put on the table:
“Today, just hours before the expiration of our contract, the AMPTP brought negotiations to a halt. The companies refused to continue to bargain unless we agree that the hated DVD formula be extended to Internet downloads. This morning we presented the AMPTP with a comprehensive package of proposals that included movement on DVDs, New Media, and jurisdictional issues. We also took nine proposals off the table. The companies returned six hours later and said they would not respond to our package until we capitulated to their Internet demand. After 3 1/2 months of bargaining, the AMPTP still has not responded to a single one of our important proposals. Every issue that matters to writers, including Internet reuse, original writing for New Media, DVDs, and jurisdiction have been ignored. This is completely unacceptable.”
The producers, in turn, claim they were ready to bargain — and had even ordered in dinner — but the WGA side said fuhgeddaboudit.
IATSE President Thomas C. Short today sent an open letter to all IA members and locals working in film and television who might be affected should a strike be called by the Writers Guild of America. What a different tack from the Teamsters‘. The current IATSE motion picture contracts have the same no-strike clause that has been in effect in previous contracts. The IATSE is an International Union that represents members employed in the stagecraft, motion picture and television production, and trade shows industries throughout the United States and Canada. President Short’s letter is quoted below in its entirety:
OPEN LETTER TO ALL IATSE MEMBERS AND LOCALS ENGAGED IN MOTION PICTURE AND TELEVISION PRODUCTION FROM THOMAS C. SHORT, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT
As you are aware, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is currently in negotiations for a successor contract to the current agreement that expires on October 31, 2007. While the IATSE remains hopeful that a new agreement can be reached between the WGA and the Employers, there is a potential for a work stoppage.
The IATSE has over 50,000 members in two countries engaged in motion picture and television production. Any work stoppage may have a profound and long-lasting impact on you and your families.
The IATSE contracts contain provisions that require us to continue to honor our contracts. These ‘no strike’ provisions require the IATSE to notify our members of their obligation to honor these contracts and continue
… Read More »
The AMPTP issued a statement tonight and the WGA’s is below that. The negotiations broke down today not because of the traditional DVD residual issue, but about residuals for the Internet such as electronic sell-through — i.e. Internet downloads. The AMPTP keeps saying electronic sell-through is synonymous with DVDs. The WGA says they’re different and wants to negotiate a new residual formula. AMPTP refuses. Everyone knows that New Media and the Internet are the overriding issues of this negotiation. And now no more bargaining is skedded because of them. (… Remember, DHD comments are turned on. Opine away!) :
“AMPTP POSITION STATED TO THE WGAW AND WGAE TODAY
BY AMPTP PRESIDENT NICK COUNTER
“We’ve been working hard to come up with a package in response to your last proposal. But we keep running up against the DVD issue. The companies believe that movement is possible on other issues, but they cannot make any movement when confronted with your continuing efforts to increase the DVD formula, including the formula for electronic sell-through.
The magnitude of that proposal alone is blocking us from making any further progress. We cannot move further as long as that issue remains on the table. In short, the DVD issue is a complete roadblock to any further progress.
This cannot come as a surprise. Before the negotiations began, Writers Guild of America West President Patric Verrone met with many CEOs. The consistent message from the CEOs was that, for overriding business reasons, the home video formula would not be changed. Nevertheless, you proposed to increase the DVD formula in these negotiations.</p>
<p>We want to make a deal. We think doing so is in your best
… Read More »
Beginning with this advisory, DHD will allow comments that relate to the pre-strike stories I’ve been posting here. Since the current Writers Guild of America agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers expires tonight at midnight, and this is so important to everyone connected with Hollywood even in a remote way, I want to provide a forum to express your opinions, rants, sorrows. You can comment on every pertinent post.
But I own this website, so I also reserve the right to enforce some rules: Keep it pithy. Stay on topic. Be intelligent. Agree or disagree but don’t make it personal. Don’t impersonate Jeff Berg or Steven Spielberg or Barry Meyer or make wild unsubstantiated claims. Remember that your comments will reach a big national and international audience of DHD readers so don’t just argue one-on-one. Fine to post anonymously, but try to ID yourself generally, like, “I’m a writer”, “I’m a producer,” ”I’m a wannabe” so people know your POV. Your comments won’t be edited but they also won’t post automatically. I have to approve them first. And I plan on being picky. There may be some unavoidable delays…
Finally, I wish to thank all my wonderful tipsters who keep updating DHD on the WGA-AMPTP news, and all those kind people who have praised DHD’s even-handed coverage during this pre-strike. (Roger Ebert is worried I’m working too hard!) So, now, be the first … Read More »
URGENT! I just received this email from a top WGA source: “There’s a campaign of fear and lies being waged by several top agencies today, telling TV writing clients that if they’re co-producer or above, they are a hyphenate and have to report to work during a strike. This is false. Evidently, instead of pleading with the companies to make a reasonable deal, some agents have resorted to attempting to scare their clients out of complying with the strike rules. It’s really fucked. Bear in mind, that most TV writers who have producer titles often perform very little actual producing, if any. The titles are mostly in place to indicate the writing staff hierachy. We’re not talking about showrunners here — mid-level writers are getting this call. One top agency has told co-producers and above that their jobs may not be waiting for them after a strike if they don’t report to work. Another big agency has told clients they can do punch-up on screenplays during the strike if that screenplay has been submitted to the Producers prior. Writers need to know to call the Guild if they have questions about what services they can perform and NOT rely on self-serving agents for that information.”
I’m digging into this and I’m going to name agencies. (Most of the big tenpercenteries right now are scrambling to get back to me.) … Read More »
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: most NYC media know squat about how Hollywood really works. A perfect example is this screaming headline from New York mag’s Vulture blog today: ”Universal Claims American Gangster Is Not an Adapted Screenplay?” (What about Imagine?) The magazine is pissed because the pic is based on Mark Jacobson’s NYM piece “The Return of Superfly” and as a result Steve Zallian’s script shouldn’t be eligible for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar. So I called up Universal for a response, and the studio politely told NYM to go hell:
“As in every instance, the writing credit determination on American Gangster was made by the WGA, who ruled that Steven Zaillian’s screenplay qualifies as an original work. Universal is following their direction.
Mark Jacobson’s article ‘The Return of Superfly’ was used as research material, but the film depicts a much more expansive portrait not only of Frank Lucas but of the period and includes many other sequences and characters that don’t appear in Jacobson’s piece. Most notably, the character of Richie Roberts, who represents an equally weighted half of the film, does not ever appear in the article.
Jacobson’s article is, in essence, an extended interview with Frank Lucas and was used as one contributing source of research along with many others. After reviewing the screenplay and the source material, the WGA awarded the ‘original screenplay’ designation.
Any questions as to how the ruling came to be are more rightly directed to the WGA, not
… Read More »
Everyone’s waiting on pins and needles for details of the WGA’s big new “Comprehensive Package Proposal” put on the negotiating table this morning. Not much else to report right now. I’m told that yesterday’s so-called bargaining “modifications” revolved around pension and health. There has been no movement on the real strike issues. More letters from studios are being received by screenwriters, some as threatening as Disney’s, some less scary like New Line’s and Fox Searchlight’s, some short and not-so-sweet like Universal’s. Stay tuned.
When two Big Media moguls meet, a chain restaurant is not the usual venue. But I’m told that last Friday Rupert Murdoch had lunch with Ted Turner at the Atlantan’s bison-serving eco-friendly Ted’s Montana Grill in NYC’s Time-Life Building (one of 51 locations). Sources said to me that the lunch was requested by Turner (est worth $2.3 bil) in an effort to “bury the hatchet” with Murdoch (est worth $8.8 bil). It came just days after a GQ interview was published with the CNN founder blaming the Fox News Channel founder for helping get America into the Iraq mess and labeling it “Rupert’s war” — and FNC in response using air time to belittle and demean Turner as “off his rocker.” Now, Murdoch can use the Wall Street Journal and new Fox Business Channel to belittle and demean Turner as well. “Ted reached out in the hope to make nice to Rupert now that he’s the biggest media mogul in the world,” a Murdoch insider told me. Did it work? ”Rupert doesn’t change anything. He still goes after anyone he wants.” As someone who once briefly worked for Murdoch’s New York Post Business section, I can attest that orders would come down from on high to dig up dirt on Turner for less-than-flattering articles about him. Of course, Turner made it easy since he was always opening his yap and saying something controversial if not downright stupid…. Read More »
I’m hearing writers may work without a contract for at least a few days while negotiations continue. This is not because showbiz writers are typically pushing back a deadline, as Variety‘s lede unfairly asserts, but because “the WGA wants to give the studios every opportunity to present a reasonable offer before instituting a devastating work stoppage. As if the studios haven’t had that chance since July,” a top WGA source tells me tonight. Insiders all along expected a WGA delay before calling a strike, as I first reported back on October 18th, but this window would be much shorter than expected. There will still be Thursday’s night’s general meeting for WGA membership at the LA Convention Center Thursday night at 7 pm.
Meanwhile, I’m told by the producer’s side that the federal mediator’s presence seemed to move things along at today’s negotiating session. All parties worked on “modifications” for part of the day. Then the WGA worked for a long while on a ”comprehensive package” which they had hoped to present “at 6 pm,” a producers source told me. ”But at 7 pm when it wasn’t ready, the mediator suggested they finish up and present it tomorrow at 10 am.”
The WGA told a different story in this statement issued tonight: “Today’s negotiations began at 10 am. No significant progress was made. At 4:30 pm, we informed the AMPTP that we would prepare a comprehensive package proposal for their review today. … Read More »
Several U.S. Supreme Court justices expressed doubt today that a law barring child pornography could be applied to popular award-winning movies. News reports say the justices appeared to support the pandering provision of a 2003 federal law that makes it a crime to promote, distribute or solicit material in a way intended to cause others to believe it contains child pornography. They were hearing arguments in a case brought by the Bush administration to uphold the law, after a U.S. appeals court struck down that provision on the grounds the government cannot suppress lawful free speech. Among the movies mentioned which could be affected by the new law are American Beauty, Lolita, Titanic and Traffic.
News sources say Nielsen finally released its estimates of high-definition-set penetration for both the total United States and Local People Meter markets, and the overall numbers will disappoint advertisers.
Individual writers this week are starting to receive scary threatening letters from the studios and networks warning about the WGA’s “script validation program” just as the Writer’s Guild Of America responds to the AMPTP on the matter. (As I’ve reported previously, the controversy boils down to this: the guild wants members to submit copies of any half-finished scripts etc to headquarters. The producers don’t.) The letters were sent to the writers via their agencies. Here’s what one dated yesterday from Buena Vista Motion Picture Group warns about the WGA’s strike rules:
“There is one rule, Rule #8, which we must address directly with you, just as we have already addressed this directly with the WGA. Strike Rule 8 — the so-called “Script Validation Program” purportedly instructs writers to supply the WGA with copies of literary material already written and delivered to the Company and all writing in progress for the Company, as well as any spec or sample scripts submitted. As we have already informed the WGA, this written material, in any and all of its forms, is the sole property of the Company, who owns all such material in its entirety. As such, writers are prohibited from giving, sharing, or otherwise depositing such material with the WGA.
Compliance by you with Strike Rule 8 would put you in breach of your contract with the Company and subject you, the writer, and the WGA to a number of possible legal actions, including breach of
… Read More »
Nielsen Business Media today announced former TelevisionWeek and TVWeek.com Managing Editor Melissa Grego has been named Editor of HollywoodReporter.com. She’ll oversee all of the paper’s online content and initiatives and report to Scott McKenzie, who was recently appointed vp, Editorial Director for Nielsen Business Media’s digital media group. At TVWeek, Grego penned the blog Mel’s Diner and hosted weekly podcasts.
Tonight, the AMPTP president Nick Counter sent this letter to the major basic craft unions “in the face of some misinformation and rumors regarding [their] contractual No Strike obligations”. Funny enough, it posted on the producers’ website soon after I posted this news about Leo Reed’s Teamsters Local 399 (see my previous: ‘Most’ Hollywood Teamsters To Honor WGA Picket Lines, Says Union Insider).
Counter warned Studio Transportation Drivers Local 399, Plumbers Local 78, Ornamental Plasterers Modelers and Scupltors Local 755, IBEW Local 40, and Studio Utility Employees Local 724 that under the No Strike Clauses of the Basic Crafts Union’ agreements “we expect each Union to comply with this No Strike obligation and order your members to work.”
Counter’s toothless letter notwithstanding, a producers’ source admitted to me tonight there’s “nothing illegal about Leo Reed invoking the ‘conscience clause’. But the problem is he hates this industry.” How much this could disrupt Hollywood production will depend on how many picket lines the WGA can set up and for how long. Based on what I’ve heard tonight, I’d say the Teamsters’ support of a WGA strike could very well prove to be a turning point in these negotiations.
UPDATE: AMPTP Suddenly Feeling Teamsters’ Heat
URGENT: The “Hollywood Teamsters” — aka the Motion Picture and Theatrical Trade Teamsters (Teamsters Local 399) which reps over 4,800 studio drivers, casting directors and location managers — today urged members to honor the WGA’s picket lines. I’m told this follows a meeting they held on Sunday morning where Secretary-Treasurer Leo T, Reed, who has held the key leadership slot at the local since 1988, reminded them that Teamsters don’t cross picket lines. This will have an immediate impact on many film and television shoots once a strike starts “by creating more problems and headaches for production,” a Teamsters official told me this afternoon. But the insider wanted to make clear that honoring the picket lines is a choice to be made by individual teamsters members, and not a directive from Teamsters Local 399. “The union makes that distinction because the studios could sue our asses,” the source said to me. ”This is going to be a difficult decision for individual teamsters to make. But, even though it puts them in peril, I think most teamsters strongly believe they dont cross picket lines.” Here’s the announcement:
Re: Writers Strike Information – Monday, October 29, 2007
399’s position regarding a possible strike by the Writers Guild of America is that during the term of the Black Book Agreement, pursuant
… Read More »