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Writers Rail As Talks Resume – Fourth Question In A Deadline Survey

By | Friday March 28, 2014 @ 5:55pm PDT
Mike Fleming

coronaAs talks are about to resume Monday on the final elements that many hope will lead to a new deal for the Writers Guild Of America, we wanted to lend some perspective and give voice to the TV and feature writers whose fortunes will be tied directly to the deal their union makes. This is the fourth in a quick succession of five questions we asked a panel of 10 writers. Here are their responses, and hopefully other writers will be moved to comment about the issues that worry them most as their work is monetized in this fast-changing digital age.

Related: WGA: Why Gains, Lessons From 2008′s Strike Will Keep Hollywood From Another War

DEADLINE: Patric Verrone is running for California State Senate and in establishing his cred to writers said, “We won the writers strike.” Would you vote for him?

WRITER #1: Honestly, I wouldn’t vote for Patric Verrone as the President of the Tupperware Club of Paramus, New Jersey. I also find it hilarious that he used the entire (supposedly confidential) WGA mailing list to seek contributions from writers he was largely responsible for harming. Why does he get to use the WGA mailing list for his political campaign? He should be investigated for that. I felt then and I feel now that Verrone was totally out for himself. I supported the WGA and the strike but I never supported Verrone. I think Billy Ray — the guy in there negotiating now — is a smart man who cares for writers. He’s also a damn good writer.

Related:
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #1
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #2
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #3
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #5

rodserlingWRITER #2: The strike was “lost” before we hit the picket lines. Verrone and [Executive Director David] Young seem to have wanted the strike whether or not it was winnable or smart, to flex guild muscles, and to establish a sense of leadership that, in the end, revealed itself to be divorced from the daily realities of our industry. Meanwhile, the studios, wanting to cut overhead, saw the strike as a way to accelerate the ways the business was already contracting. For them the strike couldn’t come fast enough. No working writer I know thought the strike was any kind of success. We limped to its conclusion, beaten, humiliated and humbled, a lot poorer. Verrone, who pulled salary while we went eight months or more without income, was only too happy to wave the banner while leading us into machine gun fire. In the end, Verrone seemed about Verrone. Can’t see a circumstance in which I’d support his candidacy for state senate.

WRITER #3: I think Patric put in a good effort to try to get something from the strike and had some smaller victories. But as I said in Question 3, he was hamstrung by the fact that the high-end writers didn’t want to strike. Also I think Patric was very ambitious to try to unionize feature animation. But when the AAA-list screenwriters say “sure we’ll strike” and immediately book millions in high-end feature animation jobs, that goal proves impossible. Sure it’s mildly disingenuous for him to make the claim that he won the strike, but in the world of politics, I believe that statement is probably more honest than what his opponents will claim. I’d consider voting for him, however I haven’t seen what the rest of his platform is besides labor. Read More »

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Writers Rail As Talks Resume – Third Question In A Deadline Survey

By | Friday March 28, 2014 @ 5:21pm PDT
Mike Fleming

coronaAs talks are about to resume Monday on the final elements that many hope will lead to a new deal for the Writers Guild Of America, we wanted to lend some perspective and give voice to the TV and feature writers whose fortunes will be tied directly to the deal their union makes. This is the third in a quick succession of five questions we asked a panel of 10 writers. Here are their responses, and hopefully other writers will be moved to comment about the issues that worry them most as their work is monetized in this fast-changing digital age.

Related: WGA: Why Gains, Lessons From 2008′s Strike Will Keep Hollywood From Another War

DEADLINE: How are you feeling about the deal that the WGA is considering, and what concerns do you have that aren’t addressed in it?

WRITER #1: I trust that small gains will be made and a strike will be averted and at this stage of the business that’s all that can really be expected. That is actually a success in 2014.

Related:
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #1
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #2
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #4
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #5

qtwritingWRITER #2: Writers on short-­order shows now find themselves working for half a year or less, stuck on unpaid hiatus for open-­ended periods while waiting to see if their show -­- and their contract -­‐ will be renewed. During this period they are virtually unemployable because studios demand “exclusivity” and “first position,” preventing writers from seeking other work, their ability to make a living cut off.

WRITER #3: I personally don’t have a lot of hope for any kind of decent deal these days. The companies have consolidated so much power and the Writers Guild is a two-tiered union. During the last strike, the super-A-list-high writers (who also function as TV producers on many things) decided that they had enough of the strike and called it (In a secret meeting at Aaron Sorkin’s house!). If we had held out until the actors’ contracts were up and then they joined us, it’s possible we’d be looking at much better splits for streaming, DVD and digital downloads. But if the top of the union doesn’t have the interests of the mid and lower levels in mind then we can’t get anything. So we might get thrown a few scraps, but I don’t think we have the leverage to demand anything significant. Read More »

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Writers Rail As Talks Resume – Second Question In A Deadline Survey

By | Friday March 28, 2014 @ 4:36pm PDT
Mike Fleming

coronaAs talks are about to resume Monday on the final elements that many hope will lead to a new deal for the Writers Guild Of America, we wanted to lend some perspective and give voice to the TV and feature writers whose fortunes will be tied directly to the deal their union makes. This is the second in a quick succession of five questions we asked a panel of 10 writers. Here are their responses, and hopefully other writers will be moved to comment about the issues that worry them most as their work is monetized in this fast-changing digital age.

Related: WGA: Why Gains, Lessons From 2008′s Strike Will Keep Hollywood From Another War

DEADLINE: As a working writer, what is the biggest hardship right now facing you (i.e., one-step deals for feature writers, exclusivity clauses for TV writers), the one that gives you the greatest amount of worry for you and your WGA brethren?

WRITER #1: I think the biggest setback from the strike was one-step deals. One-step deals were a direct result of the strike — a punishment that said “you think you’re in control, we’ll show you how control works.” It’s also a real mistake for studios that has resulted in crash rewrites deep in production and some god-awful movies. The great irony is that the scripts studios routinely praise like Gravity or Inception or Chinatown or Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid all took YEARS and MANY revisions to become the classic films they are today. Some of the biggest blockbusters of all time including Star Wars and Avatar (to name just two) had five- and even 10-year writing periods. The process allowed those films to go through a critical process of treatments and rough drafts to evolve to the great films they are today. The heavy lifting work was done at the writing stage.

Related:
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #1
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #3
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #4
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #5

bfinkBut studios think bottom line numbers — they see one-step deals as providing them with the ability to cut bait when first-draft scripts don’t come in as home runs – but first drafts aren’t going to come in great except in a few rare cases. The scripts that become great films come in good or maybe even very good but not great. Almost all scripts need several drafts to reach the level where they become actually ready to film. The evil secret of one-step deals is that you sell your idea to a studio, you write it, and if a competing project at another studio comes along or a director or star falls out, the studios have a free out. As a result, good movies are dying before they are even really born. The other problem is now studios hire inexpensive writers, get a first draft, confirm that “there is a movie there” and then pay seven figures to someone like me to come in and actually write it and then often someone else during production. The result is that the voice of the original writer — the creator — is severely diluted.

The vast majority of studio screenplay contracts set strict delivery at 90 days. It doesn’t take a NASA scientist to realize that you can’t have that kind of deadline for every script — world creations like Star Wars takes longer than a 90-day romantic comedy? A complex piece like Inception cannot be done in 90 days — no matter who you are — that’s why in the published version of Inception, Chris Nolan talks about the 10 years he spent writing it. The writing process is a complete mystery to studios and executives — they all think they can do it but none of them ever do. This lack of understanding has haunted the film business and the writer-executive relationship since the first days of the film business. I read an interview with a very old screenwriter and he was talking about how things were in the 1940s and what he was saying then is exactly what writers are saying today. Nothing has really changed.

Personally, I simply refuse to make one-step deals. I won’t do it. You teach people how to treat you in life AND particularly in the film business and when you roll back your quotes or steps those slimy, filthy scumbags that work in studio business affairs make a little note of your compromise in their screwing talent ledger.  That note is there when they go to make the next deal with you and they share it with their fellow slimy, filthy, scumbag colleagues at other studios. I simply don’t do it and my representatives say right up front, we will not accept a one-step deal. Read More »

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Writers Rail As Talks Resume – First Question In A Deadline Survey

By | Friday March 28, 2014 @ 3:39pm PDT
Mike Fleming

coronaAs talks are about to resume Monday on the final elements that many hope will lead to a new deal for the Writers Guild Of America, we wanted to lend some perspective and give voice to the TV and feature writers whose fortunes will be tied directly to the deal their union makes. This is the first in a quick succession of five questions we asked a panel of 10 writers. Here are their responses, and hopefully other writers will be moved to comment about the issues that worry them most as their work is monetized in this fast-changing digital age. (Note: Writer #2 didn’t reply to this question.)

Related: WGA: Why Gains, Lessons From 2008′s Strike Will Keep Hollywood From Another War

DEADLINE: How has your ability to make a living improved or deteriorated since the WGA strike and why?

WRITER #1: Directly, I lost at least one job so, for me, that is a loss of over $1 million. I was fortunate to survive the strike without the terrible ramifications that hit many of my friends and colleagues. It deeply impacted a number of my friends. I know writers, talented writers, that had to mortgage their houses or lost their houses because they were not set up for a situation where there was no money coming in month after month. I loaned money to friends during the strike who were really hurting. It was a very hard time for working writers and the ramifications of the strike hurt writers to this day.

Related:
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #2
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #3
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #4
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #5

WRITER #3: I am one of the fortunate few writers to sell a spec script after the strike and use that momentum to get some decent feature and television work.  However, the amount of feature work I got off an incredibly hot script is not nearly what I would’ve expected pre-strike. It allowed me to get on a lot of lists where I could pitch for high-profile assignments. But these were always against multiple writers. I don’t think my career has deteriorated but I also think I’m the exception. In general, the feature market has been horrible post-strike. However, I don’t think this is all a function of the work stoppage. I think a lot of it has to do with new trends in the feature world (no DVD sales for tentpole movies, less studio films, studio obsession with IP over originals, etc.).

bfinkWRITER #4: My ability to make a living has improved since the strike, but I’m in a very fortunate category of the Guild: I’m a TV drama writer. There’s a lot of demand for TV dramas right now, and the strike doesn’t seem to have had any negative impact on that.  If anything, things have gotten better since the strike — there are more outlets, more creative options, more shows, more jobs, and more respect for TV drama writers than there has ever been in the years I’ve been working as a writer/producer in TV.  There might be fewer chances to make a killing, but there are more chances to make a living. Read More »

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WGA: Why Gains, Lessons From 2008′s Strike Will Keep Hollywood From Another War

Editors Note: As talks resume Monday that many hope will lead to a new deal for the Writers Guild Of America, we wanted to lend some perspective and voice to the TV and feature writers whose fortunes will be tied directly to the deal their union makes. The following is a story by preeminent Hollywood labor reporter David Robb that attempts to answer what has been an elusive question: What, exactly did the writers gain from the last strike? After that, we will run five pointed questions from a panel of established and new writers of TV, features and both. They answer anonymously, sometimes provocatively, about the issues that worry them most as their work is monetized in this fast changing digital age. Hopefully other writers can weigh in in the comment thread. — MF 

Related:
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #1
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #2
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #3
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #4
Deadline Writers Survey – Question #5

writersstrikeAs negotiators prepare to return to the bargaining table Monday to resume talks for a new WGA contract, many in the industry who saw the crippling writers strike of 2007-08 as an avoidable debacle worry about the prospect of a repeat of that disastrous walkout. Based on the variables, that concern seems misplaced. While many who suffered the last time still remember the pain and wonder if the writers gained much of anything for all that strife, consider this: The gains in new media won by striking writers six years ago is a major reason it’s all but certain that writers won’t be standing under picket signs this spring.

Related: WGA & AMPTP “Very Close” To New Labor Deal

Nearly all the major issues for a new WGA contract already have been worked out in prior rounds of bargaining, leaving only options and exclusivity to be resolved. These are vitally important issues for writers, and in a philosophical sense some compare them to free agency in baseball that came from the players union and its membership fighting in the courts and on the picket line. Unhappy writers aren’t the most predictable bunch, but producers aren’t seeking any takeaways on these issues. Without any onerous rollbacks to crusade against, the chance of a strike over options and exclusivity is widely viewed as negligible. Expect a deal as soon as next week, with modest gains for writers in these areas.

Related: Why Options & Exclusivity Issue Is So Important To WGA

amptp-wgaAs to the long discussion of whether the writers gained anything else during that strike, I spent years covering showbiz labor unions and have observed you have to look far down the road for the answer. Past writers strikes are like forest fires: They can be very destructive and suffocating, but they’re a necessary mechanism to clear out the old brush — or an antiquated contract that hasn’t kept pace with the rapidly changing way people receive entertainment content. Nearly all past entertainment industry strikes have that one thing in common: They are the result of new technologies and the uncertainty created about the revenue streams they will deliver. Read More »

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WGA West Announces Winners Of TV Writers Diversity Program

By | Monday March 17, 2014 @ 11:49am PDT

WGAWAs it did for feature film scribes in December, the WGAW today announced the 15 winners of its 2014 Writer Access Project honoring diversity in TV writing. The program first launched in 2009 aiming to help diversify TV writers rooms by highlighting writers with TV staffing experience and bring their scripts to the attention of industry figures. Eligible writers had to submit themselves in one of five categories: minority writers, writers with disabilities, women writers, 55-and-over writers, and gay and lesbian writers. “The intention of the Writer Access Project is very simple. It draws the best, experienced writers who, for whatever reason, have not been able to get their material in front of showrunners and lets their work speak for itself. The focus is put on the one thing that truly matters when hiring a writer: the words he or she puts on the page,” said 2014 WAP Drama judge Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead). In addition to Mazzara this year’s 93 WGA member judges include David Shore (House), Adele Lim (Star Crossed), Graham Yost (Justified), Dawn Prestwich (The Killing), Andre and Maria Jacquemetton (Mad Men), Janine Sherman Barrois (Criminal Minds), Mike Royce (Enlisted), Michael Oates Palmer (Crossbones), and William Martin (Ground Floor). Scroll down for 2014′s honorees:

Related: WGA West Announces Winners Of Diversity Program’s Feature Access Project

Read More »

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Deadline’s Best TV Stories Of The Week

By | Sunday March 16, 2014 @ 5:41pm PDT

Miss Deadline’s top TV stories of the week? Catch up here:

piers1CNN To Test Michael Smerconish, Jake Tapper, Bill Weir & Don Lemon In Piers Morgan’s Time Slot; Morgan’s Last Day March 28
By Lisa DeMoraesEXCLUSIVE: Piers Morgan’s last day hosting Piers Morgan Live will be March 28, after which CNN Worldwide chief Jeff Zucker is going to try out Michael Smerconish as well as Jake Tapper, Bill Weir, and Don Lemon in the time slot for a few weeks, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Deadline.

R.I.P. Comedian David Brenner, Johnny Carson’s Favorite on ‘Tonight Show’
By The Deadline Team – Comedian David Brenner died today at his home in New York, NY. He was 78.

Nick D’Agosto & Andrew Santino To Star In CBS’ ‘HIMYM’ Spinoff ‘How I Met Your Dad’
By Nellie AndreevaMasters of Sex‘s Nick D’Agosto and Mixology‘s Andrew Santino have been cast as leads alongside Greta Gerwig, Drew Tarver and Krysta Rodriguez in CBS’ comedy pilot How I Met Your Dad, rounding out the How I Met Your Mother spinoff’s primary cast. Read More »

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Ex-WGA West Leader Patric Verrone Eyeing California State Senate Seat With ‘I Won The Strike’ Boast

By | Saturday March 15, 2014 @ 5:49pm PDT

Former WGA West President Patric VerroneFormer WGA-President Patric M. Verrone, 54, disclosed today in a letter to his fellow writers that he is running for the California State Senate. He is one of six Democratic candidates who are looking to succeed Democrat State Senator Ted Lieu, who is running for the seat vacated by Representative Henry Waxman. Verrone is a 27-year Pacific Palisades resident in the northern 26th District which runs on the coastline starting in Palo Verdes and includes Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and part of Hollywood. His campaign is centered around a theme of preserving the middle class dream here in the state, maintaining and creating quality jobs, better schools and affordable colleges. Verrone won back-to-back terms as WGA West president in 2005 and 2007 and was blocked by guild rules from seeking a third term in 2009.  He lost a 2011 bid for presidency to Christopher Keyser. Verrone mentioned that today was one of the most important days of his life, including “the day we won the writer’s strike” in his note per Variety. “As president of the Writers Guild of America, West, I did what I believe every elected leader should do. I fought for what matters, led a struggle to save thousands of good jobs, and won.”  Many of those in the industry feel that the 2007-08 WGA strike set the film and TV production business back significantly, accomplishing very little for the writers at large.
Related: WGA Negotiations Impasse Read More »

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WGA Negotiations Impasse: Why Options & Exclusivity Issue Is So Important To Writers

By | Friday March 14, 2014 @ 2:21pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Issues faced by TV writers again are the sticking point in the WGA negotiations amptp-wgawith the studios. In 2007, when the impasse led to a writers strike, it was residuals from series distributed online. This time around, it is the restrictive contracts for writers working in cable and on digital platforms. Under pattern bargaining, the deal between the WGA and AMPTP was expected to be similar to the recent DGA agreement with the studios with two writer-specific issues brought to the table by WGA — parity between cable and broadcast pay and the notion of exclusively and options. One of the two seem to have been resolved. “Every aspect of our contract has been negotiated and agreed upon with two exceptions — options and exclusivity — which remain points of contention between us,” negotiating committee co-chairs Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray wrote to their constituency last night. What are options and exclusivity, why are they so important to writers and what do writers seek to accomplish on them ?

While the number of scripted cable series at the time of the 2007 negotiations was a fraction of the number of such shows on broadcast, there is now parity between the two, with cable and digital scripted programming gaining an edge with rapid expansion. For instance, during calendar year 2013, broadcast networks introduced 23 new series, while cable/digital debuted almost 40, not counting kids fare. That means that soon there may be more writers working in cable and digital than in broadcast, all of them facing the underemployment problem that is at the heart of the current WGA-AMPTP stand-off.

Related:  New Development Model From Writers’ Perspective: More Opportunities, Less Pay?

What has been hailed as major part of the lure of cable as a superior creative environment — shorter orders — has become a major practical problem for writers. As Johannessen and Ray pointed out in their letter, broadcast dramas employ writers for 10 months a year to produce 22 episodes, followed by a two-month unpaid hiatus before writers start work on the following season. In cable/digital, 10-13 episodes a season is the norm, though shorter orders — as few as eight or even six (HBO’s Getting On) — also are accepted.

writers_room_middle“Writers on short-order shows now find themselves working for half a year or less, then stuck on unpaid hiatus for open-ended periods while waiting to see if their show — and their contract — will be renewed,” Johannessen and Ray wrote. According to a standard cable contract, because of the long lag time between seasons, shows have an option on a writer for up to six months after the previous season finale airs or up to 9 months after the season premiere. During that time, they are not getting paid. What’s more, “during this period they are virtually unemployable because studios demand ‘exclusivity’ and ‘first position,’ preventing writers from seeking other work, their ability to make a living cut off,” the letter said. That often involves not only inability to staff on another show, but also write a pilot or work as a producer on one, and, in some cases, even write a feature. The exclusivity is strictly enforced by many studios, and any side gig usually requires an exhaustive process of seeking the studio’s permission, which may or may not be granted. Read More »

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No WGA Deal Yet, Talks Set To Resume On March 31

By | Thursday March 13, 2014 @ 6:12pm PDT

wga-logo__140128204911__140131020047__140205212542__140306212740After less than a week back at the negotiating table, the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers have almost reached an agreement on a new 3-year contract. “Almost” being the operative word. “Last week we concluded our second round of contract talks with the AMPTP,” said Negotiating Committee Co-Chairs Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray and WGA West President Chris Keyser in a message (see below) to members today. “Every aspect of our contract has been negotiated and agreed upon with two exceptions — options and exclusivity — which remain points of contention between us.” Letting everyone in the room take a deep breath, the WGA and AMPTP now are going to take the second break of their contract talks. The two sides will come back together on March 31 and April 1 for one final session to try to reach a conclusive deal.

Related:
WGA & AMPTP “Very Close” To New Labor Deal
WGA Contract Talks Brittle In Opening Days Over “Ridiculous” AMPTP Proposals 

Read More »

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WGA & AMPTP “Very Close” To New Labor Deal

By | Thursday March 6, 2014 @ 2:00pm PST

wga-logo__140128204911__140131020047__140205212542EXCLUSIVE: Four days after returning to the negotiating table, the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers are near an agreement on a new three-year contract, I’ve learned. “We’re not there yet and there are still a few more I’s to dot and T’s to cross, but we’re very close,” one insider told me today. With many of the bulky points already coming together in the first two weeks of talks, the two sides spent some of their two-week temporary recess fine-tuning the agreement, sources on both sides say, before sitting down again at AMPTP’s Sherman Oaks HQ. An official announcement could come as early as the beginning of next week. If you take out the downtime, this year’s talks pretty much follow the timeline of the placid 2011 negotiations, which started on March 3 that year and were all done by March 20.

RelatedWGA Contract Talks Brittle In Opening Days Over “Ridiculous” AMPTP Proposals 

Read More »

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WGA Contract Talks Off Until March 4

By | Saturday February 15, 2014 @ 7:22pm PST

wga-logo__140128204911__140131020047The WGA‘s talks with the AMPTP over a new basic agreement began February 3 and there’s been little word from either side — except some hints of unease over the multimillion-dollar rollback proposal producers sent the guild before negotiations began. Now the two sides are taking a “temporary recess for scheduling reasons” and will resume negotiations March 4, two days after the Oscars. The joint release this evening:

Today the Writers Guilds of America, West and East concluded two weeks of bargaining with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) toward a new Minimum Basic Agreement. The parties have agreed to a temporary recess for scheduling reasons. Negotiations will resume on March 4th. Neither the Guilds nor the AMPTP will be commenting further at this time.

Related: Writers Hopeful As They Head Into Contract Negotiations

Comments 24

UPDATED: WGA West & WGA East Slam Merger Of Comcast And Time Warner Cable

By | Thursday February 13, 2014 @ 2:00pm PST

wgaw__130208220853-200x112__130701180057__130917230333__130920203125__140131011111UPDATE, 2PM: Following their West Coast brethren, the Writers Guild Of America East today also came out against the proposed Comcast purchase of Time Warner Cable. Claiming that “Comcast/NBCUniversal want to further reduce competition at the expense of consumers and the people who create content,” the WGA East bluntly added “it would simply be wrong to give a giant corporation like Comcast/NBCUniversal even more clout in the marketplace, and in the workplace.” Read the full statement from the WGA East below our previous post.

RelatedPTC Blasts Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger As “Anti-Consumer & Anti-Family”

PREVIOUS, 1:24PM: The Writers Guild of America West didn’t leave much room for ambiguity on their feelings about Comcast’s newly announced $45.2B all-stock deal to purchase Time Warner Cable. “Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable is bad for everyone: content creators, programmers, suppliers, and consumers,” said the Guild today in a statement. “As writers know all too well, media consolidation leads to already too powerful companies limiting competition. The WGAW will fight to stop this ill-conceived merger.” The proposed megamerger has to go through a regulatory approval process from the FCC and the DOJ before it’s a done deal. Today’s vehement remarks by the WGAW comes as both the West and East coast divisions of the WGA are close to wrapping up their second week of negotiations for new 3-year contract with the studios and the networks. Those talks got off to a tense start on February … Read More »

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WGA Contract Talks Brittle In Opening Days Over “Ridiculous” AMPTP Proposals

By | Wednesday February 5, 2014 @ 2:00pm PST

wga-logo__140128204911__140131020047There’ll be fireworks but no fire, and there will be a deal in the end. That’s the word I’m hearing from both sides out of the WGA’s contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers after two days of talks. No one is commenting publicly, but I’ve learned that besides presentations from both sides during the opening days, there’s palpable unease in the room at AMPTP HQ thanks to the multimillion-dollar rollback proposal producers sent the WGA more than a week before negotiations began. “There’s a feeling of, Why did you have to insult us?’” a WGA insider told me over the producers’ request for $60 million in rollbacks from the health and pension plans, residuals and targeted screenplay minimums. “Once again it makes us the least favored child of the guilds.” Some on the other side of the table don’t disagree with that assessment. “Those were ridiculous proposals meant to appease the people at the top, not anyone in the room,” a well-placed producer told me. “That’s why they were sent out more than a week and a half before talks started, to get the shot across the bow out of the way.”

Related: Writers Hopeful As They Head Into Contract Negotiations With Producers Read More »

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Super Bowl? WHAT Super Bowl? More Awards, Controversy, & The Santa Barbara Film Festival Keeps Oscar Season Sizzling

Pete Hammond

If you think Hollywood’s awards season will come to a complete stop just because of a little thing called Super Bowl29th Santa Barbara International Film Festival -  Outstanding Performer of the Year Award to Cate Blanchett Weekend, think again! As already covered extensively on Deadline yesterday, the pre-Oscar madness was running full tilt Saturday with the WGA, ASC and Annie awards, the Santa Barbara Film Festival and lots of lingering controversies about nominees and “rescinded” nominees. Whew! You’d think they’d give it a rest to let football take over but NOTHING gets in the way of Hollywood’s own Super Bowl!

Related:
28th Annual ASC Awards: ‘Gravity’s Emmanuel Lubezki Wins Feature Film Honor
WGA Awards: ‘Captain Phillips’ & ‘Her’ Win Top Film Awards
Annie Awards: ‘Frozen’ Wins Big Including Best Feature

I am up at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival this weekend where I moderated the two-hour sold-out Performance Of The Year tribute to Oscar frontrunner Cate Blanchett at the 2000-seat dream palace known as the Arlington Theatre. At the end of it, Cate received a standing ovation when future co-star Rooney Mara (they start shooting Todd Haynes’ Carol in March) presented her with the latest trinket in a season in which she has so far run the table  in terms of awards. She was a willing and warm subject onstage as we showed clips and I dissected her career, informing her at one point that, with The Aviator in which she played Katharine Hepburn, she became the only person to win an Oscar playing an Oscar winner. Always glad to pass on useless trivia to movie stars.

Over the years I have hosted several of these tributes, which are obviously well-timed as part of the Academy season. Festival executive director Roger Durling picks the honorees months in advance but always seems to have a good hunch who is going to be in the Oscar game. Among those 29th Santa Barbara International Film Festival -  Outstanding Performer of the Year Award to Cate BlanchettSBIFF plays to are numerous Academy members who live in the area, so it’s always smart exposure on the part of awards consultants — just as is the early-January Palm Springs fest in the pre-nomination period. Durling himself moderated a rollicking free-form session with American Hustle writer-director and Oscar nominee David O. Russell at the same venue Friday night. And earlier Saturday at the Lobero, there was a producers panel mostly populated with Oscar nominees followed by the annual Women’s Panel (moderated in style as usual by Madelyn Hammond — yes, we’re related) which also sported several current contenders. Among those coming up in the next week are Bruce Dern, Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio and several others. Some landed nominations, some didn’t, but they are all showing up regardless. It’s that time of year. Read More »

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WGA Awards: Writers Hopeful As They Head Into Contract Negotiations With Producers

By | Saturday February 1, 2014 @ 11:24pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

writersstrikeThe 2008 Writers Guild Awards fell on the waning days of the writers strike, with WGA West even cancelling their ceremony while the East Coast writers union held theirs as final touches were being put on the hard-fought new WGA-AMPTP agreement. Six years later, we’re in the final months of that agreement, and the 2014 WGA Awards tonight were held on the eve of the two sides kicking off negotiations on a new 3-year contract on Monday. “It’s hard to believe it’s been 6 years,” Christopher J Whitesell of best daytime drama winner Days Of Our Lives told Deadline. “Let’s hope it goes better this time than it did then.”

Related: WGA Sets February 3 As Start Of Talks With Producers

There has already WGAAwards2014been some contention, with WGA negotiating committee co-chairs Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray on Thursday expressing concern over a “surprise”opening proposal by producers that includes “$60 million in rollbacks for writers.” At the New York ceremony, WGAE president Michael Winship rallied the troops with a battle cry, “Divided we beg, united we bargain.” Most writers attending the events sounded optimistic about the the negotiations when asked by Deadline. Veteran Garry Marshall, recipient of the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing, joked, “We always are going on strike, it’s happened 5 or 6 times.” But he noted that the swift new DGA deal “gave a good inroad” for successful negotiations and “I hope the Writers Guild will follow.” Writers spent 100 days on the picket lines six years ago but, “I don’t think there will be a strike this time,” Marshall said. “We’ll only go on strike if it rains.” Read More »

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WGA Claims AMPTP Wants Big Pension & Health Contribution Cuts In New Contract

By | Thursday January 30, 2014 @ 6:21pm PST

wga-logo__140128204911Things are going downhill already just days before the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers are set to start negotiating a new 3-year contract. In an almost bizarre move, the producers allegedly told the WGA last week that they want “60 million dollars in rollbacks for writers, 32 million of that coming from our health plan,” according to an email sent out to WGA members today. “But it doesn’t stop there. Other proposals targeted screenplay minimums (11 million dollar rollback), TV residuals, and our Pension Plan,” adds the correspondence from WGA negotiating committee co-chairs Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray. “These proposed rollbacks for writers come at a time of unprecedented prosperity for the studios,” say Johannessen and Ray. “The collective profits of our 6 major bargaining partners (Disney, CBS, Comcast, Fox, Time Warner and Viacom) just hit a record $40 billion. This prosperity is based on our work, we are the creative force driving it. Are $60 million in rollbacks a just reward?” The letter to members adds that they were “surprised” by the opening proposals. That would be putting it mildly.

Related:
WGA West Rejects MPPA “Unreasonable” Approach To Copyright Infringement
AMPTP Respond To WGA West Plan To Go After Deadbeat Producers

The WGA and AMPTP are scheduled to sit down on February 3 at the producers group HQ in Sherman Oaks. With today’s letter, what many expected to be relatively smooth discussions akin … Read More »

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WGA Sets February 3 As Start Of New Contract Talks With Producers

By | Tuesday January 28, 2014 @ 12:43pm PST

wga logoNearly a month after DGA members ratified their new three-year deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers, the WGA today announced that it will sit down for their talks with the producers on February 3. The negotiations are set to take place at AMPTP HQ in Sherman Oaks. While the Writers Guild took the step to announce its negotiating committee on November 13, up to today, neither they nor SAG-AFTRA had set a start date for their respective talks with AMPTP. Not like the melded WGA West and WGA East committee doesn’t include some heavy-hitting scribes. There’s recently re-elected board members Billy Ray and David S. Goyer as well Damon Lindelof among the group. The committee will serve under WGAW Exec Director and Chief Negotiator David Young. The WGA’s latest contract is set to expire on May 1.

Related: AMPTP Respond To WGA West Plan To Go After Deadbeat Producers Read More »

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DGA Members Approve New Deal With Producers

By | Wednesday January 8, 2014 @ 10:20am PST

dgalogo__130425174010__131002211232-200x190__131023181458-150x150__131123183011__131218210512Yesterday my colleague Pete Hammond said there were “no surprises” in the DGA Awards Film nominees. Well, today the Directors Guild of America delivered even less of a shock as its members ratified the new three-year deal its negotiating committee reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers in late November (after you finish that yawn, read their release below). Same as three years ago, no specific numbers were given just that the approval was by an “overwhelming margin,” according to the DGA.  (UPDATE, 11 AM: As you would expect, AMPTP praised the ratification today, though with slightly ominous tones.“We are pleased that the DGA membership has ratified the new contracts. These new agreements will contribute to the stability of the industry by ensuring that feature film and television production - and the jobs dependent on it – can continue without interruption,” said the producers’ group in a statement Wednesday.)

The Guild sent out the new agreements to its 15,000 members on December 18, 2012. With its current deal ending on June 30, the DGA was the first of the guilds this time round to conclude a new Basic Agreement and the Freelance Live and Tape TV AMPTP-logo-post__120906011957-200x94__131123220229__131218211109Agreement with the studios and networks. While the WGA took the step to announce its negotiating committee on November 13, neither they nor SAG-AFTRA have set a start date for their respective talks with AMPTP. … Read More »

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