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The sky is falling in TV land. I personally think they will settle rather quickly after this strike begins but who knows.. What are your thoughts?
Quote: LOS ANGELES, Nov. 2 —When the sun rises here on Monday morning, movie and television writers will be ready to head for their assigned picket lines outside Hollywood’s studios and production sites.
By the time it sets, the entertainment industry’s new reality will have settled in: Writers and their employers, who together rode a boom of expanding revenues in the last two decades, are now on opposite sides of the future.
At a press conference in Los Angeles on Friday, leaders of the Writers Guild of America West and the Writers Guild of America East said they would order their members to stop work just after midnight Sunday. That will begin Hollywood’s first industrywide strike since 1988.
“We’re sorry that the studios have put us where we are,” said Patric M. Verrone, president of the West Coast guild, speaking at the press gathering. Flanked by colleagues and by a photo montage titled “Earthquakes in Hollywood,” Mr. Verrone added: “It’s our sense that we can do some economic damage immediately.”
Absent a unlikely last-minute resolution, picket lines are expected to start appearing in Los Angeles and New York in the morning hours. Already on Friday, writers spread leaflets outside NBC’s offices in Manhattan at Rockefeller Center, explaining why they are seeking a bigger share of billions of dollars in revenue collected by the studios and networks.
Guild writers are demanding a sharp increase in what they are paid for the use of movies and TV programs on DVDs and online. Producers, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, have refused. They argue that companies like the News Corporation’s Fox studio and network or General Electric’s NBC and Universal Pictures operations must use new revenue to cover rising costs.
The result of this standoff is likely to be a gradual halt in the production of all television shows, except for reality and news programs, and of new movies. Viewers will notice the fallout first among entertainment talk shows. “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report,” “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” have said they will revert to repeats on Monday, at least for now.
If the strike is a long one — and nothing in the bitter negotiations so far signals otherwise — the dispute may well realign the industry’s relationship with Hollywood’s creative class.
“A strike is the labor equivalent of a nuclear bomb, and I’m surprised both sides wielded it so quickly,” said Tom Pollock, a veteran film producer and a partner in the Montecito Picture Company. The last strike, which lasted five months, left Hollywood’s underlying structure intact, he added. But this time, he said: “All outcomes are possible.”
This week’s expiration of the writers’ contract will be followed in June by the end of deals with actors and directors. Any new aggressiveness by guild members is already being matched, if not bettered, by companies that are equally set on protecting their share of income from digital distribution systems that are only now beginning to become significant businesses.
Hollywood’s guilds, with their elite membership, have been seen by executives as a necessary, if sometimes pesky, adjunct in a business where many workers are employed project by project. The unions help administer health and pension plans, sort through credits, and impose structure on the seeming chaos of movie and television production sets.
But the approaching storm will sorely test that relationship.
On Friday, companies and writers alike planned for the coming confrontation. In New York, the writer-producers who run East Coast television productions like “All My Children,” the long-running ABC soap opera, and “Gossip Girl,” a CW show produced by Warner Brothers, were asked to attend a 4 p.m. meeting at the guild’s headquarters.
Those so-called showrunners, the thousand or so people who share both writing and managerial duties on television shows, have already been squeezed by conflicting demands from guild leaders and company employers. The guilds have strongly urged them not to cross picket lines to perform their managerial duties. But producers have pointed out that individual employment contracts require writer-producers to report for work, even if they withhold their writing services.
John Bowman, who heads the writers’ negotiating team, has decided to halt all of his work on the coming TBS series “Frank TV,” of which he is an executive producer. “I am not doing it, and I can be legally fired,” he said.
During the leaflet distribution at Rockefeller Center on Friday, more than 50 writers spent an hour pleading their case with passers-by. “We’re certainly not claiming we’re coal miners,” said Brian Kiley, a monologue writer for “Late Night With Conan O’Brien. “But at the same time, we don’t want to be taken advantage of.”
In Los Angeles, the West Coast guild this week advised writers to begin removing their personal possessions from studio offices in anticipation of the walkout. Actors are expected to join writers on Monday in a show of support on the picket lines. But current contracts with actors, directors and most other film workers bar them from joining the strike.
Hollywood’s Teamsters, by contrast, are permitted to honor picket lines as an individual act of conscience without penalty under their contract. If many choose to do so, studio and network executives might eventually be forced to close productions or shift them to locations with more accommodating transportation workers.
As strike preparations unfolded, company executives largely maintained public silence, leaving communication to the negotiating group, headed by J. Nicholas Counter III. “We are very disappointed with their press conference and with the action they took,” Mr. Counter said in a statement on Friday. Calling the guilds’ strike call “precipitous and irresponsible,” he added that working writers “on average earn over $200,000 a year,” receive high-quality health benefits, and are among “the few employees in the world who get an ‘additional annuity’” in the form of residual payments.
The few public (and soothing) comments from media moguls came during conference calls with analysts. “I don’t think anybody escapes this, but in terms of the immediate production and delivery of our slate for 2008, we will not be impacted,” Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, told analysts on Tuesday, noting that animators belong to a union other than the writers guilds.
Around Los Angeles County, where about 254,000 people work in the entertainment industry, agencies and production companies are already considering layoffs and cost-cutting to cope with the anticipated slowdown.
Matters as far afield as Oscar promotions will be touched. “It definitely affects campaigns,” said Amanda Lundberg, a partner with the New York-based publicity firm 42 West, noting that film publicists rely on the likes of Jay Leno and David Letterman to promote their wares.
Similarly, thousands of businesses, whether mom-and-pop companies that train dogs for television shows or lumberyards that specialize in building materials for sets, face consequences. “I’m really scared,” said Oren Ashkenazi, owner of TVC Television and Cinema Wardrobe Cleaners, near the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, Calif. The cleaner processes up to 2,000 garments each night for television programs like “24.”
Antonio R. Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, has offered to broker a peace between the sides, according to a spokesman. So far, he has had no luck. (A federal mediator has called the two sides together for a meeting on Sunday morning.)
While many businesses hope to avoid a strike, some may be better positioned for a walkout than others. Reality television, which largely does not rely on guild writers, is a big profit center for the William Morris Agency, while smaller agencies like Paradigm can fall back on music clients like Fergie, Coldplay and the Dave Matthews Band.
“Music is a huge business that has nothing to do with a writers’ strike,” said Sam Gores, Paradigm’s chairman.
And new entertainment may be born from the turmoil. The Fox network, which had its debut just months before the last writers’ strike, got a bump from channel-changing audiences who discovered overlooked reruns of the fledgling sitcom “Married, With Children,” and made it an enduring hit, television historians say.
-------------------- m00nshine is currently vacationing in Maui. Rumor has it he got rolled by drunken natives and is currently prostituting himself in order to pay for airfare back to the mainland but he's having trouble juggling a hairon addiction. He won't be back for a long while.
One of the few times that I am on the side of the union rather than management. The industry (producers) have been making tons of money off of new delivery methods (such as DVD, internet, etc) and the writers have been getting nothing in return for their work. Give the writers their royalties; they deserve proper compensation for the work they create.
-------------------- Just another spore in the wind.
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