| September 1, 2007

The last time the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike was nearly twenty years ago, back in 1988 in which a 5 month work stoppage delayed the start of the fall TV season and cost the industry a half a billion dollars. But starting in a month or so, October 31st to be exact, the threat of another strike is a possibility that is looming over Hollywood. Currently, writers do not receive any type of royalties for their work when it appears online or on wireless platforms.
The Writers Guild’s basic demands are that they would like to be compensated for their work when it is displayed on non traditional media like the internet, ipods, and downloads. They should receive residuals for when a movie is displayed on TV, when a TV show goes into syndication, and receive greater DVD and videocassette residuals. Other basic elements like increased caps on company pension and better health benefits are included in their demands.
Talks began back on July 16 with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), but not much ground has been made between the two groups. If the Writers Guild does strike, it would give the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA) more incentive to take a hard line negotiating stance in 2008, where their current film-TV contract expires June 30th. But the likely scenario is that all three of these unions will strike together.
Studios have been rushing projects into production, far greater than in recent year to coincide with the the expiration of the above contracts mentioned. They are preparing to have as many projects completed by that date. A temporary extension for the WGA is a possibility, which would most likely instruct their members to continue working under the previous terms so that they can get a better deal after the SGA and DGA do their talking in July of next year. A three-pronged strike could seriously hurt the industry, as each union wants a better cut of the new revenue pie.
The strike would definitely give indie directors and producers better opportunities, but to what extent still remains to be seen. As far as television goes, the rush into production for the fall has seen a big surge in reality television, as studios are planning to air shows without ‘writers.’ FOX for example, does not have a scripted show in their fall lineup on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. This probably means that a lot of shitty television will end up getting aired. The same could be true for movies. Obvious with any ‘rush’ job, the quality of the product could be damaged. The last time a strike happened, was in 2001, where we saw duds like Men In Black 2, Reign of Fire, and Planet of the Apes.
Writers are far less powerful than actors and directors, and since their deadline is far sooner than the other two, studios have been stockpiling scripts in case the WGA goes on strike and the SAG and DGA do not. A potential strike crossfire would be a nasty situation. This has caused many writers to take jobs they aren’t thrilled about, trying to cash in while they can before the deadline. In a worst case scenario for the writers, if they somehow end up on the short side of the stick while the DGA and SAG don’t, everyone’s favorite shows like LOST, 24, and Heroes will diminish in quality. Old scripts, rejected ideas, things of that nature would be used to continue the stories. Hopefully, it does not come to that. TV Studios have tried to avoid this but airing a larger number of episodes to hold them over. Thirty episodes of The Office, 28 episodes of My Name is Earl, and 22 episodes for Law & Order have all been arranged for the fall lineup, a far greater number than in previous years.
For the time being we will just have to wait and see how this plays out. Assuming the WGA holds out till June 30th of 2008, Hollywood could be facing a multi-fronted strike that would literally stop the industry for the time being.

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