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ALL: Soap Scribes to Strike?
Topic Started: Oct 25 2007, 10:26 AM (711 Views)

Source: SOD

Members of the Writers Guild of America [WGA], whose current contract expires on October 31, were, at press time, in the midst of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Productions [AMPTP]. But if the two groups fail to come to terms, a writer's strike could commence as early as midnight October 31st.

"I've got friends who tell me it's going to happen for sure," declares DAYS Head Writer Hogan Sheffer, "Then, I've got more thoughtful friends who say the Writers Guild doesn't want to go out alone because they think they're going to get their asses kicked. What they're going to try to do is wait for the spring when the Directors Guild goes on negotiations and the feeling is that the directors will almost certainly go out on strike."

At issue, explains one longtime soap writer and WGA member, is "the new technology and how you get paid for it, how you get residuals for distribution. At one of the meetings they had in dealing with the strike, they said that for Night Shift [on SoapNet] and [ATWT/Y&R web series] and LA Diaries and for Passions, they had done separate contract deals because they didn't have anything that would cover that." Similarly, under their current contract, writers aren't compensated for soap episodes that can be downloaded for a fee, as DAYS can be on iTunes. "There's all this Internet money now," offers Sheffer. "Somebody's got it and we don't have any of it."

The last WGA strike lasted from March to August 1988, preceded by a 13-week walkout in 1981 [threatened strikes were averted at the 11th hour in both 2001 and 2004.] Should this strike happen, says GH Head Writer Robert Guza, Jr., "There is no contingency plan. We're all members of the Writers Guild, so we'd all be out striking. We're certainly hoping there will be a way to reach some kind of accommodation so that we don't have to."

How would networks deal with the loss of the shows' writing staffs? "They'll probably be asking people to scab [cross the picket line.]" shared the veteran soap writer, who has weathered a previous WGA strike. "Last time, I think network people wrote some scripts," An ABC spokesperson would not give specifics about its contingency plans, saying only, "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst."

Like Guza, Sheffer is hoping that a strike can be avoided. "Writers are so namby-pamby. 'Should we strike?' I don't know. I don't want to carry a picket sign. I don't like the sun..."

Warns Guza, "Some of the nightime shows can run repeats, but we can't do that. There is definitely concern for how daytime would survive a long-lasting strike."

"Echoes one veteran scribe, "I hate to sound dire, but I don't know how soaps could bounce back from a strike. For now, though, it's business as usual. We're writing our shows and keeping our fingers crossed."
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OMG...This is gonna get NASTY!

At one of the meetings they had in dealing with the strike, they said that for Night Shift [on SoapNet] and [ATWT/Y&R web series] and LA Diaries and for Passions, they had done separate contract deals because they didn't have anything that would cover that.

So, the writers of GH: NS aren't under WGA rules? How the heck did that happen, esp. if it airs on network television?!

I figured as much about stuff like COASTAL DREAMS, LA DIARIES, and all the PASSIONS webisodes.

And it's shocking to me that these writers are NOT getting compensated, not even at all, for webstreams or iTunes stuff.

That must mean directors and actors aren't getting their cut either.

If I were with the WGA, I'd strike now...and play hardball till the directors and then the actors strike.

Man, even the directors are pissed. This is gonna be quite a showdown.
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Yeah, this isn't gonna be pretty...:unsure:
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The reason the writers, actors and directors don't get paid for broadband or dvd is bc there isn't enough profit to justify it. They use that money to pay off all the debt from the high budgets for programs. I definitely think it'll be sad if soaps die for something that won't really benefit them.
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What's interesting to me is how completely oblivious people are to the real possibility of a strike. Part of a conversation this evening was with people who thought that THE DAILY SHOW and COLBERT REPORT would be strikeproof and I had to tell them that those writers are part of the WGA and probably would NOT cross the picket line.

We, as consumers, are powerless. I mean, most of anything that is written for visual motion picture entertainment is associated with the WGA! The possibility of a strike lasting for even longer than two weeks frightens me. Not only as a soap fan, but a fan of all of network television.
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Bella Principessa
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Oh, I didnt know we could customize this! LOL

If this strike happens, Daytime strikes too, correct? I'm sorry, I haven't been following it. But we're supposed to know this week, right?

Good lord, Guza actually put down the pot pipe for that article. The man makes sense. Holy shit. Hell just froze over. And I too, wonder if Daytime could rebound from this.
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Daytime's struggling enough as it is. I can't see how they'd manage to survive a writer's strike.
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Streetcorner Philosopher

Maybe this could be an opportunity and we could get some fresh blood, be it scab or network person taking over temporarily. Plus my soap of choice is garbage, so I really don't feel like there's anything to lose.

As far as revenue- I can't imagine these alternate streams are generating a whole bunch of income right now, but I guess they might as well hammer out the issues now. I still maintain that they need to not give crap and constant sequels before demanding anything, though.
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The Royal Princess

What a strike would mean for TV

Bye-bye, good ol' CSI, Pushing Daisies is a maybe, and Heroes may die

Oct 27, 2007 04:30 AM
Rob Salem
Television Critic

LOS ANGELES–"We need to know what the pie is before we can figure out how to divvy it up," tacitly suggests Nick Counter.

And he isn't talking about upcoming episodes of the pie-centric new ABC fantasy series, Pushing Daisies. At least, not directly.

As the president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers – the networks' bargaining unit in negotiations with the various industry guilds, representing some 350 production companies and studios – he is referring to the contentious multi-platform debate that threatens the immediate future of American entertainment, television and film ... Pushing Daisies included.

If the Writers Guild of America walks out over the issue this week, as 90 per cent of its membership has voted, it is television that will suffer the most immediate and devastating effects.

The movie studios, which tend to work a year in advance anyway, have been stockpiling scripts for months. Aside from some of the more current franchise films and sequels, they are not likely to feel the pinch until 2009 – unless, of course, the actors and directors follow suit when their contracts expire at the end of June. Which, industry insiders fear, they are likely to do.

But the TV studios and networks' needs are far more pressing. Returning shows like Grey's Anatomy, Heroes and the various CSIs and Law & Orders will be okay in the short term, since they tend to be much further along in production than the new shows on the network schedules.

A strike now would not only effectively shut down fledgling hits – for example, Pushing Daisies – but also existing serial dramas like 24 and Lost, in that they really have to finish shooting their entire seasons rather than leave their loyal audiences hanging.

Animated shows like The Simpsons would be spared, since they produce up to a year in advance (the adamantly last-minute South Park being the sole exception).

Most immediately affected will be shows like The Daily Show, though host Jon Stewart and his late-night brethren are certainly capable of winging it (as Johnny Carson and David Letterman did in 1988 during the last strike, after a couple of months of fill-in reruns). Also, under a separate contract, most of these guys would still be allowed to write for themselves, as long as that does not exceed what they were writing pre-strike.

Daytime talk shows like The View would for the most part grind to a halt. Others, like Today and its current event-skewed counterparts, would continue uninterrupted – indeed, they would likely be expanded to fill the open airtime – since news writers belong to a separate union.

Daytime soaps, which traditionally script a month in advance, would have just that long to wrap up current crises before taking an enforced hiatus.

So where does that leave us – aside from homegrown programming getting a most welcome, well-earned and desperately needed shot at the formerly otherwise occupied mass-Canadian audience?

American industry execs, expecting the worst (as they traditionally tend to anyway), have had contingency plans in place for more than a year.

"Well, I'm not going to get into the details of what our schedule will look like, just for competitive reasons," allows Marc Graboff, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios.

"We are committed to providing quality entertainment programming. You are not going to see a test pattern ... although maybe on NBC a test pattern in some cases would be okay.

"But, seriously, we have plans. We've been preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. And if it comes to be that there is a strike, there will be a full schedule of programming on NBC. And all of the other networks are doing the same."

That's not news, but it is reality ... just as the last threatened writers strike of 1999 gave birth to the whole "reality" craze with the twin-pronged launch of Survivor and Who Wants to be A Millionaire?, so too will this strike – threatened or actual – result in a new glut of "unscripted" series.

Ratings juggernaut American Idol already rules the airwaves – and, come November, alternative choices will become increasingly few and far between.

"The next 12 to 15 months are certainly going to be stressful times and challenging times for all of us," acknowledges Bruce Rosenblum, president of the Warner Brothers Television Group.

Indeed. And when it's all over, it may be beyond even the miraculous resurrection powers of Pushing Daisies' pie-man to bring the TV season back to life.

Source: http://www.thestar.com/article/270547
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The Royal Princess

TheStar.com | entertainment | Hollywood braces for writers' strike
Hollywood braces for writers' strike

What a strike would mean for TV? Will Broadway go dark too?The crux of the matter

The big issues writers are fighting for are increased residual payments for DVD sales and some kind of revenue sharing for non-conventional distribution of TV and movies in new media – online, cellphones, etc. The studios argue DVD sales are the only things offsetting their growing losses, and that new media remains a money-loser, used only for promotional purposes.

The 1988 writers' strike revisited

For many, the looming impasse between writers in Hollywood and the studios they work for has eerie echoes of the last time the writers walked off the job in 1988. For 22 weeks, the television business stumbled forward with no new material, resorting to reruns and some unfortunate experiments (David Letterman gamely tried writing his own top 10 lists on Late Night, at least for a while).

When it was all over, the industry suffered a half-billion dollars in lost revenue, and a priceless amount of viewer loyalty: Some shows that had been massive hits returned to the air only to find their audiences gone and cancellation looming – Moonlighting, for one, which never recovered and dwindled away. (In its final pre-strike episode, the entire writing staff appeared carrying "On Strike" signs; stars Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd brought in Curtis Armstrong to sing "Wooly Bully" as their pre-strike farewell).

Despite valiant attempts, Johnny Carson and Letterman went dark as well. As Letterman put it: "We have nothing to do, the writers aren't here," he said. "So a guy's gonna come in and shave me. Fifty-five minutes, ladies and gentlemen! Fifty-five minutes to go!"

The same fears are palpable this time around, namely for such shows as Lost, who have kept audiences waiting nine months between seasons.

But these are just the conventional problems. Compounding them now is a host of other diversions: Between DVDs, iPods, hundreds of foreign and specialty channels and reality shows, among others, viewer loyalty is more slippery than it's ever been – not good for an industry clinging desperately to what it has left.

- Murray WhyteTV and movie screens could fade to black as writers ponder whether to hit the picket lines. What this means to the industry ... and to you

Oct 27, 2007 04:30 AM
Murray Whyte
entertainment reporter

Ask anyone in the business of playing host to the once-steady stream of American film and TV productions here, and they'll tell you that things aren't what they were.

The dollar's steady climb, provinces, states and countries around the globe chasing U.S. production dollars with increasingly aggressive incentive programs, and the city's now-glaring lack of purpose-built sound stages (the kind big-budget blockbusters demand) have withered the local production industry to a shell of its once-robust self.

Wait. It gets worse.

Ken Ferguson, the head of Toronto Film Studios, went to Los Angeles last week. Meeting with various studio heads, Ferguson looked for a take on the looming threat of a writers' strike, which could bring production everywhere the U.S.-based industry touches to a standstill.

"It was a little disturbing to see the blank looks staring back," Ferguson recalled recently.

For a clarifying view, his timing was less than perfect: Last week, the Writers Guild of America amped up the rhetoric in its months-long contract dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents all major studios and television networks.

Earlier this month, the union voted, more than 90 per cent, in favour of a strike after their current agreement expires Oct. 31, though most took it as posturing. With the Screen Actors Guild's and Directors Guild's contracts expiring in June, it was reasonable to think the Writers Guild would delay their own strike until then.

Last week, they said, not so. Hence the blank stares.

"I think it really took them by surprise," Ferguson said.

Short term, this is not good.

"The phones have gone quiet here," Ferguson said. "When we call to ask, they say they have to wait and see."

Long term? For you, the viewer, small scale disaster: The very real possibility of having to wait – again – to see how Lost ends.

For the industry? Potentially much worse. In the public profile-driven world of Hollywood, writers dwell in shadows while actors, directors and even producers absorb the klieg light glare. Without them, though, the lights go dark. No script, no shooting. And that's precisely what Hollywood could be facing next Thursday.

Not that they haven't been preparing for it. "What everyone has to understand here is that the studios were preparing for this at the beginning of the year, if not sooner," says Ken Dhaliwal, an entertainment lawyer at Heenan-Blaikie, a Toronto-based firm. Dhaliwal represents several major American studios as clients.

The preparation has been an artificial production boost as studios rush to complete projects before the strike occurs, stockpiling TV episodes and movies in case of an impasse.

The Ontario Media Development Corporation, which tracks production in the city and province, confirms high activity.

"We're definitely busy," said George McNeillie, the OMDC's manager of communications, though it was his sense it was not much more so than the previous year.

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the union that represents some 1,500 support workers in the film industry, is overloaded with work, according to David Baer, the president of the agency's theatrical arm. "They're going completely nuts, working full out – at least for now," he says.

But it's artificial, Dhaliwal says.

"There's been a late-year surge," he says. "We're probably in a bit of a bubble – things being forced into production.

"But it's a short-term boost and then, if it happens – a dead zone."

Which, of course, is what nobody wants – actors, writers and studios alike. So why can't they all just get along? Some argue being at odds is a natural state for writers and studios ("It's in our DNA" said one writer who asked not to be named).

In the end, it comes down to the baseline Hollywood ethic: Money.

During the last Hollywood writers' strike in 1988, a five-month impasse over residuals – payment for shows and films that aired in perpetuity – nobody won. Writers were out of work for half a year; production support workers – caterers, gaffers, crew – were, too; networks had to push their fall schedules back to mid-winter; viewership dropped by 10 per cent. Enter a fragmented media universe of cable TV; some say it never recovered.

This time around, it's the same song with a different tune. Writers (and actors, hence their pending strike) say studios have cut them out of revenues from various new kinds of distribution – DVDs, and, specifically, online distribution. They want, they say, their fair share.

The problem: No-one knows what "fair" is. With online distribution in particular yet to become a profit centre, the two sides are haggling over potential profit, not profit itself. The web, studios say, is a promotional tool that costs money, not makes it. But that won't be the case forever, the writers say.

"Writers and actors see their work online every day – why not get paid for it?" Dhaliwal says. "That's the problem – no one has ever come up with a business strategy for new media, and no one wants to give up the piece that could, in the end, be the big winner."

In Canada earlier this year, ACTRA, the union that represents Canadian actors, went on strike for four months over the multimedia issue. They ratified a new contract in April that, for the first time, included benefits for new media.

It remains the only one of its kind, and now written into the contract of a major entertainment industry union, the precedent for new media benefits is set. The question is no longer whether or not to include it, but how?

"There's been a lot of hype" about the multimedia issue, says Maureen Parker, executive director of the Writers Guild of Canada, which has close ties with its American counterpart. "But it's not the only issue," she says, citing the row over DVD residuals, which the writers claim to be laughably low.

Parker will be in Los Angeles next week observing as negotiations go into the 11th hour (the unions are affiliated, but not joined; Canadian guild members will still be able to work on Canadian shows during an American Guild strike, but U.S.-based writers will be encouraged not to cross the border).

She describes the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers's offerings – they withdrew their demand to rollback residuals, framing it as a significant concession – as "not really very serious negotiations for a multi-billion dollar industry."

(For their part, the Alliance suggests that Guild demands would be financially crippling for them. The Guild "continue(s) to pursue numerous financial proposals that would result in astronomical increases in our costs," said Alliance president Nick Counter in a statement this week).

Earlier this week, six days of negotiation produced no results, prompting Counter to urge onlookers to not "confuse process with progress." But Parker has heard the tough talk before.

"I can't remember a single negotiation when the studios didn't talk tough," she said. "We've seen this all before. It's not time to panic yet."



Source: http://www.thestar.com/article/270542
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Shit. This isn't looking good. I hope and pray this strike doesn't happen, but I have a feeling it just might. :(
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