By Peter Caranicas
Could it be that the strike will end by the time you’re reading this issue? With WGA and AMPTP in informal, blacked-out talks, that’s a real possibility. And, like most of our readers, we urge both sides to reach a settlement in order to prevent further damage.
The money that has been lost so far as a result of the strike—some estimate it as high a $1 billion and still counting—will not return when the strike ends. It’s gone. Vanished. Never to enter the bank accounts of the studios, the striking writers, or the tens of thousand of out-of-work members of the community.
Plus, invoking force majeure provisions, the TV networks took advantage of the strike to do some “housecleaning.” ABC, cutting the most, eliminated about 40 projects that were in development. NBC chief Jeff Zucker called the existing system of network program development the vestige of an bygone era. While there’s some truth in that, the strike has given the networks an excuse to accelerate the change, hurting people who had expected to remain employed.
In the meantime, the WGA has been making separate, interim deals with smaller studios and production companies like Lionsgate, The Weinstein Co., United Artists and Worldwide Pants. The AMPTP is wrong to dismiss these agreements. While they’ll be superseded by any future WGA contract with producers, they whittle away at the stoppage and prove there’s a real yearning out there to return to work.
Even though some AMPTP members have thrived through the strike, later in February it could hit them where it really hurts. If the Oscars don’t go ahead, not only will ABC lose millions in advertising revenue, but the studios will squander their best opportunity to promote upcoming releases.
The brightest beacon of hope comes from the recent settlement between the producers and the DGA. While not fully applicable to the WGA, it does set some precedents and applies pressure for a settlement.
Plus, the WGA has withdrawn its proposals on reality programming and animation in order “to being a speedy conclusion to negotiations.” This huge step towards conciliation allows the producers to claim a victory even if they give up more for residuals than they’d like to.
The road to a final settlement has been paved. What’s everyone waiting for?
Written by Peter Caranicas