Film and TV Writers Strike as Talks Break Down

News   Film and TV Writers Strike as Talks Break Down Last-minute contract talks between the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers and the Writers Guild of America proved unproductive late Nov. 4, and writers have begun their first strike since 1988.

Despite the presence of a federal mediator, both sides could not come to an agreement in negotiations for a new contract between the union and the trade association that represents more than 350 production companies and studios. The previous deal had expired Oct. 31.

On the table are issues of profits from new media — which include DVD and Internet distribution.

At 12:01 AM (ET), writers on the East Coast began the work stoppage as talks continued into the night on the West Coast. The WGA had called for a strike Nov. 2 (to take effect Nov. 5), which was voted upon unanimously by both segments — Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Council of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE).

"The decision [to strike] was made following over three months of negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP," according to an official WGA Nov. 2 release. "To date, the studios have not responded to a single one of the WGA's important proposals, including Internet reuse, original writing for new media, DVDs, and jurisdiction."

A Nov. 4 statement from AMPTP President Nick Counter read: "Notwithstanding the fact that negotiations were ongoing, the WGA decided to start their strike in New York. When we asked if they would 'stop the clock' for the purpose of delaying the strike to allow negotiations to continue, they refused. "We made an attempt at meeting them in a number of their key areas including Internet streaming and jurisdiction in New Media. Ultimately, the guild was unwilling to compromise on most of their major demands. It is unfortunate that they choose to take this irresponsible action."

The WGA's Nov. 4 released statement read as follows: "Early today, the WGA completely withdrew its DVD proposal, which the Companies said was a stumbling block. Yet, the Companies still insisted on the following:

  • No jurisdiction for most of new media writing.
  • No economic proposal for the part of new media writing where they do propose to give coverage.
  • Internet downloads at the DVD rate.
  • No residual for streaming video of theatrical product.
  • A 'promotional' proposal that allows them to reuse even complete movies or TV shows on any platform with no residual. This proposal alone destroys residuals.
  • A 'window' of free reuse on the Internet that makes a mockery of any residual. "The AMPTP made no response to any of the other proposals that the WGA has made since July. The AMPTP proposed that today's meeting be 'off the record,' meaning no press statements, but they have reneged on that."

    No word on when talks will resume or how long the strike would last. The 1988 strike lasted 22 weeks.

    Meanwhile in the theatre world, negotiations between the League of American Theatres and Producers and Local One, the stagehands union, are scheduled to resume Nov. 7. Tom Short, the head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local One's parent union, will reportedly be involved in the latest round of talks, which will continue Nov. 8 and 9.

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