Hollywood is about to strike


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If you’ve been reading Variety lately, you’re probably aware that there’s a massive strike looming in Hollywood, and that everybody there is panicking about it. It sounds like a doomsday scenario: three different unions – the Writer’s Guild of America, the Director’s Guild of America, and the Screen Actor’s Guild – may band together next June, co-ordinate walk-outs, and effectively cripple the entire movie industry.

Fearing the worst, the movie companies are now fast-tracking as many films as possible, in the hopes of completing them before the strike.

The writer's strike could actually be this year.

After two days of renewed talks, the prospects for a settlement between movie and TV writers and producers before the Oct. 31 contract expiration remain dim, with the next negotiating session at least a week to ten days off. Some studios have begun telling writers that they will not take any pitches for new projects or put green light scripts after the deadline.


Now I can understand striking if you are being treated unfairly, but these guys make a ton of money. Especially the actors. I don't feel sorry for them at all.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Here is a great interview that explains what they want:

What's your opinion on the strike that may happen months from now?

Terry George: I'm at the heart of it. I'm on the negotiating committee for the WGA. I don't know. If you look at the circumstances, here's basically what the studios are saying at the moment. This is an antiquated system here and we want to revisit the residual situation. The residual is what most actors and writers live off. It's that little bit of money you get back when a film shows. They say they want to go back to a profit base distribution thing. I still get statements on "Hotel Rwanda" which basically says we are $20 million dollars in the red and with "In The Name of the Father", we are $16 million dollars in the red. Hollywood bookkeeping is beyond mafia bookkeeping. So the notion that writers and actors work until they declare a profit is ridiculous. It’s a smoke screen to get away from what this all about, which is that the whole industry is moving over to the internet and the new media. All we are saying is to give us a little piece of that and we would be very happy with it. I don’t know if they think they can bust the WGA or the whole industry or make a change here, but we’re not going for it. We’re not asking for a lot. We’re asking for a portion of this; and they have been trying over the last few years with reality TV shows and non-union writers just to chip away at that. My mood and the mood of some of the Guild is ‘Let’s not wait til June 30th’. They all think we are going to wait til June 30th and wait for the actors to come out and by that time they would have stock piled 200 films and it will be a defacto strike anyway. I’m all for going as soon as we can. Let’s get it out there and see. Given the level of profit that’s been made now and the “Frank Purdue-ization” of the whole product, to turn around and say the writers and eventually the actors shouldn’t have a piece of that is ludicrous.

What is the likelihood of an early strike?

TG: It depends. There’s been nothing offered. There’s been no ability to talk at the minute. They haven’t come up with anything on a discussion where you can sit down and actually have a conversation about. We are going to vote on an authorization to strike, the Guild; the whole membership will give the committee the authorization to call a strike. I think it will be almost unanimous.

Are we looking at the end of October?

TG: That’s when the contract ends. The media at the minute talks about dates like it will be November 1st or October 30th. We’re not stupid enough to call a date that everyone else decides for us. We are going to look at the most strategic time if they are not willing to negotiate and then make that move then or go the membership and say, “Look, this is basically an attempt to destroy this union which I think it is or to weaken everyone to the point of where, the future of the whole industry, being a virgin again or something.

What would be the reason you wouldn’t go on strike now?

TG: Well, you have to see where they are going. The sense I get from the membership is total solidarity and from the actors as well. I’m not sure about the directors. There’s definitely a solidarity about this. But the other side isn’t stupid either. They obviously have tactics that they are lining up to deal with us. They’ve already bagged a lot of stuff. But it seems enormous greedy of them of what they are doing at the minute. We had this situation when the DVDs first came in, when they went to the union and said, “In the wake of a strike before that was very acrimonious, here’s the DVDs and it cost $80 and it’s new technology and so it evolves into something else and we’re going to do this, let me deal with it until we investigate, which is like .500 percent. “Hotel Rwanda” made some $23 million at the box office and $48 million on DVD, and writers and actors were excluded from that profit. So I supposed it’s easy for me because I made some money from it but there are a lot of writers who on smaller budgets and if we go out early, then we may have to wait the six months til the actors come along. Who knows? It just depends.


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A spark of hope.

In a surprise development in the contentious Writers Guild negotiations, studios and networks have taken their proposal for a revolutionary revamp of residuals off the table.

Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, made the announcement Tuesday as face-to-face talks began for the 10th day.

Counter indicated the AMPTP - which operates as the negotiating arm of studios and nets - had made the move in order to salvage what have been thoroughly unproductive and contentious talks so far.

"In the overriding interest of keeping the industry working and removing what has become an emotional impediment and excuse by the WGA not to bargain, the AMPTP withdrew its recoupment proposal," he said in a statement. "By taking the recoupment formula off the table, we haven't solved the problems that the formula was designed to ameliorate. But, as we have said repeatedly, we are committed to making a deal that is fair and reasonable."

The proposal, which has been widely derided by the WGA, would have altered the formulas for paying residuals so that writers would only receive payments after producers recouped basic costs. The AMPTP had contended that the dramatic shifts in showbiz finances had made the four-decades-old system untenable.

WGA negotiators have insisted that the AMPTP's move to change how residuals are paid was out of the question. Guild leaders have contended the companies' accounting has been unreliable, citing net profit deals that have kept such TV hits as "The Simpsons" and feature films such as "Chicago" in the red.

Counter stressed Tuesday that the AMPTP now expects the WGA to take some of its proposals off the table, such as its demand for a doubling of DVD residuals.

"Upon removing the recoupment issue, we made it patently clear that the producers will not agree to increase residual payments for videocassette/DVD use (including electronic sell-through), for reruns on The CW or My Network TV, or for programs made for pay television or basic cable," he said. "We now expect the WGA leadership to get down to the business at hand and do what it takes to reach a new labor agreement."

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  • 2 weeks later...

An update:

In what could be a prelude to litigation, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers has told the WGA that its strike rules on script validation are illegal.

The AMPTP has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the WGA, alleging the guild's "script validation program" violates studios' property rights since the companies are typically the owners of the literary material.

The WGA wasn't immediately available for response.

The guild rules -- issued two weeks ago -- require members to file with the WGA copies of all unproduced material written for struck companies. The rules go into effect as soon as the guild strikes -- as early as a week from today.

The AMPTP letter warns that the WGA's actions could give rise to a number of potential legal claims, including inducement of breach of contract, interference with prospective economic advantage, misappropriation, conversion and unfair competition. The type of claims suggests that the guild itself, as well as individual guild members, could be subject to litigation.

The WGA's filing requirement -- or "script validation program" -- calls on guild members to submit literary material already completed and delivered to a company before the strike; writing in progress for a company subject to the strike; and any spec or sample script if it was submitted before the strike.

"The filing of these copies will allow the guild to determine the exact status of the material at the beginning of the strike and may protect you in the event allegations of strike-breaking or scab writing are made against you or another writer," the WGA explains as part of the rule.

But the AMPTP's cease-and-desist letter, issued by its attorneys, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, claims that the scripts and other written material -- as well as their state of completion -- are the property and trade secrets of the companies that acquired or commissioned them and that the WGA has no right to receive or retain them.

The letter, dated last Friday, demands that the WGA cease and desist from promulgating, publicizing and enforcing the script validation program.

The strike rules have already prompted the threat of a lawsuit by Thomas Short, president of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, over the guild's plan to bar WGA members from writing animated features -- since much of that sector is covered by IATSE. And AMPTP prexy Nick Counter warned on Oct. 15 that the companies would pursue legal action if the guild interfered with employees living up to contractual obligations.

In another dispute over strike rules, the AMPTP responded Wednesday to the WGA's contention that hyphenates (such as writer-directors and writer-producers) can't perform any writing services -- defined by the guild as including cutting for time; bridging material; changes in stage directions; assignment of lines to other characters caused by cast changes; changes caused by unforeseen contingencies; minor adjustments before or during principal photography; and instruction, directions or suggestions made to a writer.

But AMPTP, in a posting on its website, said those so-called a to h services are part of a hyphenate showrunner's duties as a supervisor and can be performed during a strike. The org citied a recent National Labor Relations Board decision holding that hyphenate showrunners are supervisors within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act and, accordingly, are aligned with management.

"The union cannot and should not attempt to prevent any hyphenate showrunners from performing nonwriting duties," the AMPTP said.


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The feds are stepping in:

With a writers strike looming, the federal government's stepping in to mediate negotiations between the WGA and the companies after three months of unproductive bargaining.

The announcement came Friday evening after a day of negotiations concluded with no sign of significant progress. Talks will resume on Tuesday - just a day before the Writers Guild of America contract expires.

"We worked very hard to narrow the issues and reach an agreement but many issues remain unresolved," said Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. "We will meet on Tuesday with the federal mediator who has been assigned by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service."

The WGA had no immediate comment.

Talks began Friday morning with a small slice of optimism emerging from the relentless doom and gloom of contract talks. The session lasted most of the day and marked the first time both sides were able to engage in discussing the give-and-take of bargaining - rather than merely presenting proposals - but it's believed the movements were fairly small.

Neither side provided details about the session at WGA West headquarters in Hollywood. And iIn contrast with most recent sessions, Friday's aftermath featured none of the usual finger-pointing statements of blame that have become standard issue.

Negotiators agreed to take the weekend and Monday off -- even though that will leave scant time before the WGA's contract expires at midnight Wednesday.

The decision to take a three-day break will underline the town's growing certainty about the talks - that the WGA plans to take the talks down to the wire, when fears of a strike may push studios and nets to soften on a contract issue in order to avert a work stoppage.

WGA leaders could start telling its members to stop working and start picketing as early as next Thursday, should the talks fall apart. But if negotiators are making progress, writers would work under terms of the expired deal.

Studios and nets had presented a comprehensive package at Thursday's session, taking parts of several proposals off the talble with the goal of persuading the WGA to start coming off some of its 26 initital proposals. But the Alliance of Motion Picture & Televison Producers also flatly told the WGA to forget about any gains for residuals for DVDs, the CW, MyNetworkTV or the pay television market.

Those moves left the WGA unimpressed as the guild asserted that the AMPTP had only made "minor adjustments to major rollbacks."


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There is no such thing as writer's block in Hollywood this week. Given the WGA contract deadline of midnight Wednesday, scripters are feverishly putting finishing touches on their projects and having them biked or messenger-pouched over to the studios.

One sigh of relief went up over at Sony late last week: Paul Haggis delivered his draft for the 22nd Bond installment to Columbia execs.

For many other projects, scripts are pouring in, getting a quick read and notes before being rushed back to the writers -- all in the hope of having the most advanced draft possible in order to beat the witching hour deadline.

"I'm getting drafts in, and I'm flipping them around like crazy," said an exec located over the Hollywood hill.

Fox's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," which is being penned by James Vanderbilt ("Zodiac"), and "The Fast and the Furious 4" by Chris Morgan are among dozens of scripts that are being flipped, a process that actually is uniting execs and scribes in one goal: to get a script that is filmable.

"Normally, you'd give notes and they go off and they write, take their time, do some things in the notes and not others," another studio exec said. "Everyone is playing for the same team now. That way, we have our best shot at making a movie."

Brian Helgeland has been putting pen to paper for the Scott brothers, submitting "Nottingham," Universal's retelling of the Robin Hood story with Russell Crowe attached, for Ridley Scott's approval Monday; Helgeland is also under the gun to deliver Tuesday "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three," with Denzel Washington and John Travolta attached, to Tony Scott and Columbia.

Some writers are turning in multiple drafts of the same script with variations in scenes and endings in order to cover a project's potential demands.

Paramount in fact has asked for three different scripts from three different writers for "G.I. Joe," and will perhaps combine the best parts from each one. Those involved in the novel tri-partite draft effort are Stuart Beattie ("30 Days of Night"), John Lee Hancock ("The Alamo") and the writing team of Brian Koppelman and David Levien ("The Winter of Frankie Machine").

Some projects may turn to their acting talent to step in and do minor touch-up jobs.

New Line's Vince Vaughn-headlined "Four Christmases," which is still being worked on, could enlist the fingers of Vaughn, who has been known to work on his scripts and is not a member of the WGA. Disney's "Bedtime Stories," which has Adam Sandler on board to star, can't rely on that actor, even though he often writes his own movies: Sandler is a member of the WGA East.

And while the writers write, many execs are hunkering down.

"I'm canceling lunches and meetings, and all I'm doing is reading scripts," said one exec. "It's kind of exciting."

As for the TV biz, the programming schedules of broadcast networks would be hugely disrupted were a strike to be called soon.

A prolonged stoppage would lead to abbreviated 10-episode seasons of scripted series, forcing the networks to fill primetime with repeats, unscripted fare and occasional acquisitions. Already, webheads are prepping their alternatives: NBC, for example, is considering running the original British production of "The Office" as strike-replacement programming.

While fall series have already started their seasons, midseason shows have the option to air a short season or not.

Indications are that both Fox and ABC are sticking to their original plan to launch "24" and "Lost" in January and February, respectively. Fox's "24," which started production late and was affected by the recent wildfires, is working on episodes seven and eight, one-third of its 24-episode season. "Lost" has almost reached the 10-episode mark, closer to the show's 16-episode season order.

A strike in November would also hurt the networks' development for fall 2008. Only 30% to 50% of all commissioned scripts -- normally due by year's end -- have been turned in to date. So in the event of a stoppage, network execs will have to make their pilot picks from a smaller pool, and hundreds of writers who couldn't finish their scripts on time won't be paid or will be paid only a fraction for their efforts.

A strike longer than six to eight weeks also would trigger the force majeure clause in TV writers' deals, giving studios free rein to drop expensive contracts.

By contrast, a writers strike called in January would have a lesser effect on the networks, triggering 18-episode seasons of the existing series instead of the usual 22 installments.

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They are voting right now whether to strike or not.

Here's an article about the first ones that will be affected. The late night talk shows.

If there's a strike, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson could be the first of many casualties.

A walkout in the next few days would almost certainly cancel the Nov. 10 episode of "Saturday Night Live," slated to be hosted by Johnson. There's even a shot this weekend's planned Brian Williams-hosted episode could be impacted. Most of the sketches have been written, but it's unclear if Williams would cross a picket line.

And then there's Dave, Jay, Conan, Jimmy, Craig, Jon and Stephen.

How the Monday-Friday latenight skeins carry on the wake of a scribe walkout likely depends largely on each host, but the conventional wisdom is that all the big shows will shut down--- at least for a bit.

"Dave (will be) supportive of writers, as he was the last time," said Robert Morton, the former Letterman producer who was at the helm of NBC's "Late Night With David Letterman" during the 1988 WGA strike.

Morton, noting that Letterman and his "Late Show" colleagues are also WGA members, said the hosts will be hard-pressed to continue with business as usual.

"I think they have to show support for their writing staffs," said the producer, who now heads Panamort Prods. ("The Mind of Mencia"). "Even if they want to go back, they have to give their writers due respect."

Reps for Leno and Letterman weren't talking, but in 2001, when it seemed the WGA would strike (but didn't), Leno indicated he'd walk out.

"I'm a union member, and I'll do whatever my union wants me to do," the host told Variety, noting that he'd always respected picket lines in the past.

And Monday at an internal NBC all-staff meeting, execs indicated they expected their latenight gabbers would go dark for a few weeks.

After a while, however, producers on the shows will have to start thinking of their non-writing staffs, many of whom make just a few hundred dollars per week. The longer the shows remain dark, the more likely layoffs will be--- which is why most insiders predict the latenight skeins will eventually find a way to return to the air.

"You want to be supportive of your guild, but when you have people making $600 a week possibly losing their jobs, you have to think of them, too," Morton said.

He and most other latenight insiders predict Letterman will take the lead, with other gabbers returning only after Dave steps back into the Ed Sullivan Theater.

In 1988, Letterman stayed out until Johnny Carson resumed "The Tonight Show" after taking two months off. Twenty years later, most believe Letterman's return will give Leno, Conan and Jimmy Kimmel cover to resume their shows.

(Of course, things are more competitive in latenight now. ABC, for example, might pressure Kimmel to return quickly, in order to take advantage of a less crowded latenight arena if Leno and Letterman are AWOL).

Whenever the hosts return, it's a bit unclear just what the they will be able to do. They're clearly allowed to perform under their AFTRA agreements, but they might not be able to write their own monologue jokes.

"It might look a lot like 'host chat' on 'Regis and Kelly,'" one latenight insider said, predicted cue card jokes would be replaced by impromptou ramblings. "The hosts will just come out and talk about what's going on."

Those who remain on the shows will all have to struggle to fill airtime normally reserved for jokes and sketches. Morton recalls the last strike, when then-helmer Hal Gurnee came up with "Hal Gurnee's Network Time Killers" to close up the gaps.


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Looks like they voted to strike.

The Writers Guild of America is closing in on strike as early as Monday with prospects for a last-minute deal evaporating.

In an energetic meeting of 3,000 guild members Thursday night, the WGA's negotiating committee announced its strike recommendation, generating an impressively enthusiastic response.

Final decision on striking could come as early as today via meetings of the WGA West board and the WGA East Council - though leaders were mum as to how soon a strike will start.

WGA leaders told attendees at the meeting that they should go to work today and wait for a call or email from strike captains.

It's a foregone conclusion that the WGA panels will OK a strike and the consensus is that they'll probably select Monday as the starting day.


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It's official. As of 12:01am Monday, the writers are on strike. That means short seasons for shows that haven't finished filming their whole season(like Heroes), and after that comes the reality shows and repeats. The networks have been planning for this for awhile.


Also, NBC might show WWE programing for filler.


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Writers deal could impact other unions

By GARY GENTILE, AP Business Writer

LOS ANGELES - Hollywood writers were back at the bargaining table Sunday in a last-minute push to avoid a strike against TV networks and movie studios over writers' share of profits from DVDs and the Internet.

The battle has broad implications for the way Hollywood does business, since whatever deal is struck by the Writers Guild of America will likely be used as a template for talks with actors and directors, whose contracts expire next June.

"We'll get what they get," Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg told The Associated Press.

Negotiators were meeting with a federal mediator Sunday evening in hopes of avoiding a strike that writers had set to begin 12:01 a.m. Monday.

The guild announced sweeping plans to picket every major studio in Los Angeles starting at 9 a.m. Monday, along with Rockefeller Center in New York, where NBC is headquartered.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers previously called a writers' strike "precipitous and irresponsible."

Producers believe progress can be made on other issues but "it makes absolutely no sense to increase the burden of this additional compensation," said J. Nicholas Counter, the producer's chief negotiator.

The guilds have been preparing for these negotiations for years, hiring staff with extensive labor union experience, and developing joint strategies and a harder line than producers have seen in decades.

"We haven't shown particular resolve in past negotiations," said John Bowman, the WGA's chief negotiator. "The sea change is that this is an enormously galvanizing issue, and two, that the new regime at the guild actually has a plan, has an organization and a structure to respond to something."

The writers are the first union to bargain for a new deal this year. Their contract expired Wednesday.

In past years, actors have almost always gone first, although the Directors Guild of America, which is seen as the least aggressive of the three guilds, has sometimes taken the lead. Whatever deal was struck first was usually accepted by the others.

The guilds are aware that if writers fail to win concessions involving DVDs and the Internet, actors may have to take up the fight.

"This is an issue that touches every member of this guild and every member of the Screen Actors Guild as well," said Carlton Cuse, executive producer of the ABC drama "Lost."

Consumers are expected to spend $16.4 billion on DVDs this year, according to Adams Media Research. By contrast, studios could generate only $158 million from selling movies online and about $194 million from selling TV shows over the Web, although those numbers are expected to skyrocket in coming years.

Studios argue that it is too early to know how much money they can make from offering entertainment on the Internet, cell phones, iPods and other devices.

Hollywood unions have long regretted a decision made in 1984 to accept a small percentage of home video sales because studios said the technology was untested and that costs were high. Writers only get about 3 cents on a typical DVD retailing for $20.

The guilds have tried and failed for two decades to increase video payments, even as DVDs have become more profitable for studios than box office receipts.

Unions say they won't make the same mistake when it comes to the Internet.

"I think we all understand what a crucial time in history this is," Rosenberg said. "We really feel if we can't get a fair formula in new media, we'll dig ourselves into the same type of hole we've been in with DVDs."

The first casualty of the strike would be late-night talk shows, which are dependent on current events to fuel monologues and other entertainment. Daytime TV, including live talk shows such as "The View" and soap operas, which typically tape about a week's worth of shows in advance, would be next to feel the impact.

The strike would not immediately impact production of movies or prime-time TV programs. Most studios have stockpiled dozens of movie scripts, and TV shows have enough scripts or completed shows in hand to last until early next year.

The actors' union has urged its members to join the writers' picket lines during their off hours.

If a writers strike lingers and actors show support, producers could try and undermine the writers' position by seeking a more favorable deal with directors.

Writers and directors have clashed in the past, mostly over writers' feelings that directors take too much credit for a movie and neglect the contribution of writers.

In 2004, the directors' union settled its contract first and backed down from demands for a higher share of profit from the lucrative DVD marketplace. Writers and actors then had little choice but to accept a similar deal.

"This is a bare knuckle fight and a chess game," said Jonathan Handel, an entertainment lawyer at the Los Angeles law firm of TroyGould.

"If producers do reach a deal with the DGA, it would be to cut the legs right out from under the strike. Then the focus shifts to SAG."

The DGA said it has not yet scheduled contract talks but was closely monitoring developments.

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Yes, this is related to the strike.

Stephen Colbert drops presidential bid

NEW YORK - Stephen Colbert has dropped his bid for the White House.

His announcement came after the South Carolina Democratic Executive Council voted last week to keep the host of "The Colbert Report" off the state's primary ballot. The vote was 13-3.

Colbert poses as a conservative talk-show host on the Comedy Central show.

"Although I lost by the slimmest margin in presidential election history — only 10 votes — I have chosen not to put the country through another agonizing Supreme Court battle," Colbert said Monday in a statement. "It is time for this nation to heal."

Colbert had said he would run only in his native South Carolina, a key primary state. He said he planned to run as a Democrat and a Republican — so he could lose twice. Colbert, 43, later declined to file with the GOP, which has a much higher filing fee ($35,000) than the Democrats ($2,500).

"I want to say to my supporters, this is not over," Colbert said. "While I may accept the decision of the Council, the fight goes on! The dream endures! ... And I am going off the air until I can talk about this without weeping."

In reality, "The Colbert Report" was going off the air because of a strike by Hollywood writers that began Monday. Many talk shows were expected to be shown in repeats during the strike.


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The WGA rolled out pickets on two coasts Monday, after Sunday's last-ditch bargaining session failed to mark sufficient progress to prevent the first Hollywood writers strike in 19 years.

In the Los Angeles area, the WGA West's well-rehearsed strike captains marched out troops to populate picket lines at 14 studio and network sites starting at 9 a.m.


"The Simpsons" executive producer James L. Brooks, a strike sign in hand, was among the 200 or so writers walking the picket line in front of the 20th Century Fox lot in West Los Angeles.

Marching on the sidewalk of one of the busiest streets in Los Angeles, Pico Blvd., the strikers that included "Shark" creator-executive producer Ian Biederman, "Bones" exec producer Stephen Nathan and "American Dad" producers Jim Bernstein and Nahnatchka Khan enjoyed the support of motorists driving by -- mostly truck drivers --who honked in solidarity. The writers were joined by a few SAG members, including Lelia Goldoni.

The mood on the picket line in the muggy air was mostly somber, with strikers talking quietly amongst themselves between strike chants.

"We're scared; I'd be the first to admit that I'm scared," said "Shark" producer Bill Chais, the designated spokesman and only writer allowed to talk to the press.

While speaking to The Reporter, Chais was getting thumbs up from his boss, Biederman, who was walking the line. Biederman was one of many showrunners who didn't report to work Monday despite talk that showrunners could perform some non-writing duties during a strike.

"Ian is not gonna cross," Chais said, adding that the guild shouldn't leave such decision to people's consciousness. "There should be a set of rules," he said.

Most writers didn't know until past midnight if there will actually be strike Monday as rumors of some progress in the negotiations between the WGA and the studios trickled out during the day Sunday.

"Last night was crazy -- we were burning up the phones, exchanging gossip," Chais said. "We had hope, but I'm not totally surprised I'm here today. It speaks to the fact that it's a monumentally important issue to everyone."

Maybe it was the false hope on Sunday, but strike organizers were not fully prepared Monday morning. By 9:30 a.m., they ran of picket signs and red T-shirts at Fox.

"We've got to get it together," Chais said. "We will."

Warner Bros.

Striking writers took to the main gates at Warner Bros. in Burbank, crossing traffic, shouting chants and waving their signs to passersby.

Picket coordinator Brian Hartt said he expects at least 300 writers, actors and other supporters to walk the picket lines at each of the main entrances throughout the day.

"I have no idea what (the AMPTP) is thinking," Hartt said. "From Day 1, it's been very confusing. I hope they realize we are serious about our future and we'll stay out as long as we need in order to get a fair deal."

Many others echoed Hartt's sentiments, including one showrunner, John, who stood outside the studio's main gate. John, who declined to give his last name, said he faces losing his job on a drama series filmed at Warners.

"There are 150 people on my show who have families to support," he said. "In my view, this strike is bigger than the show. It would be naive and unresponsible to work at this time and think it would not hurt the families I protect in the long run.

"I'm out here for the long haul," John added.

Among the shows shuttered for the day: "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and "The Office."

"Christine" star Julia Louis-Dreyfus joined the show's writers at Gate 2, as they crossed back and forth across the street chanting "On Strike. Shut 'em down. Hollywood's a union town" and "Are you ready to fight? Damn right!"

"As a member of (SAG), I'm here to show my solidarity," Louis-Dreyfus said. "A lot of the issues the Writers Guild of America is negotiating right now, are many of the same issues the Screen Actors Guild will be negotiating soon.

"I stand behind the leadership of the Writers Guild," she added.

Actor Oscar Nunez of "The Office" said the show's star, Steve Carell, and co-star Rainn Wilson declined to come in to work. They have just one episode to film, he added.

"They should negotiate in good faith," Nunez said of the AMPTP. "In my opinion, the process hasn't started yet."

Nunez agreed with the strikers that one of the biggest issues at the table is the ability to watch complete episodes of their shows online, which generate advertising revenue.

"It's just a formula," Nunez said of determining the residuals from those episodes for writers, actors and others.

SAG's general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland was also at the Warner lot, which was not one of the four locations the union told its member actors to turn out for support. Those four locations are Universal, CBS, Paramount and Fox.

"Judging by the turnout here, it's an excellent show of solidarity," Crabtree-Ireland said.

While SAG is not encouraging its members to not come into work, the guild is recommending that members take their own time, including during lunch breaks and after work, to join the picket lines.

The same could be said for other unions. But that didn't stop Teamsters Local 399 member Robert Marchetti to show his support.

Standing on the corner at Warners Gate 2 Marchetti got the attention of fellow teamsters driving by in studio trucks, throwing his hands up at them and giving them exaggerated shrugs.

"I'm pissed," Marchetti said. "I'm not crossing the picket line.

"It might not affect them today, but two weeks, three weeks down the line, it's going to affect them. It's going to creep up on them.

"It's them today," he added. "It could be us tomorrow."

Universal Studios

"Factory Girl" director George Hickenlooper was among the couple hundred picketers who blanketed Universal Studios as a steady stream of drivers in passing cars showed their support by honking.

The picketers -- most of whom were wearing WGA buttons or T-shirts with such taglines as "Unfair is unfunny" and even "SAG supports WGA" -- were scattered around the various gates of the studio, many in groups along Lankershim Boulevard as well as at locations on Barham Boulevard and a street leading up to the front of CityWalk.

Hickenlooper, who also has written and helmed such films as "Mayor of the Sunset Strip" and "Dogtown," said he chose to stand outside Universal because that's where his first film, "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse," was cut. He said he was encouraged that "some progress" had been made during the last-minute talks Sunday but noted that it was not enough.

Still, "I'm hopeful that negotiations will continue and the writers guild will get a fair deal," said Hickenlooper, who had been on the picket line since 8:30 a.m. Monday. "Our contract is 22 years old now, and it's completely unfair."

Amid the honking, Hickenlooper noted: "I don't think the studios anticipated the kind of support we have. We're serious about this strike."

Also among the picketers at Universal was screenwriter Alan Sereboff ("Snowblind, "The Payback All-Star Review"), one of the strike captains, who noted the significance of what the writers are striking for.

"It's not just normal housekeeping issues," said Sereboff, who had been at the studio since 8 a.m.

Referring to Sunday's negotiations, he added: "I'm disappointed they didn't provide closure to this. We took DVDs off the table ... but we need to protect our residuals in (new media). We don't want to be fooled again."


At Sony, batches of about a few dozen pickets were broken down into at least three groups for posting at gates around the studio's Culver City lot. A few members of SAG, though still under contract to the studios, were on hand to help with picket duty.

"I'm just here to support the writers," film and TV actor John Dennis Johnston said. "We're all part of the creative team."

He noted the guild's talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers ultimately broke down over terms for compensation writers for new-media content.

"You do your work, and it lives forever, and you should be paid forever for it including (residuals) on all the new technologies," Johnston said.

Screenwriter Rob Adetuyi ("Stomp the Yard") said he was solidly in support of the strike action.

"We're doing what we need to do," Adetuyi said.

Asked why Sunday's session ended in failure despite some clear shifts in previous positions by both parties, the WGA writer said he was supporting the strike based on his faith in guild leadership.

"Our negotiators were in the room and know the tone (of the eleventh-hour talks)," he said. "You have to trust your negotiators."

Film and TV scribe Christopher Knopf, one of the WGAW strike captains at Sony, said there were two main criteria in assigning members to pickets at the various company locations.

"One, it's where they live, and two, where they work," Knopf said.


I'm sorry but why does anyone care what Julia Louis-Dreyfus thinks? She's got enough money she doesn't have to work.

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With the writers strike under way, Fox is switching up its 2008 schedule.

The major moves include indefinitely postponing the premiere of “24,” moving up the launch of “Hell’s Kitchen” into spring and setting premiere dates for several new shows.

Overall, Fox plans a mix of reality and repeats, along with running off its remaining stock of scripted originals.

Even with an ongoing strike expected to dry up scripted episodes, a few freshman projects are being dropped into airless Friday nights.

There’s a large number of changes here, so let’s get to it:

* Mondays: Fox originally scheduled “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and “24.” With only a modest number of “24” episodes reportedly complete, the season-seven premiere is being postponed “to ensure that ‘Day 7’ can air uninterrupted, in its entirety,” Fox says. Now “Prison Break” will launch the night, followed by “Connor” starting Jan. 14 (“Connor” will have a special premiere on Sunday, Jan. 13). Factoring in the limited number of completed shows available, the reality project “When Women Rule the World” will fill in at 8 p.m. starting March 3 and “House” repeats will take over at 9 p.m. on March 10.

* Tuesdays: “American Idol” has its two-hour season premiere as planned Jan. 15 at 8 p.m. Starting Jan. 22, “Idol” will scale back to one hour and “House” will fall into the 9 p.m. slot. “Hell’s Kitchen” will take over for “House” April 1.

* Wednesdays: Some modest shuffling here, with a planned 8 p.m. sitcom block replaced by reality. After a two-hour “Idol” on Jan. 16, the new lie detector game show hosted by Mark L. Walberg “Moment of Truth” (formerly called "Nothing But the Truth") falls into the 9 p.m. hour, then “Back to You” repeats at 9:30 p.m.

* Thursdays: “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” return Jan. 10.

* Fridays: Traditionally a dead night for Fox, but several freshman scripted projects are being dropped into the night. Repeats of “Bones” and “House” start Jan. 4. Immortal detective drama “New Amsterdam” takes the 9 p.m. slot starting Feb. 22 (by that time CBS will have presumably run out of episodes of its own immortal detective drama, "Moonlight," which currently airs in the same time period). Parker Posey comedy “The Return of Jezebel James,” originally scheduled for Wednesdays, will be paired with “Til Death” repeats on Fridays starting March 7. Starting April 11, “New Amsterdam” will be replaced by another freshman drama, the courtroom drama “Canterbury’s Law” starring Julianna Margulies, which was once slotted for Thursdays.

* Sundays: No changes to the lineup when it launches Jan. 6. On Feb. 3, Fox has the Super Bowl followed by an original of “House” with guest star Mira Sorvino. There’s the “Connor” premiere Jan. 13. On March 2, the comedy “Unhitched” gets a run at 9:30 p.m.


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Strike about to cost jobs

A day after Hollywood's writers went out on strike, the major studios are hitting back with plans to suspend scores of long-term deals with television production companies, jeopardizing the jobs of hundreds of rank-and-file employees whose names never appear in the credits.

Assistants, development executives and production managers will soon be out of work, joining their better-paid bosses who opted to sacrifice paychecks as members of the Writers Guild of America. At some studios, the first wave of letters are going out today, hitting writer-producers whose companies don't currently have shows in production.

"Anyone who's not working on pilots or shows is going to get suspension letters," said one top studio executive.

That the studios are unleashing these rapid suspension notices so early into the strike underscores just how hostile their relationship has become with the writers who supply them with a steady stream of TV programs.

Now, in addition to having writers going without pay, many other entertainment industry employees will have to worry about their car payments and rent. That is likely to have a broad impact beyond Tinseltown, rippling across the Los Angeles region's entire economy.

The Writers Guild, whose 10,000 members began picketing Monday morning, decried the studios' tactic. "This is an industry based on talent, and to break relations with the most talented people in town is not a very good business plan," said Jeff Hermanson, assistant executive director for Writers Guild of America, West.

These suspensions stop payments to production companies that are largely bankrolled by studios, which count on them to come up with the next "Grey's Anatomy" or "House." Under multi-year deals, studios such as Warner Bros., Walt Disney Co., and 20th Century Fox pay for the salaries, the office space, the project development costs, even the utilities whether these entities generate hits or not. Producers and writers typically serve as creative heads of these companies, which vary in size from a handful of employees to hundreds, most of whom do not belong to the WGA.

The major studios that have issued or are planning suspensions include Fox, CBS Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros. and NBC Universal. Sony has yet to act, two people familiar with the issue said. Not all production companies financed by the studios will be cut off. The most prolific ones, run by such high-profile figures as David E. Kelley ("Boston Legal," "The Practice") and John Wells ("ER"), are unlikely to be touched, according to studio executives.

If the strike continues for long, some studios are expected to follow suit with their less fruitful movie production deals, using the same escape clause.

The employment contracts that studios have with talent contain a provision known as force majeure that allows them in a crisis situation such as a strike to suspend and terminate deals. Before a deal can be ended, a studio must first suspend it for a period of time, typically for four to eight weeks.

Some studios are using this clause to purge expensive and unproductive arrangements, according to industry executives.

"It's so sick," said one television writer worried about getting a suspension letter who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job. "The studios are using the strike to clean their books, getting rid of the writers they don't want and keeping the ones they do."

Dana Gould, a former writer on "The Simpsons," described the studios' tactic as a "controlled burn" strategy that would save these giant companies millions of dollars. He said the timing couldn't be better, amid television's recent poor ratings.

"It's a reboot. They want to hit Control-Alt-Delete on the fall season," Gould said.

Studio executives said the writers have no one to blame but themselves, though they declined to be quoted by name.

"In firing the bullet from the gun, they've declared war," one top executive said.

The collateral damage is likely to include people such as a 30-year-old assistant at a TV production company who depends on a weekly check of about $600 for food, shelter and gas.

"Everybody's worried," he said. "We live check to check and hope things pan out. None of us want a strike." The assistant, who asked not to be named, works at a company that hasn't been suspended yet because it's still producing a show.

Dawn Parouse, an executive producer of "Prison Break" for Fox, said she assumed she would get a letter ending her production deal after seven years at the studio -- as soon as her company finished shooting the episodes that have been written.

Barring a settlement, her head of development and two assistants also would have to hit the street.


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In 88 they went out for 22 weeks plunging the majority of Hollywood into a mini Depression. Think about everybody from Directors down to waiters and valet parkers who depend on a working writing class.

It's naive to think it would only last a week. My prediction: they will break after a few months and this season will be written off. Look for things like Heroes, Chuck and Journeyman to be gone next season. All new shows this season look to be burned from the get go. Something like Lost might benefit from this as they will just have a no-go or a late seaseon...season.

I'm totally interested, however, in the boom of undistributed studio projects (ie: purchased independent films) to hit theatres soon. Stuf that the studio is sitting on might get green lit for release much sooner. Like Trick R Treat ( a Halloween-themed film slated for release in February).

Call me an asshole and unsupportive of my union brothers, but I'm actually excited by what this strike might cause.

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I think the WGA is underestimating how long the studios will hold out. I think they can go until next summer before they will break. By then they will have to start filming the new tv season and the 2009 summer movies. Before that they will just go with stuff from overseas and independent movies that normally wouldn't see the light of day. That's why I think they jumped the gun too early on the strike.

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I think the WGA is underestimating how long the studios will hold out. I think they can go until next summer before they will break. By then they will have to start filming the new tv season and the 2009 summer movies. Before that they will just go with stuff from overseas and independent movies that normally wouldn't see the light of day. That's why I think they jumped the gun too early on the strike.


Longer than that. Essentially, the studios can put the ball in the court of the WGA and end scripted television for good until they decide to come back. The re-runs and movies TV distributors already own can more than fill a season or two. Not to mention all of the new reality shows we'll see in the coming months. I'm actually enjoying Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares...

The studios have the resources to hold out indefinitely. They can bankrupt the entire city of Hollywood and the film industry in America and come out unscathed. That's the problem. It's a strike that cannot be won.

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