WGA holiday planning begins

Strike won't slow down until next week

Even with the approach of the holiday season, the WGA strike won’t start slowing down until next week.

Final day of WGA picketing at studio lots in Los Angeles is expected to be Monday, although the Writers Guild of America hasn’t officially confirmed those plans. Picketing would presumably resume during the first week in January.

With the WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers still seething at each other, the biz has been turning its attention to the prospect that the AMPTP will start talks with the Directors Guild; the DGA may shed some light on scheduling once it holds its directors council meeting today. The DGA talks, expected to launch early next month, will face the same challenge that derailed the WGA negotiations: how to compensate creative talent for new-media work.

The DGA’s been prepping for the talks for the past year and is expected to present extensive documentation on the key issue of how to monetize new media.

There’s virtually no chance that the WGA and AMPTP will return to the bargaining table any time soon following Friday’s bitter meltdown over the AMPTP’s ultimatum that the WGA remove half a dozen demands in order for negotiations to continue.

For the time being, the guild’s got plenty on its plate with picket lines at the usual locations plus an ongoing variety of special events — such as Tuesday’s delivery of half a million pencils, purchased by TV fans supporting the strike, to moguls Robert Iger, Jeff Zucker and Jeffrey Immelt.

The WGA has slated a Diversity Day event for noon today at Par; notables set to attend include Tichina Arnold, Amy Brenneman, Mara Brock Akil, Katherine Heigl, T.R. Knight, Ali LeRoi, Sara Ramirez, Shonda Rhimes, Tracee Ellis Ross, KaDee Strickland and Chandra Wilson.

In Gotham, about 300 strikers and supporters turned out to picket ABC Daytime and leaflet the audience line for “The View” amid near-freezing temps; notables included Pete Hamill, Dana Delany, Nora Ephron and Andrew Bergman. “View” host Whoopi Goldberg sent out hot chocolate for the pickets and, after the show, stopped by the picket line with Joy Behar, Bill Geddie and several other staffers.

WGA members continue to publicly support their leaders; no organized opposition has emerged. But the AMPTP is clearly hoping it can persuade guild members to question the strategies that have led to a six-week strike with no end in sight.

For example, a day after WGA members launched an AMPTP spoof site, the AMPTP has launched an upgrade to its actual site at AMPTP.org — one that includes a real-time calculator of what the AMPTP says the strike is costing writers.

The AMPTP’s quick dissemination Friday evening of its statement about the six points that it wanted off the bargaining table as a condition of continued negotiations led many observers, both in and outside of the WGA, to believe that the congloms went into the talks that day preparing to make its dramatic ultimatum.

But AMPTP insiders insist that wasn’t the case and that the decision to draw the line on the six points — led by the issue of the guild’s pursuit of reality and animation jurisdiction — was influenced by the course of the talks during the day. Moreover, WGA West prexy Patric Verrone’s fiery insistence that reality jurisdiction “will be in our next contract” at the WGA’s Friday rally further convinced AMPTP leaders, they say, that the impasse on jurisdiction would persist.

It’s understood that AMPTP execs were hopeful the inclusion of a new offer on residuals for ad-supported Web streaming of theatrical features in new media would provide enough traction for the two sides to continue negotiating. AMPTP insiders said guild reps continued to focus on the jurisdictional matters, but WGA sources strongly deny that jurisdiction dominated the conversation inside the negotiating room Friday.

“We were preparing our counter on the new-media issues when Nick Counter made his move,” drawing the line on the six points, said one WGA insider. “We weren’t talking about jurisdiction at all.”

Still, AMPTP insiders said the companies had drawn up several shell statements to release Friday — ranging from, in the words of one insider “great news” to “good news” to “talks will resume Monday” to the breakdown of negotiations that was ultimately triggered shortly after 6 p.m.

AMPTP sources also said that its side presented a comprehensive proposal package — a sweetened version of its New Economic Partnership — at about 2:30 p.m. Friday. The most notable items in the package included the following:

  • increased minimums for network primetime and daytime serial script fees;

  • a first-time proposal for residuals for ad-supported streaming of features;

  • detailed terms on the AMPTP’s “promotional uses” proposal, which had provoked criticism from the WGA that it was designed to circumvent payment of residuals on streaming.

The AMPTP narrowed the proposal to spell out the duration of excerpts that the companies could use to promote or advertise films and TV shows. Insiders said the AMPTP proposed allowing clips up to five minutes for a half-hour series and up to 10 minutes for an hourlong show.

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