Hollywood continues to work The Day After

Deadline fever gripped much of Hollywood last week, as studios and scribes scrambled to put the finishing touches on their projects by midnight Oct. 31 — only to see the deadline lapse.

WGA reps say the number of last-minute registrations surely spiked, but they had no way of immediately determining by how much. Typically, the WGA/West registers 50,000 scripts annually.

The Day After, execs and scribes continued to work on projects, albeit at less manic levels than in the week leading up to the deadline, all in pursuit of one last payday — or one last piece of pre-strike insurance. Producers canceled more lunches and execs plowed through more scripts while the rest of the town held its breath over the evolving labor impasse.

Agents, meanwhile, egged on their scribe clients to make sure they turned in as much as possible — all the better to ensure they, and their agency, also got one more payday before a cutoff.

“I feel more like an accountant than an agent right now,” one top tenpercenter sighed.

All were glad for the reprieve, however temporary it might be.

By the contract deadline, studios had their pre-strike production lineups mostly in place, and networks were well versed on contingency plans, but the TV side was especially eager for added time to hammer out future episodes.

Deadline mania reached its apex a few days before the contract expired, with execs reading up to 10 scripts over the prior weekend and scribes staying up until all hours finishing as many as three projects.

One film writer “canceled everything — lunches, dinners, screenings — until Nov. 1, except for meetings about the work.”

A TV scribe, meanwhile, was racing until the last possible minute to finish his first feature project. “I want to get it registered with the Guild so we can shop it and shoot it if there’s a strike,” he said.

Conflicting demands over the need to validate works in progress and to register scripts with the WGA ratched up the tension further.

Those that were racing to finish assignments had misgivings whether doing so would best serve their interests or those of their studio or TV bosses. Finish a project before deadline and they had a better shot at getting paid. But the more projects they turned in, the greater leverage the studios and networks would get.

There were also concerns about what would happen to projects once they were delivered. Some scribes worried that turning in a project before it was ready would open the door to the studio modifying it during a work stoppage and releasing the mishmash with the writer’s name attached, damaging reputations.

“It’s a real Catch 22,” says one agent.

Elsewhere, even scribes who supported the idea of a strike were melancholy about prospects of a work stoppage. “We’ve got a lot of great stuff planned for the second half of the season — if we get to shoot it,” lamented one TV writer.

Josef Adalian, Michael Fleming and Dave McNary contributed to this report.

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