Best quote to come from today’s 1:30 p.m. newser at the Writers Guild HQ:
“We have 48 hours. What we really want to do isn’t to strike. What we want to do is negotiate. There still is time.” — WGA Negotiating Committee head John Bowman.
The atmosphere at the guild’s HQ was tight-lipped and fairly grim. This was not a coffee-and-pastry kind of affair.
There wasn’t much rhetorical grandstanding by guild brass, and both WGA West prexy Patric Verrone and his WGA East counterpart Michael Winship seemed earnest in expressing that they are more than willing to go back to the bargaining table, so long as the producers ease up on the stance that the home video residual formula be applied to the new media realm as well — at least “electronic sell-through,” or digital downloads, of existing films and TV programs.
“There is still time and a deal to be made before this strike begins. We urge the studios and the networks to come back and bargain fairly,” Winship said.
During the wait for the newser to begin, there was some clucking among the journos and camera folks that the WGA had already gone to the trouble of getting a camera-ready screen backdrop reading “Writers Guild of America Contract 2007.”
But after hearing them out, I’m convinced that none of the guild leadership wanted it to get that far — despite the many accusations to the contrary. When asked whether there was any peacemaker who might step forward to avert this disaster, Verrone sounded firm in his resolve that “what we are seeking is fair,” but not damn-the-torpedos defiant, either.
“No one was able to prevent us coming to this moment. There is still a chance that someone or someones will and that’s what we look forward to,” Verrone said.
Among the many immediate concerns for WGA members on this dark Friday is what to do with those scripts they’ve been furiously writing up until the Pencils Down moment arrives. The WGA is asking scribes to turn in copies of their eleventh-hour scripts to the guild so that they can see where the pages stand at the time they were turned in — and compare them to produced work down the road should things get that far. Studios, of course, are wigging out about this WGA strike rule, and some of them have even dispatched formal letters to scribes under contract expressly stating that they’ll be in breach of their agreements contracts if they ship their scripts to the guild.
So what’s a working writer to do? I’m told by a veteran talent rep who has vivid memories of the Five Months War of 1988 that scribes would be well-advised to turn in their scripts to their commissioning bodies, and then head to the post office to drop a copy in the mail to themselves, and then stick that package unopened in a drawer. That way they’ll have a postmark time stamp to prove, should guild brass inquire later, when they stopped working on it and what shape the script was in when it was turned in.