Will new pact be template for WGA contract?
A strike-weary industry greeted the tentative agreement between the DGA and AMPTP with a sense of relief, coupled with residual apprehension over whether the gains will be enough to get writers out from under picket signs and back behind keyboards.
“I’ve read the bullet points, and it is a step in the right direction, it shows that agreement is possible, and it brings a spirit of hope that hopefully will extend to the WGA and the AMPTP,” said director Oliver Stone. “If it is not taken in that spirit, that would be most unfortunate.”
While writers, directors, dealmakers, producers and execs were poring over specifics of the deal, most were trying to figure out if WGA leadership can now make a deal and walk away feeling satisfied with serving as the spear tip that helped directors get better terms than were being offered the writers.
Others expected top actors to seize the momentum of the deal to press SAG to try and make a deal that will eliminate the possibility of an encore strike when the SAG deal ends this summer.
George Clooney was among the first to applaud the first positive development on the labor front in the past three months.
“I’m very pleased with the new agreement and I hope it helps speed up the negotiations with the WGA,” Clooney said in a statement.
While many were catching planes to Park City when the DGA announced its deal Thursday afternoon, the pending pact was the talk of Sundance. Film buyers hoped the prospect of renewed production might ease the pricetags of festival acquisitions.
“This is great news, and it’s ironic that the deal was announced the day before selling starts, because everyone had been hearing that there was going to be outrageous prices because of the strike,” said one buyer. “The AFM suffered from product that was too expensive because everyone was petrified that their supply lines would dry up.”
Even if the WGA can now negotiate a deal that will be acceptable to membership, most feel that the union leadership and AMPTP will need at least three weeks to hammer out a pact.
Several writers said the guild might be smart to replicate the DGA strategy of holding lower-pressure informal meetings, to find common ground, before officially reopening talks that will lead to a contract that WGA leadership can take to membership.
“One thing that is very clear is that with all the bad blood between the WGA and studios, the writers can strike until the end of time and they will not do better than the directors did,” said one veteran agent who crystallized the view of many dealmakers. “It is time to stop this.”
The directors’ deal was being scrutinized on lots all over Hollywood, and many felt the long series of informal meetings, coupled with the detailed study that the DGA commissioned, helped it make a pact better than many thought the studios would give.
One producer said that exacting distributors’ gross instead of producers’ gross was a substantial victory, but he felt writers will still have lingering questions of authorship in new media.
“This wasn’t important to directors because they don’t create characters that will be used in a zillion ways unless the writers get some protection,” the producer said.
One writer, who has been part of a moderate faction of showrunners and screenwriters who making their presence known to WGA leadership, felt there should be enough positives in the directors deal to prompt the WGA and AMPTP to end the bitterness and make a deal.
“I think this will be enough to get the deal done,” said the scribe. “Even on the most aggressive invitation-only writer discussion sites, about 50% of people think this is enough. Many of us feel that this is the deal to make and if we don’t embrace it, it’s over because people will go fi-core, immediately.”
Director Michael Bay said he was cautiously optimistic, but that he has been preparing to get a “Transformers” sequel into production, strike or no strike.
“We knew from early on that the writers strike could get ugly, and this has got to bring a little sanity to the situation,” Bay said. “I can’t do the movie without my writers, but I have been prepping. I’m not in the guild, but I’ve been writing every day. This strike (is) insane, and a director’s responsibility is to the 50 crew members who depend on you for their livelihoods. We’ve got battle plans ready for the possibility of an actors strike. Somehow, you’ve got to keep the ball rolling.”