WGA pacts with Spyglass, MRC

AMPTP downplays impact of interim deals

The Writers Guild of America has reached interim agreements with Spyglass Entertainment and Media Rights Capital, the guild’s fourth and fifth such pacts following similar deals with Worldwide Pants, UA and the Weinstein Co.

The WGA disclosed the new deals Monday as the writers strike moved into its 11th week.

The AMPTP issued a statement downplaying the impact of the Spyglass and MRC interim deals, asserting, “These one-off agreements are meaningless because the companies signing them know they will not have to abide by their terms for very long, since they’ll be superseded by whatever final industrywide accords are reached. If companies truly had to live by the terms of these one-off agreements, we are confident none would ever be signed.”

But Spyglass co-topper Gary Barber said he was pleased to ink the pact. “We’re back in business,” he added. “We’ll go back into full production mode, developing scripts and looking for new projects.”

Barber didn’t identify specific pics, but the interim deal will allow Spyglass to move forward on projects including “Ironbow: The Legend of William Tell,” which has director Kevin Reynolds attached. In recent months, Spyglass picked up bigscreen rights to Neil Strauss dating tome “The Game,” with Dan Weiss signed to adapt, and remake rights to David Cronenberg’s “The Brood,” with Cory Goodman tapped to pen the screenplay.

As for MRC, the deal allows it to go forward on a slate of features with Sacha Baron Cohen and Cameron Diaz and directors Robert Rodriguez, Ricky Gervais, Richard Kelly, Walter Salles, Bennett Miller and Todd Field. MRC’s planning to move into TV production and is engaged in the creation of digital content through pacts with thesp Raven-Symone and “Family Guy” creator-exec producer Seth MacFarlane.

“This deal allows us to get back to work,” said MRC co-chief exec Asif Satchu. “We can turn the lights back on.”

WGA West president Patric Verrone said the MRC deal began as an effort to cover MacFarlane and his “Family Guy” writers on 50 webisodes produced for Google. Verrone said the pact covers nearly three dozen projects — features, TV series and Internet content including projects with Larry David and Gordon Ramsay — and that other deals are in the works.

“The general terms are the same as the earlier independent agreements we’ve signed,” Verrone said. “But unlike other agreements, Original Internet content will now be written by WGA members with full MBA coverage — something the conglomerates told us repeatedly they couldn’t afford to do.”

Verrone also said the MRC deal represents part of the WGA’s “divide and conquer” strategy to put competitive pressure on the congloms to return to the bargaining table. The WGA-AMPTP talks collapsed Dec. 7 when the majors insisted that the guild remove half a dozen proposals as a condition of continuing to negotiate.

Terms of the MRC agreement are similar to those in the Worldwide Pants and UA deals, which contain online residuals of 2.5% of distributor’s gross for TV programming and 2% for films.

On made-for-Internet production, the WGA offered the AMPTP a high-budget and low-budget production option, with initial compensation on low-budget works negotiable on a case-by-case basis and the high-budget production remuneration derived from the minimums that generally apply to hourlong cable shows. That fee — about $12,000 if a scribe delivers both story and teleplay — is divided into one-minute increments and then paid depending on the length of the work, though scribes will be guaranteed to be paid for at least two minutes’ worth of work.

The residual formula for original new-media works is a flat 2.5% of distributors’ gross, paid on a quarterly basis, for both high-budget and low-budget productions.

(Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.)

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