New York meeting offers information, hope

The two-and-a-half hour meeting of the WGA’s East Coast members was essentially informational, but members seemed to like the information they were getting.

No vote was taken but the sentiment was strong in favor of the tentative pact. Members said the room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Broadway theater district came alive with cheers at various points. Some skeptics drilled into details and asked pointed questions, but an exodus of satisfied scribes began after about an hour.

“This is a historic moment for writers in this country,” said Michael Moore. “There is a certain irony about the achievement. I would have thought it’d be autoworkers or ironworkers getting this victory but instead it’s the people who got beat up in school for writing in their journals.”

“Late Night with David Letterman” writer Bill Scheft described a galvanizing moment early on when filmmaker Terry George rose to speak. “He said we have defeated a tradition of rollbacks that goes back to the air-traffic controllers in 1981,” Scheft said. “And that was all I needed to hear.”

While not every scribe was quite as ebullient, the mood was undeniably upbeat. “I will vote for this deal but I have a few more questions because I’m bad at math,” said screenwriter Steven Katz, in a remark typical of those by rank-and-filers emerging from the hotel’s bland conference room.

Members entering the meeting, which was off-limits to the press, were handed a four-page summary of the deal. The session began with comments from negotiators, followed by an open forum.

“It’s breaking down now,” said one early departee. “People are just standing up and reciting their credits.”

Another writer described the scene as a rally for guild members who’d been picketing in Gotham for more than three chilly months. “We were proud that we all stood strong,” she said.

“It wasn’t unanimous, but there was an overwhelming sense of relief,” said Tom Phillips, a CBS newswriter and WGAE Council member.

“Saturday Night Live” cast member Seth Myers, a constant presence on the picket lines, said members felt “we were right about these things.” He said the show would resume quickly, perhaps as early as Feb. 16.

Carmen Culver, a film and TV scribe, was asked on her way out of the hotel whether the mood in the room was jubilant.

“Well, we’re writers,” she said with a smile. “There was jubilation, determination, plenty of questions.”

Added Scheft, “This is just the East Coast. The Shrine is where the action is.”

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