Alan Wertheimer likes vintage cars, playing baseball and restoring Craftsman furniture. He’s known for scouting prospective clients by reading spec scripts and attending film fests. He’s also the seasoned showbiz dealmaker who helped WGA leaders get over the last high hurdles in negotiations with the AMPTP.
Wertheimer, partner in showbiz law firm Jackoway, Tyerman, Wertheimer, Austen, Mandelbaum, Morris and Klein, was perfectly cast in the role of behind-the-scenes conciliator.
“He’s a nice, decent, honest person who works hard, cares about his clients and is smart as hell,” says screenwriter Ron Bass, a member of the WGAnegotiating committee and a longtime client of Wertheimer’s (the two worked for the same law firm in the ’80s before Bass shifted career gears).
Bass suggested Wertheimer would be a good addition to Team WGA after Disney’s Robert Igerand News Corp.’s Peter Chernin agreed to take part in small-group talks aimed at ending the crippling strike.
Wertheimer certainly had the experience for the assignment: He reps a long list of top screenwriters, and just last year he wrangled the Writers Co-Op deal for John Wells, Tom Schulman, Nick Kazan and 16 other top scribes at Warner Bros. It also helped that Wertheimer had forged a good relationship with WGA exec director David Young when Jackoway, Tyerman handled the negotiations for the interim agreement that longtime client David Letterman struck with the WGA in December for his Worldwide Pants banner.
Wertheimer was in the middle of lunch at Sundance when Young called to enlist him. The Directors Guild of America had just unveiled its completed deal with the AMPTP, and Wertheimer realized that if the WGA strike persisted beyond the mid-February deadline for salvaging the TV season or for a traditional Oscarcast, “it was going to be many, many months before the guild would have that kind of leverage again,” he says. “In the meantime, there was the possibility of a lot of (WGA) defections and disunity. If there was going to be a successful negotiation, the best chance of it happening was right then.”
There was an audible sigh of relief in Hollywood when word spread that Wertheimer had been retained by the guild in the same kind of consiglieri role for the WGA that legal eagle Ken Ziffren played in the DGA talks.
“He provided comfort to both sides,” says Endeavor partner Rick Rosen. “To the WGA side (Wertheimer) was someone who many of their high-profile members knew and trusted, and he had the experience in making deals and having a dialogue with the CEOs.”
By all accounts, once Chernin and Iger got into the same physical space as Young, negotiations committee chief John Bowman and WGA West prexy Patric Verrone, it wasn’t too arduous to get them all in the same general head space on a contract.
The tone in the room “was always cordial,” Wertheimer says. “It started off cautious but gradually warmed up and became very productive. It was clear that both sides really wanted to find solutions to the various issues.”