Talks between WGA leaders and top studio execs on Friday and Saturday have been productive enough to generate some cautious optimism that a settlement to the strike may soon be within reach.
WGA negotiating committee head John Bowman and WGA West exec director David Young had a lengthy meeting with News Corp. prexy Peter Chernin and Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger on Friday that was described as having gone well on balance following some tension at the outset. It’s understood that those conversations continued on Saturday, though it was not clear if it was by phone or face-to-face.
But insiders said there was enough progress being made to raise the prospect of WGA leaders bringing a contract proposal directly to the boards of the WGA West and WGA East, possibly bypassing the resumption of formal bargaining between the WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Sources indicated the informal talks had progressed to the point where draft language of a tentative deal was being drawn up and exchanged by lawyers and reps for both sides.
WGA’s 17-member negotiating committee and the WGA West’s board are already skedded to hold separate meetings on Monday, at noon and 3 p.m., respectively.
Chernin and Iger began the informal talks with WGA toppers on Jan. 22, on the heels of the AMPTP sealing a deal with the Directors Guild of America that the studios aim to use as a template for a WGA pact. A big stumbling block for the WGA is said to be the terms agreed to by the DGA for web streaming of TV shows and movies. The United Hollywood.com blog reported Saturday that “creative solutions to the biggest differences between the AMPTP and the WGA have gotten the tentative and cautious approval of both sides.”
Neither WGA or AMPTP reps would comment on the status of talks in accordance with the news blackout both camps have agreed to.
Going into the weekend, studio toppers were said to be frustrated with the lack of substantive progress in the talks, which were designed to lay the groundwork for the resumption of formal bargaining.
The AMPTP and WGA last met in a formal session on Dec. 7. WGA has been on strike since Nov. 5.
— Cynthia Littleton and Dave McNary