You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Writers’ demands set off Short fuse

Soderbergh solution, Harvey's Oscar secret

NEW YORK — Thomas Short thinks the Writers Guild of America is full of hot air.

“Their issues are clearly unclear to me,” he said in a phone interview with Daily Variety from his L.A. office.

The prexy of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees denounced the WGA’s strike goals as hazy and wrongheaded.

“If anybody thinks I’m going to support an institution that is trying to obtain unobtainable proposals in a collective bargaining process … I don’t mind getting on a bus, but not on a bus without a driver that’s going over a cliff.”

He pointed to the squabbling over things like “a film by” credits and access to the set as senseless.

“Last time I checked, there was a reason why they called a director a director,” he said. “Who’s the gaffer going to talk to, the writer or the director? Who’s the director of photography going to talk to, the writer or the director? You can’t disrupt an industry entirely like that. You’re not even dealing with egos here. You’re dealing with megalomaniacs.”

Furthermore, Short doesn’t trust the writers to be honest to their union if they actually go on strike.

“If the Writers Guild strikes, they’re still going to be out writing scripts under assumed names. So it’s laughable,” he said.

The WGA, in its fourth week of contract talks with studios and networks, had no comment about Short’s remarks. The WGA contract expires May 2.

If the writers settle, Short thinks SAG will follow with a settlement as well. But if the writers don’t settle and SAG does, then the scribes could be out of luck, he said.

But he maintained the scribes should exert a more powerful influence on the thesps, if only because their contract will be handled first. “Writers have a tremendous amount of influence with (SAG president William) Daniels,” Short said.

As for SAG, the rambunctious IA topper, who has nearly gone on strike with his 100,000-plus IA workers in years past, thinks the guild needs to create a better internal structure or just improve its public relations.

“It appears to almost everybody that that organization has imploded in their infrastructure,” Short said. “It’s kind of like, who’s in charge?

“I know they have not been at the bargaining table. The only way you settle a contract, the last time I checked, is at the bargaining table,” he added.

The below-the-line workers are said to be unenthused about supporting potential writers and actors strikes because when the IATSE threatened to strike, SAG and the WGA were nowhere to be found.

SAG’s threat of a work stoppage was bolstered by the six-month duration of its commercial strike last summer, but Short said the strategy was equally opaque.

“It wasn’t clear what (SAG’s) strategy was during the commercial strike,” he said. “Another unobtainable proposal. And they have convinced themselves that they have won in that dispute.”

Short nonetheless backed SAG — but not until four months into the strike, after Daniels called Short and asked for help.

SAG’s film-TV contract expires July 1 and it has blamed producers’ late delivery of residuals data for being unable to set a start date for negotiations. SAG has insisted it can be ready to begin talks early next month on non-residual matters.

“We are very mindful of the impact the commercials strike had beyond our members,” SAG spokesman Greg Krizman. “We’re very aware of our responsibility.”

The confusion at SAG may be its ultimate undoing, said Short.

Short said the guild went first to Michael Ovitz to negotiate its contract. (Ovitz was unavailable for comment.) Then, Short added, it considered former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and, ultimately, former president Bill Clinton.

Said Short: “That sums it all up, to be honest.”

But Krizman said that none of the trio were contacted by SAG to his knowledge. The union will decide on a negotiator within a week.

SODERBERGH SOLUTION: I have an answer for any Steven Soderbergh fans who think he might get shafted in the best director category by voters who can’t choose between his two films.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences should allow the votes in the director category for “Traffic” and for “Erin Brockovich” to be lumped together and counted as a single Soderbergh vote.

The helmer shouldn’t be shortchanged simply because he was talented enough to direct two films that are Oscar-worthy in the same year. And he shouldn’t be forced into the demeaning role of asking voters to choose one or the other.

Michael Curtiz was nominated in 1939 for both “Angels With Dirty Faces” and “Four Daughters.” He didn’t win for either; Frank Capra took the best helmer nod for “You Can’t Take It With You.”

Soderbergh has smartly steered clear of comment on the situation.

SWEET ‘CHOCOLAT’: Harvey Weinstein has done it yet again with “Chocolat,” which stunned Hollywood with five Oscar nominations.

The media — including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times — have dedicated digging pieces to Harvey’s handiwork and marketing. Wednesday night’s “Charlie Rose Show” had four major film critics — David Denby, Richard Corliss, Janet Maslin and Owen Gleiberman — decrying the Miramax co-chair for his alleged ability to manipulate the Oscar race.

How does he do it?

Weinstein shared his insight with Daily Variety.

“I’ll give you the secret once and for all,” he said. “You just have to get people to see the movie. Six thousand Academy members are flooded with 50 movies each. At the end of the day, no Academy member that I know is ever influenced by the marketing in their decision. They’re only influenced in seeing the movie.”

Weinstein has chalked up 10 best pic noms in the last nine years. And that nomination works wonders at the box office. Last year Miramax cleaned up on “The Cider House Rules” at the B.O. after it got the best pic nod, among others.

“The word of mouth was always really strong,” Miramax spokeswoman Marci Granata says of “Chocolat.” The Oscar voters “responded very strongly to the film.”

Weinstein explains that “Chocolat” was “a beloved movie” at its very first Academy screening in early December. “We knew it then. We knew that’s where we’d turn our focus,” he said.

If you have information or just gripes, please contact Dan Cox at dcox@cahners.com.

Popular on Variety

More Voices

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Tom Hanks Mr Rogers A BEAUTIFUL

    Tom Hanks' Portrayal of Mister Rogers May Put Him Back in Oscar's 'Neighborhood'

    Sony recently hosted a SAG-AFTRA screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Marielle Heller-directed drama starring Matthew Rhys as a magazine writer who befriends Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks. While the screening didn’t include a guild Q&A with cast or the film’s creative team, the audience was greeted with a video message from [...]

  • Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese,

    Martin Scorsese and 'The Irishman' Enter Oscar Race With World Premiere at NYFF

    Even with its three-hour run time and a short 28 days in theaters before it’s available on Netflix, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is likely to be a major contender at the Oscars. The 57th New York Film Festival opened on Friday night with the world premiere of the epic real-life mob drama. Scorsese and his [...]

  • Brad Pitt Once Upon a Time

    How Much Does Hitting the Awards Season Circuit Really Matter to Stars Like Brad Pitt?

    “Do you want an Oscar?” That’s the first question one top awards consultant asks any potential contender when they first start talking. Everyone is wondering how Brad Pitt would answer that question these days. He recently raised eyebrows and made headlines when he proclaimed that he would not be campaigning this awards season. “Oh, man. I’m [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Barry Bill Hader

    Emmys 2019: Clear Favorites and Top Challengers for This Year's Winners (Column)

    If this felt like the longest, most expensive Emmy campaign in history, you might be right. For one thing, the 2019 Primetime Emmys will be held Sept. 22, which is the latest the ceremony has taken place since 2013. That also happened to be the last year of TV’s quaint, pre-streaming era, before outlets like [...]

  • Fleabag Succession Emmys

    Could 'Fleabag' and 'Succession' Be Spoilers on Emmy Night? (Column)

    At the onset, this year’s Emmy Awards felt a bit anticlimactic, as the final seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” appeared to have this year’s drama and comedy categories locked up before campaigning even began. But that’s how upsets happen: Just when we’re pretty confident about how things might go, a couple of wild [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content