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WGAs breaks down the strike for the MBAs

Numbers flew Tuesday night as a trio of screenwriters attempted to articulate the dizzying details of the WGA strike, now in its tenth week.

“Field of Dreams” scribe Phil Robinson, a member of the guild’s negotiating committee, was the most passionate speaker, drawing on his experience in the past four heated negotiations with the AMPTP. He not only dubbed their Dec. 7 walk from the table “illegal,” but also said the studios wanted to use the Internet to “wipe the slate clean and make this a non-union town.” 

Writer Robert King and David Goodman, an executive producer and writer for “Family Guy,” walked through the current numbers game, explaining the WGA’s sticking points on new media.

Robinson was careful not to lead the discussion down a rabbit hole of figures and percentages, reminding the audience that their independent bean counters at Bear Sterns claimed their cause was small change for the studios. “The producers can afford to lose,” he said. “We can’t.”

King, another negotiation committee member, highlighted the intense emotions involved when allies – such as Jay Leno – bend rules. “It puts people you love and respect in an extremely difficult situation,” he said. But Robinson was quick to point out that Leno’s monologues are “a real problem.”

The 60-person crowd, made up mostly of MBA students, didn’t seem fazed by the math and voiced support for the writers while occasionally playing devil’s advocate.

Robinson closed the discussion on a note of solidarity, saying he hasn’t seen a single writer lift a pen. In a last-ditch effort to inject humor into the somber talk, he noted low public confidence in studios, according to recent polls. “More people believe in UFOs than studios,” he said. “Now there’s someone who would kill for George Bush’s ratings.”

The event, Screenwriters’ Perspective on Writer Strike, was held at UCLA and sponsored by the Writers Guild Foundation and Scripped.com. The discussion was not sponsored by UCLA.

— Derek Peters