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April 6, 2011

WGA Ballots

Filed under: Entertainment — showbizreporting @ 2:26 pm
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WGA Ballots on the Way for Ratification Vote on Studio Deal

3:15 PM 4/5/2011 by Jonathan Handel

Ballots can be returned in person at meetings on April 26 or via mail by April 27.

The WGA deal reached last month is on its way to the membership for a ratification vote; ballots are in the mail. That’s evident from the guild website, where a member link provides access to the ratification booklet and related materials, but the guild has continued its mostly sotto voce approach this year by making no public announcement of the mailing.

The ballots are due back to the WGA by 9 a.m. on April 27. Members can also vote in person at meetings in Los Angeles and New York the day before.

Ballots were accompanied by a statement from negotiating committee co-chairs John Bowman and Billy Ray explaining why negotiations had been completed in less than three weeks of talks: “an economy still recovering from a deep recession; an economic pattern set in negotiations with other unions; and the willingness of the Companies to address the Guild’s most pressing economic need, regarding the solvency of the pension plan.”

The materials also included a cover letter from WGA West president John Wells and WGA East president Michael Winship that said, “We highly endorse ratification of this contract” and noting the unanimous recommendation of the negotiating committee, WGA West Board and WGA East Council.

The new accord with the AMPTP follows the pattern set by deals in the last few months with the actors and directors. The new three-year deal provides for 2 percent annual wage increases and a one-time 1.5 percent increase in employer contributions to the guild’s pension plan. SAG, AFTRA and the DGA received 2 percent annual increases also, and a one-time increase in employer contributions to pension and/or health plans.

The writers’ deal also includes a 20 percent increase in pay TV residuals – i.e., the residuals payable when a pay TV show such as Showtime’s Dexter is rerun on pay TV. That gain is less dramatic than the percentage may suggest, however, since those residuals are a small, fixed amount, in contrast to more lucrative formulas provided in the directors and actors agreements.

In a move that the letter acknowledged as “a concession,” the new agreement provides that network primetime residuals will be frozen at current rates for the duration of the contract. Such a move is unusual: primetime residuals usually increase when minimums do.

The new deal also includes a 2 percent increase in first year ad-supported Internet streaming of television programs. The DGA, SAG and AFTRA received a corresponding increase. In the case of the WGA, the dollar amounts involved are $16 to $32 per year.

Like the other unions, the WGA also accepted a shift from first-class air travel to new rules favoring business class and coach.

The WGA did not achieve any significant improvement in workplace conditions such as issues related to “sweepstakes pitching.”

Included with the ratification materials was a letter from WGA member Ari B. Rubin entitled “Divide and Conquer.” Although Rubin accepted the deal as the best obtainable under the circumstances, he decried what he called the studios’ strategy of “divide and conquer,” and colorfully compared it to a strategy the British army used in North Africa during World War II.


August 13, 2009

Emmys on schedule?

Emmy ceremony to proceed in real time

TV Academy, CBS ditch plan to time-shift eight categories

By Nellie Andreeva

Aug 12, 2009, 02:13 PM ET

Updated: Aug 12, 2009, 11:04 PM ET

More Emmy coverage  

It has been a season of reversals for the Primetime Emmy Awards. First, the ceremony was shifted from Sept. 20, only to be returned to that date two weeks later. Now, in an even bigger about-face, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has scrapped a plan to time-shift eight categories on this year’s broadcast after a firestorm of criticism from the creative community.

As a result, all 28 categories slated for the CBS broadcast will be awarded live.

“This decision was made to mend relationships within the television community and to allow executive producer Don Mischer to focus his full attention on producing the creative elements in the telecast,” TV academy chairman and CEO John Shaffner said. “Our goal is to celebrate the year in television and honor excellence and this year’s great achievements with the support of our industry colleagues and our telecast partner.”

Last month, Mischer proposed and ATAS’ board of governors voted to approve a time-shift of eight awards.

The proposal included mostly longform categories: best movie and best miniseries; writing for movie/miniseries; directing for movie/miniseries; supporting actor and actress in TV movie/miniseries; writing for drama series; and directing for variety, music and comedy series.

“We try to make the Emmys more relevant to mainstream viewers while honoring the choice of the academy properly and appropriately,” Mischer said at the time.

But the move drew criticism from the WGA, DGA, SAG and several networks, including HBO, which dominates the longform field. More than 100 writer-producers, including Shonda Rhimes, Seth MacFarlane, Matthew Weiner and John Wells, signed a letter protesting the decision.

That petition was the wake-up call for the Academy that created the momentum to scrap the plan, WGA West president Patric Verrone said.

“It’s important that the TV Academy appreciates the power that writers and showrunners wield when they work together and they are a force to be reckoned with,” he said.

A main point of contention was that the plan had been drafted without input from the guilds.

After the ill-fated time-shifting announcement, there have been phone conversations between the Academy and WGA.

“There will be more going forward to prevent unilateral decisions like this being made without consulting with a very important part of the creative process — writers,” Verrone said.

The creative community’s public outcry over the plan spilled into the recent Television Critics Assn. press tour, where talent and executives univocally condemned the idea and CBS execs were forced to defend it.

With the backlash showing no signs of subsiding, ATAS, after consulting with CBS, decided to back off.

Mischer said the decision to keep all Emmy categories live “was made because ultimately it is in the best interest of the show” and “in the best interest of the entertainment industry.”

“We had attempted to make room in the show for more live performances. However, our community did not embrace the plan, which is a very important consideration,” he said.

This year’s Emmycast is a crucial one for the academy coming off last year’s ceremony, which hit an all-time ratings low, and entering the final year of its contract with the broadcast networks.

With ratings for other main awards shows rebounding, the academy and CBS have been looking for ways to liven up the telecast, which includes more categories awarded live than its counterparts.

August 4, 2009

Writer’s Protest Emmys

August 3, 2009, The Hollywood Reporter

UPDATED: More than 100 current TV writers are protesting the TV Academy’s announced changes to its primetime telecast format this year.

Top showrunners such as John Wells (“Southland”), Ron Moore (“Battlestar Galactica”), Victor Fresco (“Better Off Ted”), Ed Bernero (“Criminal Minds”), Carol Mendelsohn (“CSI”), Clyde Phillips (“Dexter”), Doug Ellin (“Entourage”), Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy”), Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights”), Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy”), David Shore (“House”), Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse (“Lost”) and others have signed a statement opposing shifting two TV writing categories out of the live Emmy telecast (writing for a dramatic series and writing for a movie/miniseries).

The TV Academy announced changes to the show’s format Thursday in an attempt to make the program more expedient by time-shifting eight of the 28 categories out of the live telecast. The moves will cut about 15 minutes from the three-hour program.

“Our job is to make an entertaining show that appeals to the maximum number of people but, most importantly, maintains the integrity of the Emmy brand,” executive producer Don Mischer said at a teleconference last week. 

Though the axed categories were split among directing, writing, acting and producing, writers point out that there were only four writing categories in the primetime telecast to begin with.

The news comes as CBS presents its press tour lineup in Pasadena today, which includes a TV Academy panel to talk about this year’s Emmys.

“I don’t think we’re being unfair to the creative community,” said CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler when asked about the issue Monday. “I think coming out of the telecast last year everybody knew we had to make a change and change is not easy. Even with the time shift, which is done in a very respectful way, it will have no impact on the integrity of the program. If ratings are up, more people are going to be watching the shows.”

Here’s the protest letter signed by more than 100 TV writers:

“We, the undersigned showrunners and executive producers of television’s current line-up of programs, oppose the Academy of Television Arts and Science’s decision to remove writing awards from the live telecast. This decision conveys a fundamental understatement of the importance of writers in the creation of television programming and a symbolic attack on the primacy of writing in our industry. We implore ATAS to restore these awards to their rightful place in the live telecast of the 2009 Emmy Awards.”

On Friday, the WGA issued a strongly worded statement of its own:

 “This action of the board of governors is a clear violation of a longstanding agreement the Writers Guilds have with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences regarding their awards telecast. It is also a serious demotion for writing and a fundamental misunderstanding of the importance of writers in the creation of television programs. Last year’s Emmys suffered a tremendous decline in quality and ratings because of a lack of scripted material. That the Academy would then decide to devalue the primary and seminal role that writing plays in television is ridiculous and self-defeating.”
UPDATED: More showrunners joining the protest: Marc Cherry, David Chase, David Milch, Phil Rosenthal, Shawn Ryan, Al Jean, Shane Brennan, Carol Barbee, Jenji Kohan, Rene Balcer, Hart Hanson. Statement will be released by end of the day…


Carter Covington, 10 Things I Hate About You
David Fury, 24
Alex Gansa, 24
Evan Katz, 24
Robert Carlock, 30 Rock
Michelle Nader, 100 Questions
Rebecca Sinclair, 90210
Claudia Lonow, Accidentally on Purpose
Mike Barker, American Dad
Jeff Melvoin, Army Wives
Ronald D. Moore, Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Virtuality
Victor Fresco, Better Off Ted
Bill Prady, Big Bang Theory
Mike Kelley, The Beautiful Life, Swingtown
Mark V. Olsen, Big Love
Will Scheffer, Big Love
Hart Hanson, Bones                  
Stephen Nathan, Bones
Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad
Molly Newman, Brothers & Sisters
Matt Nix, Burn Notice
Tom Kapinos, Californication
Jane Espenson, Caprica
Andrew W. Marlowe, Castle
Chris Fedak, Chuck
Matt Miller, Chuck
Scott Rosenbaum, Chuck
Robert Munic, The Cleaner
Rich Appel, The Cleveland Show
Jennifer Johnson, Cold Case
Greg Plageman, Cold Case
Garrett Donovan, Community
Neil Goldman, Community
Ed Bernero, Criminal Minds
Carol Mendelsohn, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Naren Shankar, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Peter Lenkov, CSI: New York
Pam Veasey, CSI: New York
Rick Eid, Dark Blue
Doug Yung, Dark Blue
Matt Berry, Desperate Housewives
Marc Cherry, Desperate Housewives
Bob Daily, Desperate Housewives
Clyde Phillips, Dexter
Melissa Rosenberg, Dexter
Charles H. Eglee, Dexter
Maggie Friedman, Eastwick
David S. Rosenthal, Eastwick
Doug Ellin, Entourage
Thania St. John, Eureka
Jill Franklyn, Failure to Fly
Steve Callaghan, Family Guy
David A. Goodman, Family Guy
Mark Hentemann, Family Guy
Seth McFarlane, Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, American Dad
Chris Sheridan, Family Guy
Marc Guggenheim, Flash Forward
Luke Reiter, The Forgotten
Jason Katims, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood
Jeff Pinkner, Fringe
J.H. Wyman, Fringe
David X. Cohen, Futurama
Ira Ungerleider, Gary Unmarried
Michelle King, The Good Wife
John Altschuler, The Goode Family
Dave Krinsky, The Goode Family
Patrick Sean Smith, Greek
Shonda Rhimes, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice
Steve Peterman, Hannah Montana
Michael Poryes, Hannah Montana
Glen Mazzara, HawthoRNe
Adam Armus, Heroes
Garnett Lerner, House
David Shore, House
Brad Kern, Human Target
Jon Steinberg, Human Target
Colette Burson, Hung
Dmitry Lipkin, Hung
Michael B. Kaplan, I’m In the Band
Neal Baer, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Rene Balcer, Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Walon Green, Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Samuel Baum, Lie to Me
Shawn Ryan, Lie To Me
Daniel Voll, Lie to Me
Janet Leahy, Life UneXpected
Kathleen McGhee-Anderson, Lincoln Heights
Carlton Cuse, Lost
Adam Horowitz, Lost
Edward Kitsis, Lost
Damon Lindelof, Lost
Matt Weiner, Mad Men
Holly Sorensen, Make It or Break It
Glenn Gordon Caron, Medium
Todd Slavkin, Melrose Place
Darren Swimmer, Melrose Place
Michael Royce, Men of a Certain Age
Gretchen Berg, Mercy
Aaron Harberts, Mercy
Liz Heldens, Mercy
Jeffrey Lieber, Miami Trauma
Steven Maeda, Miami Trauma
Eileen Heisler, The Middle
DeAnn Heline, The Middle
Steve Levitan, Modern Family
Shane Brennan, NCIS; NCIS: Los Angeles
Jeff Astrof, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Kari Lizer, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Andrew Dettman, Numb3rs
Ken Sanzel, Numb3rs
Greg Daniels, The Office, Parks & Recreation
Paul Lieberstein, The Office
Michael Schur, The Office, Parks & Recreation
David Hudgins, Past Life
Ellen Kreamer, Plummer
Jon Cowan, Private Practice
Stan Zimmerman, Rita Rocks
Michael Rauch, Royal Pains, Love Monkey
Shaun Cassidy, Ruby & the Rockits
Marsh McCall, Ruby & the Rockits
Tom Hertz, Rules of Engagement
Matthew Carlson, Sons of Tucson
Nancy Miller, Saving Grace
Neil Goldman, Scrubs
Al Jean, The Simpsons
Matt Selman, The Simpsons
Kurt Sutter, Sons of Anarchy
Michael Feldman, Sonny with a Chance
Steve Marmel, Sonny with a Chance
Steve DeKnight, Spartacus: Blood & Sand
Ann Biderman, Southland
John Wells, Southland
Danny Kallis, Suite Life on Deck
Eric Kripke, Supernatural
James Duff, The Closer
Jay Kogen, The Troop
Thomas W. Lynch, The Troop
Carol Barbee, Three Rivers
Eric Overmyer, Treme
Michael Hirst, The Tudors
Susan Beavers, Two and a Half Men
Lee Aronsohn, Two and a Half Men, Big Bang Theory
Jill Soloway, United States of Tara
Jeffrey Bell, V
Scott Peters, V
Jack Kenny, Warehouse 13
David Simkins, Warehouse 13
Roberto Benabib, Weeds
Jenji Kohan, Weeds
Todd J. Greenwald, Wizards of Waverly Place
Peter Murietta, Wizards of Waverly Place
Matt Dearborn, Zeke & Luther
Tom Burkhard, Zeke and Luther
Patric M. Verrone
John F. Bowman
David Chase
David Milch
Phil Rosenthal

July 17, 2009

DGA tell Rosenberg

Speaks volumes about the future.

Michael Apted slams SAG president – By Dave McNary July 17. 2009

The Directors Guild of America has told Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg to shut up and go away.

That’s the sentiment expressed by outgoing DGA president Michael Apted in a blunt letter responding to Rosenberg’s request for a summit meeting of the town’s unions about the 2011 round of negotiations.

Rosenberg pledged he would make such an effort on June 9, in the aftermath of SAG members’ ratification of the feature-primetime contract. But, in a letter sent Wednesday, Apted made it abundantly clear that Rosenberg’s relentless criticism of the DGA has been so out of line that the DGA’s not remotely interested in any such get-together.

Apted noted that under “normal circumstances,” such a summit meeting to discuss negotiations could take place — but without public proclamations announcing the meeting first.

“Of course, these are not normal circumstances,” Apted said. “Since June 9, I’ve seen repeated statements in the press regarding your intention to call a meeting, yet Monday’s email is the first time you’ve made any effort to contact me in over 18 months. In addition, you’ve repeatedly, and in my opinion unfraternally, attacked the negotiations and contracts of the DGA and other unions in the press and other public forums. So, in the circumstances, I’m very surprised that you would consider yourself to be in a position to convene an event that requires trust and fraternity to have any chance of success.”

Apted concluded the letter by saying, “On behalf of the DGA, I respectfully decline your request.”

Rosenberg told Daily Variety he was disappointed over Apted’s response.

“It’s a shame that what had been a private communication has become public,” he said. “I’m disappointed that Michael Apted doesn’t share my belief in the importance of building unity among the unions because our collective efforts should be towards obtaining a decent deal in two years. What’s happened at past negotiations doesn’t really matter now.”

The SAG president’s power to speak officially on behalf of the guild was taken away in late January as part of the move by the board’s moderates to oust former SAG national exec director Doug Allen.

But there’s been bad blood between the guilds dating back to Jan. 29, 2008 — when Rosenberg and Allen blasted the DGA’s tentative contract agreement with the majors, which eventually served as the template for the WGA, AFTRA and SAG contracts. Rosenberg and Allen criticized many of the specifics of the deal in a message sent to SAG members.

Apted responded on the same day by accusing SAG of throwing a monkey wrench into the talks between the WGA and majors that would ultimately settle the scribes’ 100-day walkout.

“Their letter has one purpose and one purpose only: to interfere with the informal talks currently under way between the WGA and the studios,” Apted said at the time. “Simply put, their assumptions and arguments are specious. The DGA deal is a great deal for our members.”

AFTRA president Roberta Reardon said last week that there had been no movement toward a summit meeting. She had proposed the idea a year ago but said last Friday that she’d wait until after the SAG elections in September before exploring such a step.

The WGA said it has not been approached by Rosenberg about such a summit meeting.

An AFTRA rep said that Los Angeles Local President Ron Morgan received an invitation earlier this week from Rosenberg to meet at his home on Aug. 3 to discuss “building solidarity” between the entertainment labor unions. But she added that AFTRA leaders won’t be available.

“AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon never received an invitation,” the rep added. “The entire AFTRA leadership team will be in Chicago from Monday, August 3 through Sunday, August 9 for the Convention and other related union meetings, which have been scheduled for more than a year.”

WGA West spokesman Neal Sacharow said Thursday, “The WGA has not been approached by Alan Rosenberg about such a summit meeting.”

June 7, 2009

JLH on UCLA Panel re Labor (June 6, 2009)

JLH on UCLA Panel re Labor

Posted: 06 Jun 2009 02:26 PM PDT

Next Sat., June 13, I’ll be on a labor panel at the UCLA Altered States Media Conference, sponsored by the UCLA Producers Program and the UCLA Festival for New Creative Works.

Here’s the panel:

10:15 AM – 11:30: Studio and Labor Relations in 2015
Moderator: Arnold Peter (Partner, Raskin Peter LLP)

* Mike Farrell (Actor, M*A*S*H, Providence)
* Jonathan Handel (Attorney, TroyGould Attorneys)
* Patric Verrone (President, Writers Guild of America, West)
* Sallie Weaver (Founder, Entertainment Labor Consulting, Inc.)

Conference price ranges from $80 (guild members or out of school 5 years or less), $125 (general admissions), $175 (MCLE legal education credit), and $25 (student).

The conference description is below. For more info, click here.

The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, one of the premier film schools and research universities in the nation, will host the first-ever Altered States Media Conference. This one-day conference will bring together leading media creators, scholars, and industry practitioners to discuss the future and evolution of media arts, technology, scholarship, and commerce.

As digital technology becomes more pervasive, companies from all arenas of the entertainment industry are embracing a culture of convergence. Technology is connecting the disparate aspects of our lives and altering the way we communicate with each other. But are we laying a sufficient foundation for a sound, economically and artistically sustainable future? Or are we simply providing stop-gap solutions with a bigger battle looming on the horizon? Are we moving in the right direction?

June 2, 2009

Variety: WGA cutting 10% of employees (MAR. 19, 2009)

Filed under: Entertainment — showbizreporting @ 11:16 pm
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WGA cutting 10% of employees

Guild’s operating deficit more than $2 million



The Writers Guild of America West has notified its staff that it will cut at least 10% of its 185 employees as a result of an operating deficit of more than $2 million.

The WGA West had no comment Monday evening about the job cuts, expected to be announced in coming weeks.

Staff reps were informed last week about the layoffs, which have been blamed on the nation’s financial crisis lowering the value of the WGA West’s investment portfolio along with a decline in dues-generating work for members, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The WGA West disclosed to members last summer in its annual report that its expenditures jumped 11% to $26.3 million due to the costs of negotiations and the 100-day strike, leading to an operating deficit of $800,000 for the fiscal year ended March 31 (Daily Variety, July 7). The membership and finance committee noted in the report that the deficit led to a decline in net assets to $31.5 million but declared the WGA West “remains in excellent financial condition.”

More than one option

·         (Co) Daily Variety

Filmography, Year, Role

·         (Co) Daily Variety

The guild also noted in that report that feature work jumped nearly 16% to $502.5 million as studios stockpiled, but TV earnings were hit by the strike, sliding 6.8% to $437.3 million. And it pointed out that the strong earnings in 2007 could be “borrowing from the future” since much of the increased work appeared to be related to accelerated employment prior to the strike.

The WGA West has increased its expenditures in recent years to beef up its organizing efforts in reality and animation but has registered negligible gains in those arenas.

 Link here:

Writer’s Guild of America (Mar. 3, 2009)

Filed under: Entertainment — showbizreporting @ 5:09 pm
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New WGA rule: No work, no vote

East and West leadership agree on decision – By Dave McNary

In a move that imposes eligibility rules on the WGA East membership, leaders of the WGA West and the WGA East have reached agreement on joint standards for voting on nationwide issues such as strike authorizations.

“We believe that this agreement on joint voting standards is a milestone in East-West relations,” said a message sent Wednesday to members from WGA West president Patric Verrone and WGA East prez Michael Winship. “It shows that our unions can work cooperatively in a spirit of unity and willing compromise. And it assures members that in all negotiations or other actions their economic future will be decided by people who have a stake in a positive outcome for both guilds.”

Details of the new standards were not immediately available, but the general thrust will be to impose work requirements on WGA East members, according to WGA East exec director Lowell Peterson. “The concept is that in order to vote, you have to have done a certain amount of work,” he added.

The WGA West rules require an aggregate of 24 work “units” over three years for admission, such as two units for a week of employment on a TV series or 24 units for a screenplay sale. Additionally, an initial membership lapses after seven years if the writer does not perform covered work within that period; after that, membership lapses after four years without covered work.

Peterson said that he doubted the change in rules would significantly reduce the number of WGA East members who are eligible to vote in nationwide elections.

The new standards — which have been approved by the WGA West board and the WGA East Council — will be sent out to WGA members for a vote in June. About 8,000 writers are members of the Hollywood-based WGA West and 4,000 are repped through the Gotham-based WGA East.

Peterson told Daily Variety the move was an outgrowth of the 2005 agreement between the two guilds to work more closely together, following a civil war that had broken out over the finances of the orgs. Verrone and Winship sounded the same note in their message, noting that the two guilds — which negotiate the feature-primetime contract jointly — had worked together effectively during the 2007-08 strike.

“Ultimately, the effectiveness of our guilds is the direct result of your support,” the duo said. “With it, we are rock solid, and for it, we are most grateful. We’re still all in this together.”

Variety: WGA strike – One Year Later (Feb. 10, 2009)

Filed under: Entertainment — showbizreporting @ 3:08 pm
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WGA strike: One year later

Fallout still felt from writers’ walkout


WGA Strike
WGA’s John Bowman, Patric Verrone, and David Young announce the end of the strike

One year later, the evidence is clear: The WGA strike crippled the film and TV biz at a time when the industry was already caught in the buzzsaw of a radically changing marketplace for Hollywood’s wares.

The strike by the Writers Guild of America that spanned Nov. 5, 2007-Feb. 12, 2008, sent the congloms on a cost-cutting binge that is as much an opportunistic drive to downsize the cost structure of production as it is a necessary effort to help offset shrinking profit margins.

As the industry still grapples with the upshot of SAG’s long-running contract drama, the collateral damage of the WGA walkout is coming into sharper focus. The impact has included the following:

 A swift and dramatic reduction in fees paid to above-the-line talent, particularly thesps and scribes. Feature scribes, in particular, are grumbling about massive reductions in post-strike script fees. 

  • Primetime development business that has yet to fully recover from the disruption caused to the 2007-08 TV season and development for the current season. 
  • A de facto strike caused by uncertainty surrounding the Screen Actors Guild that has put this year’s film business in a coma, even after the WGA settlement.

And then the broader financial meltdown hit.

Given the state of the global economy, some of the downsizing and budget-slashing that Hollywood is now enduring would have come even without the 100-day walkout. But the realignment of the biz’s investment priorities is coming more swiftly and more comprehensively because of the scrutiny of operations that took place while the scribes were pounding the pavement.

At the outset, the strike starved the major nets and some cablers of original scripted programming at the worst possible time for a disruption to primetime’s status quo. Even top-tier shows — think “CSI,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House” and “Heroes” — haven’t recovered from the ratings hit they took after being MIA for most of the second half of last season. As any network skedding exec will tell you, when viewers break a given habit, even for just a few weeks, it’s next to impossible to get them all back.

Nonetheless, WGA leaders and many members remain resolute that the sacrifices of the strike were well worth it. The hard-fought contract set a template for residual formulas in new media on which the guild hopes to build in future deals. Most importantly, from the WGA’s perspective, the deal prevented a repeat of the reviled homevid compensation battle of the 1980s, in which scribe residuals were based on only 20% of revenues generated by vid sales.

The damage for California from the strike has been estimated at $2.1 billion in lost economic activity, according to a report issued in June by the Milken Institute; according to Jack Kyser, chief economist with the L.A. County Economic Development Corp., there was an estimated $2.5 billion in lost wages for workers in Los Angeles County alone.

But the biggest impact may be the intangible cost of lost opportunities.

Most painfully for the town, the strike gave the congloms the force majeure cover to make deep, immediate cuts without fear of losing competitive advantage in the creative community or appearing as if they were retrenching. In the space of a few days in mid-January 2008, NBC Universal, Disney, News Corp., Time Warner and CBS Corp. wiped many millions of dollars in overall deals and other development obligations off their books.

In the year that has passed, series budgets have been hacked; ABC and CBS asked for cuts of 3%-10% from all scripted series even before the worst of the financial crisis hit last year. It’s understood that several established drama series on the Big Three are under pressure to cut budgets by double digits or they will not be returning even though they deliver respectable ratings.

Talent reps report that for all but top-tier thesps, actor salary quotes have become a thing of the past, and there’s little wiggle room for negotiation of the rates that studios offer for pilot and series deals. And reps are being warned that the industry tradition of renegotiating thesp salaries after the second or third season is going the way of the VCR and the pay telephone.

Of course, the boldest example of how the world has changed for the creative community is NBC’s move to devote the final hour of its primetime sked to Jay Leno‘s yakker at 10 p.m. as of this fall.

The strike was surely not the only catalyst for all the upheaval in the creative community. But the strike came at a time when the stewards of the major congloms were under pressure to reinvent the biz’s fundamentals, amid the disruptive effects of new technologies, not add to above-the-line production costs. A shared fear of uncertainty about Hollywood’s once-and-future revenue sources was both the spark and the fuel for the strike.

The WGA came to the bargaining table with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers in summer 2007 with the legitimate demand that writers be compensated for work distribbed in new media. But the guild was highly unrealistic in its assessment of the size of the market and the myriad business challenges facing the WGA’s major employers.

Faced with tough talk from the WGA, the AMPTP pushed back even harder with its incendiary proposal to shift all residuals to a “recoupment” formula wherein scribes would not be paid for reuse of film and TV productions in any market until a distrib had recouped its basic costs.

This amounted to pouring gasoline onto the fire stoked for more than a year by the WGA leadership among members about the urgent need for scribes to establish new-media residuals or risk facing a rerun of the reviled homevideo compensation scenario.

By many accounts, what largely prevented the WGA and AMPTP from cutting a deal and averting a strike was the lack of communication or relationship-building on both sides in the years leading up to the contract talks. By the time the negotiating teams met across the table, they weren’t even speaking the same language. The DGA wound up serving as a very effective interpreter.

In the rush of relief that followed the end of the writers strike, there was talk on both sides of the aisle about the need for a stronger partnership between the guilds and the majors at such a pivotal moment for the industry.

So far, with the spectacle of SAG’s epic contract drama and the WGA’s accusations that the majors have not lived up to some terms of the deal, there’s little evidence that diplomacy will play a bigger part when the WGA vs. AMPTP rematch comes in the contract talks of 2011.

WGA Strike
WGA’s John Bowman, Patric Verrone, and David Young announce the end of the strike.

Digital Media Law: WGA Awards Fete Slumdog, Milk, Mad Men, 30 Rock (Feb. 7, 2009)

Filed under: Entertainment — showbizreporting @ 2:20 pm
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WGA Awards Fete Slumdog, Milk, Mad Men, 30 Rock

Slumdog Millionaire continued its winning streak this awards season, with Simon Beaufoy winning the 2009 Writers Guild of America award this evening for adapted screenplay. Dustin Lance Black won the award for best original screenplay for Milk. Slumdog has already won DGA, SAG, PGA and Golden Globe awards, and is a multi-award favorite for the Oscars. Milk has won SAG and PGA awards and is also a strong Oscar contender in multiple categories.

On the television side, awards went to the writers of Mad Men (drama), 30 Rock (comedy), Recount and John Adams in long-form categories, and In Treatment, Breaking Bad, and The Simpsons in various other fields. Controversially, among other awards was one for videogame writing (to Star Wars: The Force Unleashed). Some publishers declined to submit their titles for consideration, viewing the award as primarily an organizing tool for a guild seeking to gain a foothold in a non-unionized sector.

Writers are a more subdued bunch than actors, but the WGA Awards included a red carpet. Of course, the visiting actors attracted most of the attention. (It’s a tough town for writers.) Sarah Silverman provided a touch of elegance . . .

Sarah Silverman

. . . and Rainn Wilson of The Office and writing partner Aaron Lee looked spiffy as well:

Rainn Wilson & Aaron Lee

The awards ceremony was held simultaneously in Los Angeles and New York , with attendees and honorees in each city. See below for a complete list of winners.





Milk, Written by Dustin Lance Black, Focus Features


Slumdog Millionaire, Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, Based on the Novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup, Fox Searchlight Pictures


Waltz with Bashir, Written by Ari Folman, Sony Pictures Classics



Mad Men, Written by Lisa Albert, Jane Anderson, Rick Cleveland, Kater Gordon, David Isaacs, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Marti Noxon, Robin Veith, Matthew Weiner; AMC


30 Rock, Written by Jack Burditt, Kay Cannon, Robert Carlock, Tina Fey, Donald Glover, Andrew Guest, Matt Hubbard, Jon Pollack, John Riggi, Tami Sagher, Ron Weiner; NBC


In Treatment, Written by Rodrigo Garcia, Bryan Goluboff, Davey Holmes, William Merritt Johnson, Amy Lippman, Sarah Treem; HBO

EPISODIC DRAMA – any length – one airing time

“Pilot” (Breaking Bad), Written by Vince Gilligan; AMC

EPISODIC COMEDY – any length – one airing time

“Succession” (30 Rock), Written by Andrew Guest & John Riggi; NBC

LONG FORM – ORIGINAL – over one hour – one or two parts, one or two airing times

Recount, Written by Danny Strong; HBO

LONG FORM – ADAPTATION – over one hour – one or two parts, one or two airing times

John Adams, “Episode 1, Join or Die,” Teleplay by Kirk Ellis, Based on the book by David McCullough; “Episode 2, Independence ,” Teleplay by Kirk Ellis, Based on the book by David McCullough; HBO

ANIMATION – any length – one airing time

“Apocalypse Cow” (The Simpsons), Written by Jeff Westbrook; Fox


Saturday Night Live, Head Writers Seth Meyers, Andrew Steele, Paula Pell, Writers Doug Abeles, James Anderson, Alex Baze, Jessica Conrad, James Downey, Charlie Grandy, Steve Higgins, Colin Jost, Erik Kenward, Rob Klein, John Lutz, Seth Meyers, Lorne Michaels, John Mulaney, Paula Pell, Simon Rich, Marika Sawyer, Akiva Schaffer, Robert Smigel, John Solomon, Emily Spivey, Andrew Steele, Kent Sublette, Jorma Taccone, Bryan Tucker, Additional Sketches by Robert Carlock; NBC


2008 Film Independent Spirit Awards, Written by Billy Kimball, Aaron Lee, Jennifer Celotta, Rainn Wilson; IFC/AMC


As the World Turns, Written by Jean Passanante, Leah Laiman, Courtney Simon, Lisa Connor, David A. Levinson, Peter Brash, Richard Culliton, Susan Dansby, Cheryl Davis, Leslie Nipkow; CBS


“Elmo’s Christmas Countdown” (Sesame Workshop), Written by Joey Mazzarino; ABC


“Polar Bears” (The Naked Brothers Band), Written by Polly Draper; Nickelodeon


“Bush’s War: Part One” (Frontline), Written by Michael Kirk; PBS


“Secrets of the Parthenon” (NOVA), Written by Gary Glassman; PBS


ABC Weekend News, Written by Joel Siegel, Karen Mooney, David Muir; ABC


“Yankee Stadium and the New Gilded Age” (Bill Moyers Journal), Writers Bill Moyers & Michael Winship; PBS



Black History Month, Written by Anthony J. McHugh; CBS


World News This Week, Written by Marianne J. Pryor; ABC


Tributes, Written by Gail Lee; CBS



Jericho : Two-Minute Drills, Written by Eric Jacobson; CBS


“Medical Animations” (CBS Evening News), David Rosen; CBS



Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Writers Haden Blackman, Shawn Pitman, John Stafford and Cameron Suey, LucasArts

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) hosted the West Coast show, which was executive produced by Emmy Award-winning producer Cort Casady. Presenters scheduled to appear at the Los Angeles show included: Josh Brolin, Steve Carell, Frank Langella, Jon Hamm, Kate Walsh, Alfre Woodard, Sarah Silverman, Evan Rachel Wood, Bryan Cranston, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sandra Oh, Dennis Haysbert, Taraji P. Henson, Zach Braff, Jamie Lee Curtis, David Krumholtz, Rob Reiner, and Garry Marshall.

John Oliver of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart hosted the East Coast show. The event was produced by Anne Marie Gaynor, supervised by Marsha Manns, and produced under the creative supervision of head writer David Steven Cohen. Presenters scheduled to appear at the show in New York included: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Talia Balsam, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, Marshall Brickman, Christopher Cerf, Alana De La Garza, Susie Essman, Tom Fontana, Judah Friedlander, Terry George, Nancy Giles, Gilbert Gottfried, Bill Irwin, Jack McBrayer, S. Epatha Merkerson, Aasif Mandvi, Ana Ortiz, Linus Roache, John Slattery, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Paul F. Tompkins, Jerry verDorn, and Sam Waterston. Musical entertainment during the ceremony was provided by La Bamba and the Hubcabs. Also in attendance were: Tina Fey, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Robert Siegel, David Simon, and Simon Beaufoy.

The Writers Guild of America, West presented special honors to: William Blinn – Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television; Dustin Lance Black (Milk) – Paul Selvin Award; Carl Reiner and Victoria Riskin – Valentine Davies Award; Larry DiTillio – Morgan Cox Award; and Suso D’Amico for the WGAW’s first-ever Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement.

The Writers Guild of America, East presented special honors to: John Patrick Shanley – Ian McLellan Hunter Lifetime Achievement Award; Norman Stiles – Herb Sargent Award for Comedy Excellence; The Committee To Protect Journalists accepted by Board Chairman Paul Steiger and Executive Director Joel Simon – Evelyn F. Burkey Award for contributions bringing honor and dignity to writers everywhere; Chris Albers and Tom Fontana – Jablow Award for devoted service to the Guild; and Sarah Tobianski – John Merriman Award for Study of Broadcast Journalism at American University. In addition, the Writers Guild of America, East Foundation presented the first Michael Collyer Memorial Fellowship in Screenwriting to Sara Van Acker of New York University .

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