By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Finally, a little before 9 p.m. Pacific time, just before the strike was to start at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time, the producers came back, according to a WGA leader, and said, “We stand by our former position that you will get the DVD formula on digital downloads. And we would like to ask if you guys would suspend the strike starting at midnight in the East. Are the pickets starting?”
The producers confirmed to me that they didn’t move off their electronic sell-through position to answer the WGA’s taking increased DVD residuals off the tables Sunday. “There wasn’t enough time!” one of their insiders claimed to me.
According to a WGA bigwig, “We told them what we’d said right at the beginning of the day’s discussion — that we had to see progress for the strike not to start. They said, ‘Well, that’s it, we’re walking out. Goodbye and good luck.’ Our guys shouldn’t have been shocked, but they were shocked. They weren’t ready for the game that was being played.
“Their story was that they saw on the Internet that the strike had started — but they just happened to have a news release ready. By the time we realized what was going on, we’d missed the news cycle . . . and we got caught with our pants down.”
So why is what happened Sunday still important days later? Because now, both sides in this fight are further apart than they have ever been, and that’s saying a lot. Both sides believe they have fresh and ample reasons not to go back into negotiations anytime soon. Really smart people have told me that if this walkout doesn’t settle in the next few weeks, say, by December 15, then there may not be an incentive for the moguls to settle it until June, when the Screen Actors Guild contract expires. As for the Directors Guild, whose contract is up next June as well, everyone expects the DGA to fold like pup tents: no shocker there. In film, the studios prepared for this labor action starting two years ago. But I broke the story pre-strike that the Hollywood moguls viewed this TV season as a total loss and welcomed the walkout as an automatic “do-over” that would allow them to regroup and then refashion their business models. At the same time, the Writers Guild two years ago began to draw a line in the sand on new media and the Internet that they’re etching deeper every time they walk the picket line.
Worse, both sides believe that, after Sunday’s betrayals, they can’t trust the other side enough to even talk about scheduling new AMPTP-WGA negotiations, much less try back channels. But such private discussions have been the only successful way labor strife in Hollywood has been settled in the past. In short, Hollywood, Los Angeles, maybe even the entire economy of the state of California, is really screwed.
That is, unless tourists from around the world realize that the next weeks and months will be a wonderful time to come here and see celebrities in their new natural habitat: the picket line. If anyone in Los Angeles city government had a brain, they’d market the hell out of this. All 15 strike locations could be the next big attractions and the city a giant theme park featuring actors supporting writers, such as Grey’s Anatomy stars Katherine Heigl and Sandra Oh and T.R. Knight, walking and chanting, “More money, less Moonves,” or, my personal favorite, “How much you earnin’, Peter Chernin?”