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
First, it took a lot of lobbying to convince the WGA leaders there would be no "significant" money in streaming for the next several years. (One source claimed that the WGA's numbers were "quadruple" more-realistic assessments.) Meanwhile, Chernin and Disney CEO Bob Iger focused on addressing the WGA's New Media needs without confusing them with the DGA's. A source close to the negotiations told me, "To their credit, Bob and Peter said to the WGA, 'Tell us what really concerns you.' And that's when things really started moving on questions about jurisdiction on the Internet and the third-year formula for streaming."
At the same time, leaders of several dissident factions within the WGA (some made up of very powerful TV show runners and feature-film writers) approached the guild toppers with an ultimatum: They would no longer promise to keep silent if a deal wasn't done right away. An insider told me, "The guys on the WGA side knew if they didn't come out with a deal [that] weekend, Monday was going to be a bad day. They'd been personally told by these different pockets of writers that they would no longer be supportive and measured. They planned on going public. They planned to blow the guild up."
Meanwhile, 75 militant show runners sent a letter to Patric Verrone, Dave Young and Bowman — the WGA leadership involved in the breakthrough session with Chernin and Iger — that Friday demanding that they obtain better terms than the DGA deal. "Our guys had plenty of ammo going in there to tell the other side that a bum deal would never get ratified by the majority of show runners or their staffs," an insider told me.
So this is where things stand right now: Verrone, Young and Bowman will be explaining and recommending the deal to the membership at a general meeting Saturday at the Shrine Auditorium. The guild's negotiating committee and board have already been briefed. Then those two panels will vote. That can't happen until the deal is drafted. But if someone gets tricky with the language or terms, "There's still a possibility that this thing could get fucked," a source explains.
Once both the WGA negotiating committee and the WGA board approve the deal, then the guild leaders will call off the strike immediately. I'm told that was an integral part of the agreement because the moguls didn't want to wait for the membership at large to weigh in on the deal. Among those pressing for this was Bob Iger, who for obvious reasons wants the picket lines to come down so Hollywood can feel free to attend ABC's Academy Awards. (Many still fear this year's Oscars will wind up bitch-slapped like NBC's Golden Globes. So Vanity Fair magazine, Hollywood hostess Dani Janssen and superagent Ed Limato have all canceled their private Oscar parties.) Right now, if the WGA board accepts the deal, I'm told that the Back 9 of most scripted TV series could be saved, along with a no-frills pilot season with fewer scripted series ordered than ever before. Some of the force-majeured deals could be reinstated. (I've learned that three times as many pacts would have been canceled if the agents and lawyers hadn't lobbied the networks and studios.) Feature films that were halted or thought lost could get going immediately.
But what happens to all this back-to-work progress if the WGA membership votes down the deal? A bigger mess than even now, like what happened during the 1960 strike when the membership voted not once but twice to reject deals negotiated by guild leaders. The right thing to do is to let the membership vote before the strike is called off. That gives the WGA leadership time to lower members' expectations about what could and couldn't be accomplished. Only the WGA members can decide how much more pain they are willing to endure with no guarantee that whatever is negotiated months from now (alongside SAG) is going to be any better than what has been negotiated now. The one thing this strike has done is to give writers a powerful voice that Hollywood has heard loud and clear. Don't silence the scribes at this crucial juncture.