What's Hot: Talks Between Actors and Producers Look DOA 

Meanwhile, pilots are vibrantly alive

Wednesday, Apr 30 2008

THE NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are not making any progress, with both sides very far apart and very frustrated. I’m told that negotiators for the Hollywood CEOs are privately making it clear they plan to make a deal first with AFTRA in order to use that as a wedge to soften up SAG.

And, get this — my sources tell me that the AMPTP is now prepared to wait out SAG for a deal until mid-July. Which means the Big Media moguls are almost daring SAG to strike when its contract expires at the end of June.

I am, frankly, appalled. It’s already clear that this week’s move by the AMPTP to delay the start of talks with AFTRA is an utter sham. A game plan is already in place, just like the one that the AMPTP worked up to try to foil the Writers Guild of America’s contract demands. For that scenario, the AMPTP used the Directors Guild of America to soften up the WGA. In the end, the WGA-AMPTP deal was incrementally better but not by much.

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The AMPTP is furious that SAG negotiators are intent on getting a better deal for its actor members than the WGA’s or the DGA’s on formulas for New Media and DVD residuals.

Here’s what’s happened so far: Both sides have presented their terms. SAG has now responded to the AMPTP’s New Media proposals, which I understand are simply a restatement of the DGA and WGA deals. Both moguls Peter Chernin and Bob Iger, in back-channel talks with SAG as recently as mid-April, have been repeatedly saying that the studios and networks won’t budge.

In turn, the SAG leadership insists that the actors have different needs from either the writers or directors — and that, as a result, SAG will not back down from revisiting the DVD residual formulas or substantially bettering the New Media numbers.

I’m told the SAG negotiators recently posed questions to the AMPTP in order to present their initial counterproposals. But I’m told the AMPTP thinks those counter-proposals offer only glacial movement. In turn, the AMPTP came back with its own set of questions for SAG. But the AMPTP’s latest offer shows only the barest of movement.

The result is a near-stalemate. The AMPTP, I’m told, doesn’t anticipate any substantial movement this week — so I’m not sure why the network and studio negotiators bothered to ask AFTRA to delay the start of their negotiations. Unless it was to create artificial drama and present SAG in the worst possible light, which is what the AMPTP did over and over with the WGA.

I predict that, after May 5, the AMPTP will put the SAG talks on a de facto hiatus and focus on a quick and less costly agreement with AFTRA. Once that’s done, Hollywood will surely have to suffer a long period of uncertainty while the AMPTP either stays away from the bargaining table — again, just like it did with the WGA — or conducts disingenuous negotiating. All the while, of course, the AMPTP’s PR machinery will blame SAG for “wanting” to bring the Industry to a halt.

The fact is that right now, the AMPTP is prepared to not close a deal with SAG until, my sources say, as late as the middle of July. I do hope that SAG can restrain itself when its contract expires and hold off calling a strike for a reasonable period. I foresee more turmoil. But there’s no need for it. IATSE’s Tom Short could get involved and, for once, put pressure on Chernin, Iger, et al., to act in a more timely fashion. The moguls will still have to partially meet SAG’s demands because time is on the side of the big actors union as long as it doesn’t implement a strike. Make a deal and make it now.

Prime-time Pilot Panic: What’s Hot

I hear the following 2008-2009 prime-time pilots have heat heading into the weeks before the network up-fronts. In most cases, this good buzz is based on scripts and even exceptional, and/or the successful show runners, producers and directors. The quotes are from sources in the know:



Bad Mother’s Handbook (ABC TV Studios)

“Good but not great script.” Pluses are Alicia Silverstone as star, Richard Shepard as director (he helmed Ugly Betty pilot), and fact that exec producer Stu Bloomberg is able to guilt-trip one-time best pal Bob Iger for firing him in 2002.

The Goode Family (Media Rights Capital)

This Might Hurt (20th Century Fox TV)

Roman’s Empire (CBS Paramount/Katalyst)

±“Good script.”

Nuclear Family (ABC TV Studios)

This was the first pilot ordered by network. Can’t lose with star Alyssa Milano.



Captain Cook’s Extraordinary Atlas (WBTV)

Castle (ABC TV Studios/Beacon TV)

Prince Of Motor City (ABC TV Studios)

The Unusuals (Sony Pictures TV)



Single White Millionaire (WBTV)

Mike Birbiglia’s Secret Public Journal (CBS Paramount/CBS)



Mythological Ex (CBS/20th Century Fox TV)

11th Hour (WBTV/Jerry Bruckheimer TV)

The Mentalist (WBTV)

NY-LON (ABC TV Studios/Beacon TV)

Can Openers (Sony Pictures TV)



90210 (CW/CBS Paramount)

How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls (WBTV/Alloy)



Spaced (WBTV/Wonderland)

The Inn (FBC/20th Century Fox TV/Reveille)

Cleveland (20th Century Fox TV)

Boldly Going Nowhere (20th Century Fox TV)



Fringe (WBTV/Bad Robot)

Dollhouse (20th Century Fox TV)

Courtroom K (20th Century Fox TV/Heel & Toe Films)



Kath & Kim (Universal Media Studios)

The Office Spin-Off (Universal Media Studios)



Kings (Universal Media Studios)

My Own Worst Enemy (Universal Media Studios)

The Philanthropist (Universal Media Studios)

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