WGA Negotiations Going Well But Still Room for Conflict

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Remember that terrible desert of entertainment we were forced to wander through during 2007-2008? Back then, when the Writers Guild of America went on strike, Americans were left desperately stumbling towards a mirage that always turned out to be re-runs and knife infomercials. The thirst for new content and upcoming episodes nearly killed us! Well, that is a bit dramatic. First off, it was great opportunity to pick up a book, and second off, those knife infomercials really aren’t all that bad if you give them a chance. Either way though, the strike was hard on more than just viewers; writers and others involved in the entertainment industry had careers and livelihoods riding on it as well.

So everyone should be somewhat relieved to hear that this year’s prognosis is looking considerably better, with the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers nearly at a decision, having “almost” reached an agreement for a three year contract. “Every aspect of our contract has been negotiated and agreed upon with two exceptions — options and exclusivity — which remain points of contention between us,” said Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray of the Negotiating Committee, and WGA West President Chris Keyser, according to Deadline Hollywood. Now, the two groups will take a breather from the negotiating fervor and return to finish things up March 31 and April 1, when they will hopefully wrap things up.

“Writers on short-order shows now find themselves working for half a year or less, then stuck on unpaid hiatus for open-ended periods while waiting to see if their show — and their contract — will be renewed,” read the WGAW’s letter to its colleagues, sent out Thursday, according to Deadline Hollywood. “During this period, they are virtually unemployable because studios demand ‘exclusivity’ and ‘first position,’ preventing writers from seeking other work, their ability to make a living cut off.”

If this is any indication, talks may be going well enough, but there’s still time and plenty of possibility that things could take a turn for the worse when negotiators reconvene. Things didn’t start out so amicably when talks began in February. At the time, a rollback proposal was put forward, causing heavy strain between parties, with even one producer calling the suggestion “ridiculous,” according to Deadline Hollywood. In the beginning, the tone was like when Nick Counter was running things and his appraoch was ‘No’ to everything. But [AMPTP president Carol Lombardini] wanted to have a more productive atmosphere,” said one person close to the talks to Deadline Hollywood.

With any luck, we won’t be looking at another freeze on TV entertainment, and the writers’ union will leave the bargaining table pleased and with good terms for its constituents — who will then be ready to produce content sans dissatisfaction with contracts. Meaning that we’ll all get those new episodes and brand spanking new content that we so desire.

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