After nearly three months and approximately $1.9 billion in losses, the writers’ strike that has ground Hollywood development to a halt is nearing a resolution, just in time to salvage a true Oscar ceremony February 24.
The Writers Guild of America’s leaders have approved a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and recommended to their constituents that the picketing stop. As of Sunday afternoon (February 10), members of the Guild have 48 hours to vote whether to immediately end the strike. If all goes accordingly, thousands of striking writers could be back to work on TV shows and movies as early as Wednesday.
“I think it’s got a good shot at it, and I think it’s a great, great, great sign,” George Clooney told MTV News at the Oscar luncheon Monday, shortly after news of a negotiated agreement began to filter out among Guild members. “It looks very good.”
The vote to end the strike is not a vote to approve the negotiated contract. In order to more fully understand both the language and ramifications of the agreement, members have a 10-day window to read and approve the new contract in a separate vote. It’s possible, though unlikely, that the writers could vote to end the strike and then later vote down the contract.
“Is the deal good enough to accept? Everything else is irrelevant, and emotion should play no part in the decision,” screenwriter John August wrote on his blog Saturday. “Yes. It’s a yes for me. And I suspect it’s a yes for most writers.”
After a bitter and acrimonious battle, the breakthrough in negotiations came Friday, when representatives from both sides hammered out a tentative deal modeled, at least in part, on the deal reached with the Directors Guild last month, according to entertainment Web sites United Hollywood and Deadline Hollywood Daily.
The leadership board codified this new agreement in a document available to all Guild members before two separate meetings Saturday night, one in Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium and one in New York at the Crown Plaza Hotel. Reports from various sites indicate that members on both coasts met the terms with a generally positive vibe. United Hollywood.com said of the Los Angeles meeting that “at times it felt like a victory rally.”
As part of the agreement, striking writers can claim a victory on what many considered the struggle’s primary issue, and the main reason for why they ceased all work November 5. According to The New York Times, under the compromise agreement, writers would receive a fixed payment of $1,200 per year for one-hour webcasts for the first two years of their contract, and would stand to be paid 2 percent of revenue in the third year of their deal for streaming broadcasts, an avenue of distribution many believe will replace more traditional models in the near future.
When and if a deal is approved, much work remains to be done to bring Hollywood back up to speed. Many projects, such as “Justice League of America,” “Shantaram” with Johnny Depp and the “Da Vinci Code” follow-up “Angels & Demons” face uncertain futures after being delayed or shelved due to incomplete scripts.
“It’s going to be brutal trying to get the town started up, figuring out which movies are still happening, which TV shows are going to try to finish their seasons,” August wrote. “You know when there’s a big evacuation — fire, hurricane — and the residents are finally allowed back to their houses? It will be like that. The first few days will be just about finding out what’s still standing.”
Two down, one big one to go: If, as expected, the WGA ends its strike this weekend, Hollywood powerbrokers can turn their attention to the next potential disaster: a walkout of all members of the Screen Actors Guild. Their contract ends in June.
“We still have to get the Screen Actors Guild stuff settled, or it’s sort of a de facto strike as well,” Clooney explained. “There is a popular belief by some in the union that your negotiating power increases the longer you wait. I think there is a lot of strike fatigue and I think you actually end up losing some of your negotiating power. So I would hope that all of us in this union, in the Screen Actors Guild union, get into the tables very quickly, as quickly as possible.”
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