You may have noticed I’ve gone a bit quiet about the US Writers’ Strike in the last week or so – the reason for this is simple: things have gone very quiet on that front, because the AMPTP (American Motion Picture and Television Producers – in essence, the major studios) have as good as walked out of the discussions with the Writers Guild of America.
It’s all pretty tangled and messy, but it’s extremely well summarised and analysed in Robert J Elisberg’s report here , but if you can’t be bothered to follow the link, then basically what happened went rather like this:
AMPTP: Right, we want you to take your six big issues off the table. Then we can talk.
WGA: No, those are the points at the heart of this. They’re the issues we’re striking over.
AMPTP: Oh, so you’re refusing to talk, eh ? Right, we’re off.
And twenty minutes later, the AMPTP issued a press release saying that the WGA was unwilling to talk – as Elisberg notes, that’s suspiciously speedy given the number of people such a document would have to go through; a cynical sort might conclude that the AMPTP deliberately brought the talks to a halt because they want to play hardball. And given that they’re due to renegotiate contracts with the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild in the next six months or so, you can see why they want to be seen to be tough negotiators. Though the DGA has decided to push back the start of its renegotiations to let the current strike be resolved, and the SAG has recently pledged its support for the WGA, so one could get the feeling that the various unions are pretty much aware of the need to play it tough as well.
The latest I’ve seen is that the WGA has made two announcements – firstly, that they’re willing to negotiate with the studios invidually (so that the ‘united’ but potentailly competing interests of the six studios don’t get in the way), and secondly that they’re filing Unfair Labour Practice charges against the AMPTP with the National Labour Relations Board.
I’ll be particularly interested to see if the commercial interests of the individual studios make them prone to break ranks and negotiate with the WGA – in a fashion which it seems the AMPTP was rather hoping would happen in relation to the general members of the WGA, and the folks who work on reality TV and animation; it didn’t happen there, but since the studios in question are actually in competition with each other (after all, it’s not as if Sony, Warners, Disney, Fox, CBS, Paramount, MGM and NBC are obvious bedfellows), it could yet happen.
As ever, I’ll let you know what happens. But here’s hoping the WGA gets a decent deal for their members, especially in regard to any ‘new media’ residuals – let’s face it, the internet is where it’s at, as this blog all too readily demonstrates.