Meanwhile, NBC gave up producing one more episode of “The Office,” which means that show will be in repeats after Nov. 15.
On the picket lines, the showrunner rally — held in front of the Walt Disney Studios--- brought out a who’s who of big name scribes, among them “CSI’s” Carol Mendelsohn,” “Lost’s” Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, “Desperate Housewives’” Marc Cherry, “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Shonda Rhimes, “Law & Order: SVU’s” Neal Baer, “The Unit’s” Shawn Ryan, “Six Feet Under’s” Alan Ball and Joss Whedon of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame. Rally was designed to show unity among the guild’s highest-paid members, and to encourage those showrunners undecided about whether to render production services to put down their pens.
“Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan said helping studios complete episodes is like “crossing our own picket line.
“This is a war against corporate greed, and we’re on the side of right,” she said. “The producers are being completely unreasonable and incredibly greedy and piggish. They’re making enormous amounts of money, and we deserve a share.”
At the rally, former WGA prexy John Wells said he remains willing and able to assist in strike talks, should they resume.
“If I’m asked by my guild, I’ll be happy to,” Wells said.
So far, Wells hasn’t been actively involved in the current situation, As a former guild topper and member who has sat on several negotiating committees through the years, Wells said, “There’s no question where my loyalties lie.”
“These issues are very significant,” he said. “The companies are going to have to recognize that .3% is not going to fly for Internet revenues.”
Wells said he believed the congloms made “a major miscalculation” in not taking the writers’ concerns over online residuals “seriously” earlier.
“The Guild was very vocal what the issues were,” he said.
“Family Guy” creator/exec producer Seth MacFarlane was another very vocal showrunner at the rally. He maintained that the upcoming episode of "Family Guy" on Sunday is the last fully-produced episode in the can.
There are other episodes close to being finished, but MacFarlane has made it clear that he has no plans to help put those segs together. MacFarlane also has another unique bit of leverage: He provides voices for many main characters on the show, and he's made it clear he's not stepping into the studio to record. News Corp. prexy Peter Chernin, meanwhile, asserted in an earnings conference call with investors that Fox’s animated skeins were far ahead in script preparation and that the strike could “help growth in market share in Fox Broadcasting.”
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO END THE STRIKE?
What would it take to end the strike?
Writers and producers were making progress on key sticking points when negotiations ended abruptly Sunday evening.
Dozens of proposals remained on the table but resolution of the big three issues -- video streaming, WGA jurisdiction over made-for-Internet and download residuals -- might have been enough for a deal to be made.
And each was close to a solution.
Many in town are frustrated knowing that the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers likely could have closed a deal had they gotten past the heated rhetoric of the past year.
Meanwhile, the writers may have stumbled into a scenario in which the Directors Guild could close a deal which the WGA would have to passively accept.
The WGA had three major concerns:
For the first item, there is reason for hope. Clearly, each side needs to yield on item 2 or 3.
"I think that a deal could have been made in another 12 hours," one source notes. Instead, the pickets appeared and talks collapsed before either side could start hammering out a compromise on the issue of residuals for downloads -- which was the key remaining issue.
The question of minimums -- in which the WGA was asking for 3.5% yearly increases - probably would have been resolved with something on the order of 3%.
There's still time for both sides to make accommodations. Many in town fear that if the issue is not resolved soon, this could turn out to be a very long and very damaging strike.
Ironically, deals are already in place for many of the points the WGA is seeking. Big-name screenwriters and showrunners have already used their leverage to get such concessions as new-media residuals.
For now, no new talks are scheduled and the DGA's expected to begin its negotiations within the next few weeks, which could mean the WGA would wind up having to accept the terms of that contract.
"There's no way that the WGA would get a better deal than the DGA," one insider opined. "There are two reasons -- the DGA's more united and more powerful than the WGA; and the companies would never allow the precedent of giving a better deal to a union that's gone on strike."
WGA STRIKE COULD GO INTO 2008
Hopes for a quick resolution of the writers strike are fading fast.
Back-channel efforts have resumed to avert what's now looking like a long and painful work stoppage. But those moves aren't gaining much traction amid continued hardline public stances by both the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.
Worries have risen that without reviving the WGA talks, the scribes' work stoppage could easily bleed into the middle of next year.
The DGA's expected to launch talks within the next few weeks while SAG's negotiations would probably start in the late winter or early spring. Both the DGA and SAG contracts expire June 30.
WGA negotiations collapsed Sunday night, dashing a brief burst of optimism over the weekend that both sides had softened their stances and narrowed their proposals. And since the talks crashed and burned, both sides have ditched diplomacy.
AMPTP topper Nick Counter has insisted that the companies aren't interested in new talks as long as the WGA's on strike. And WGA West president Patric Verrone has declared in an email to members that the guild is no longer committed to taking its DVD residuals proposal off the table -- even though it did so Sunday to address the AMPTP's assertion that the DVD proposal was a roadblock to a deal.
"Our new comprehensive proposal (including the DVD removal) was presented in an off-the-record session; our new proposal was then rejected," Verrone said. "Based on what I saw and heard on the picket lines today, therefore, all bets are off and what we achieve in this negotiation will be a function of how much we are willing to fight to get our fair share of the residuals of the future, no matter how they are delivered."
In other developments:
"The question of when to sign interim agreements, and with what employers, depends on an assessment by the Guild leadership of how such agreements will affect our leverage at the bargaining table," said WGA spokesman Gregg Mitchell.
The guild announced nearly a month ago that writers could not work or negotiate for animated features -- even though that realm is not under WGA jurisdiction with most writing performed under contracts handled by Local 839 of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.