Hollywood Hyphenates Holding The Line

by Paul William Tenny

Tina Fey Holds The Line
Variety has a story running this afternoon about writer-producers that have duties other than using their titles as seniority in the writing hierarchy - we're talking about people who approve mixes of the show, do actual video editing themselves, and other actual producing duties. They also talk about writers that also act on their shows and are legally obligated to cross the writers picket line and get in front of the camera for episodes the studios still have complete scripts for.

These guys and gals are in a tougher place than regular hyphenates as members of more than one guild.
But the WGA has been urging its showrunners to stand down. It held a meeting Saturday at the Sheraton Universal designed to persuade showrunners to stop working immediately. The argument is that the more episodes the nets have in the can, the longer a strike will go.

"The official line on all of our shows is we expect you to show up," said one senior network executive. "We've told them that it's required under their contracts, and they'll be in breach if they don't show up."

"Showrunners will not show on Monday or all week," predicted one top exec producer-showrunner. "No one likes to leave a crew unsure of whether or not they have work, or assistants wondering where their next paycheck will come from. And no one wants to leave their baby in someone else's hands. It's a difficult time. But I will not cross a picket line."

Such appears to be the case with Shawn Ryan (The Unit, The Shield, Angel) who wrote in a letter published by Deadline Hollywood that he has no intention of helping them drag out a strike any longer than is necessary.

I watched as the company's representatives treated us horrendously, disrespectfully, and then walked out on us at 9:30 and then lied to the trades, claiming we had broken off negotiations.

I can't in good conscience fight these bastards with one hand, while operating an avid with the other. I am on strike and I am not working for them. PERIOD.

Like some others, Ryan doesn't know if the strike may cause The Unit to be canceled, or how many of his writers and all the other people that work for and with them will be coming back when this all comes to a conclusion. The guild really wants every member to hit the picket lines every day Mon-Fri if they can for at least one shift, which I imagine would make it all that much harder to find a temp job that can pay the bills if this thing goes the distance.

I heard on the news this afternoon that Jon Stewart is going to pay the salaries of the writers for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for at least the next two weeks - out of his own pocket - to keep them going, at least for a little while. It turns out this isn't entirely accurate, but close enough:

on Stewart's rep just called back to deny the information above. I checked back with my source, who set me straight on a few details: Stewart is not paying writers out of his own pocket, but through Busboy, his production company. And it's not just writers who are getting their salaries covered but all the shows' employees. "He's hoping that it wraps up amicably and quickly, and over the course of that time he wants to look out for his employees," he says.

Either way, there's just no way I see this thing coming to an end within the next two weeks. The studios keep telling everyone how this strike won't affect their feature slate, that they've been stockpiling for months and it'll be a long time before this ends up affecting their bottom line - and that's true to a degree. The strike won't hurt them *now*, it'll hurt them next year, because films take that long from concept to can.

Whatever features they'd be rolling out in 2009 would be starting anytime between now and the next few months, so there's going to be a gap somewhere down the line, the only questions is how big will it be. It could just thin the box office for a while which as some people have speculated may not be such a bad thing.

TV won't start running out of new episodes until January, although some cable programs that produce on a different schedule won't be affected this year at all. The only one that comes to mind is the one I already knew about because I follow this show: Stargate Atlantis (Sci Fi Channel, ultimately owned by NBC) nearly wrapped production on its fourth season before the first episode hit the air. For all purposes that matter, they banked an entire season just because that's how it was setup from the beginning.

One thing the networks could do to protect themselves from strikes like this is stop working on a fall/spring schedule and really embrace year around production. For the sake of union labor, I hope that doesn't happen anytime soon.
in Labor


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