Friday, November 9, 2007

Latest News on the Writer's Strike

United Hollywood: A picketer at Prospect Studios sent in a disturbing report that some daytime dramas have already hired scabs. "The scab writers work under fake names, work from home and use different email addresses so only the EP knows the real identities of the scabs. These tend to be experienced soap writers who aren't currently on a show. They are then promised employment after the strike is over. While they're scabbing, they get paid less than union writers. The networks see this as cheaper than shutting down production, as a soap has an enormous amount of cast, and paying out their contracts while they don't work makes this deal seem financially better."

Deadline Hollywood: Soap opera sources tell me that the soaps continue production during a strike even after they’ve run out of Guild-covered scripts by hiring new writers for the duration (and protect their anonymity so there are no repercussions against them). But this time out there seems to be a new wrinkle. Word is ABC, which owns all the soaps it airs, is sending notices to its writers advising them to elect Financial Core status with the Guild and return to work -- or their jobs might not be available when the strike is over.

Crave Online: Writer's strike could be a long one. As of Monday, 4,000 members of the Writers Guild of America, the people who write the jokes and the scripts to your favorite TV shows, went on strike. Despite ten hours of last-minute negotiating on Sunday between the WGA and the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers), no agreement was reached, and the next morning, writers organized picket lines outside the industry’s major Los Angeles and New York studios. Daytime TV, including live talk shows and soap operas, will soon feel the impact as well. Without writers, who will come up with today’s cutting-edge soap opera content? We may have a long wait before we find out whose evil twin brother is sleeping with the alien-possessed millionaire heiress wife of the murderous chief of police on “Days of Our Restless Hospital ”. Something needs to be done.

Baltimore Sun: Ultimately, the legacy of a prolonged strike could reduce the audience for network TV at a time when it has already been losing viewers for years to cable, DVDs and the Internet. Numbers from May 2007 show that the combined viewership of the four major broadcast networks - ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox - dropped by 2.5 million from the previous spring. "The last time there was a 22- to 23-week strike [in 1988], the networks lost 10 percent of their audience," says David Bianculli, TV critic for NPR's Fresh Air and "That's a huge chunk, and they'll lose at least that much now. It's going to be more and more difficult to convince viewers to come back."

Slate: Joining the picket line were unionized actors, technicians, parking attendants, and people who make a lifestyle out of joining picket lines. A representative of the Internationalist Club of the City University of New York ardently clutched a sheet of fluorescent poster board. On one side, the sign pledged solidarity with the screenwriters; on the reverse, it advocated an end to imperialist wars and the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal; in his other hand, the student held a shopping bag from Zabar's. This was either a classic sighting of vintage Upper West Side liberalism or no one had told the kid that there was a really great Whole Foods right downstairs. Naturally, the writers tended to gather in clumps and cliques—soap veterans there, comedy kids on the other side—but they agreed that he was great material.

49 ABC News: With many show runners refusing to cover nonwriting tasks on their series, including casting, editing and directing, production has stalled entirely on a number of prominent shows. "When we're off the job, pretty much everything stops," Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry told the Los Angeles Times Wednesday. Stars continued to turn out to show their support for the writers, with Ray Romano and the casts of shows including "Ugly Betty" and "General Hospital" taking their turns on the picket lines in L.A. Thursday. Robin Williams, David Duchovny, Julianne Moore ("As The World Turns"), Tim Robbins, Roseanne Barr, Holly Hunter and David Hyde Pierce were spotted New York.

A four-minute YouTube clip posted by the Writers Guild of America.

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