Monday, November 5, 2007

Writers go on strike!

Writers went on strike in a standoff with the big studios over their share of the profits from DVD sales and online broadcasts, despite last-minute talks to end the dispute.

Writers in New York were the first to walk off the job, with several dozen members of the 12,000-strong Writers Guild of America manning a picket line outside the NBC network's studios at the Rockefeller Centre.

“The producers are really holding back on the new-media projects and that's the biggest issue for us. The deal we made for DVD sales 20 years ago just wasn't enough,” said Peter Brash, a writer on the soap opera, As The World Turns.

“They just can't get away with it any more. It's just a whole bunch of corporate greed.” He said he hoped his show would be off the air for only a short time, but writers were prepared for the long haul.

The early casualties of the first major strike by Hollywood writers in nearly 20 years are likely to be talk shows, soap operas and comedy programs.

The two big US late-night talk shows, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman, which both rely heavily on topical material, were reported to be among the first shows going into reruns.

Major motion picture studios and television programs, however, typically have stockpiles of scripts that could insulate them from the effects of the strike for a year or longer.

Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter behind the Hollywood blockbuster trilogy that began with The Bourne Identity and who wrote and directed Michael Clayton, currently on release, described the strike as “critical”.

“The way I look at it, these are the final negotiations,” he said, arguing for “a fair price paid for the raw material that constitutes the product.”

But he said he was not optimistic that the guild's demands would be met. “We're fighting eight gigantic media corporations. It's a pretty formidable opponent,” he said.

The dispute hinges on writers' demands for a greater share of residual profits from television series sold on DVDs and money made from programs shown on the internet, mobile phones and other new-media outlets.

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