Topic: Hollywood writers/producers strike could happen as early as Friday!

LOS ANGELES - Talks between Hollywood writers and producers have reached a cliffhanger, with the next few days determining whether there will be a strike or a happy ending.

A strike could happen as early as Friday, with writers meeting Thursday night to discuss whether to walk out or continue to work without a contract while seeking a deal.

Their contract expired at midnight Wednesday after talks ended abruptly, with both sides saying they were still far apart on the key issue of raising payment from the sale of DVDs and extending payment to the distribution of TV shows and film over the Internet. No new talks were scheduled for Thursday.

While both sides have withdrawn other proposals since talks began in July, neither has budged on what the Writers Guild of America termed "the hated DVD formula," which pays writers pennies on the sale of home video.

Writers had sought to boost that payment. They wanted the richer formula applied equally to the sale of digital downloads. They were also seeking a piece of advertising dollars generated when TV shows and films are streamed for free over the Internet.

Writers also want to be paid for creating original content for the Internet, cell phones or other digital devices.

Producers maintain that profits from DVDs largely offset the increased cost of production. They also don't want to commit themselves to higher payment for digital distribution at a time when business models are still uncertain.

"The magnitude of that proposal alone is blocking us from making any further progress," J. Nicholas Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, told writers Wednesday.

"We cannot move further as long as that issue remains on the table. In short, the DVD issue is a complete roadblock to any further progress."

The issue is key to the industry because actors also are expected to fight for a larger share of DVD and digital revenue when their contract expires in June.

While the WGA leadership has authority to call a strike, it is expected to give negotiations one last try.

Jonathan Handel, an entertainment lawyer at the Los Angeles law firm of TroyGould who served in the 1990s as an associate counsel for the guild, said it was in the union's interest to delay a walkout, perhaps by five days or more.

"The writers guild has two weapons: one is a strike, the other is the threat of a strike. It has no reason to toss that weapon away without using it for a bit," Handel said.

If writers do strike, the first casualty would likely be late-night talk shows, which are dependent on current events to fuel monologues and other entertainment.

"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" will almost certainly be forced into reruns by a lack of fresh skits and monologues if writers walk off the job.

"If the strike happens, we are very likely looking at repeats for both shows," said Tony Fox, a spokesman for Comedy Central, which airs the shows starring Stewart and Stephen Colbert that lampoon political doings of the day.

"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" could follow.

NBC declined to comment on what would be in store for the show. But a person with the network, who was not authorized to comment and spoke on condition of anonymity, said "Tonight" and other NBC late-night shows likely would have to resort to repeats with no writing staff to generate new material.

CBS declined comment on the possible fate of "The Late Show with David Letterman."

A strike would not immediately affect film or prime-time TV production. Most studios have stockpiled dozens of movie scripts, and TV shows have enough scripts or completed shows in hand to last until early next year.

After that, networks might turn to reality shows, news programs and reruns to fill the prime-time airwaves.

Re: Hollywood writers/producers strike could happen as early as Friday!

That's stupid! They make tons of money.

Re: Hollywood writers/producers strike could happen as early as Friday!

I like how if the writers strike shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, The Tonight Show...etc will all have to go to reruns cause no one will be there to write their jokes!  hahahaha!

Re: Hollywood writers/producers strike could happen as early as Friday!

Well, a writer's strike is a double-edged sword, particularly if you're an aspiring writer.  The chances of an aspiring writer landing a sale of a script increase due to studios' perpetual appetite for new material, but if you do make a sale the Guild could black-list you because, member or not, you're making money while the "pros" are sitting on their hands. 

Personally, though screenwriters are seen as the low man on the filmic totem pole, I think the typical conditions of pay are adequate.  A writer for a weekly television show typically rakes in anywhere from $5,000 to upwards of $30,000 dollars per episode depending on the show's success and popularity. 

A screenwriter, if a guild member, makes a bare minimum of around $30,000 if he sells a script, and some have made upwards of $5,000,000 for the sale of a single script (Kevin Williamson's Scream, anyone?) 

A script is a blueprint, plain and simple.  True, you can't make a movie or television show without a script to make it from, but once that script has been sold and becomes the property of the studio/prodco which purchased it, it's THEIR money that's being put into its production -- they pay the crew, they pay the actors, they pay for everything that has to do with getting that film or television show made and released to theaters or put on the air. 

And a standard deal for a purchased script is the purchase price plus points (percentage) of profits, typically in the 2-3 percent range.  It doesn't sound like much but if a prodco spends fifteen million bucks turning your script into a film and that film grosses, say, one hundred million dollars, that minus the production cost means you get 2-3% of the 85 million dollar profit -- that's over a million dollars, in addition to what you sold the script for.  And as the writer, you do the least amount of work in the endeavor and since your script has to be purchased before it can be made, you're not losing any money if the movie tanks, whereas the studio/prodco is out of the money they spent to make the movie.

I think the deals writers get is plenty fair as is, and all this writer's strike stuff is a bunch of cockamamie greedy kindergarten crap.