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WGA Strike Continuing Coverage (Feb 12): Strike Over! Writers Vote to Return to Work

- (ADDED February 12, 2008 by Maxie Zeus): Film and television writers will return to work on Wednesday after 92.5 percent of Writers Guild of America members voted to end their strike against Hollywood producers, Reuters reports.

A proposed contract agreed to by negotiators for the producers and the union will give writers a share of the money generated by films and TV shows that are distributed via the Internet. A vote on the contract itself still has to be held.

- (ADDED February 11, 2008 by Ed Liu): The WGA board has approved the tentative contract reached with the AMPTP (free registration required), and individual members of the Guild have begun casting their ballots whether to approve the contract and end the strike which has paralyzed many television and feature film productions since the strike began in November. Television show runners were approved to return to work in their producer capacity, meaning they can hire crews and prepare for a return to work imminently.

Older strike news follows:

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After 3 weeks of acrimonious negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is now on strike, threatening a shut down of movies and television shows throughout Hollywood. The conflict is largely driven by a demand for increased residual payments for writers for television reruns, DVDs, and other digital media, such as downloaded digital content via the Internet or mobile phone networks.

Exactly which shows and movies will shut down and when they will stop production will change on a case-by-case basis, with many writers describing the impact the strike will have on their shows on their weblogs. Writer Mark Evanier has posted several links that will be providing breaking strike information, including:

- The Writers Guild of America West and the Comic book writer Brian K. Vaughan websites.
- The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers
- The Los Angeles Times strike weblog- L.A. columnist Nikki Finke’s strike weblog

Other articles about the strike include:
- Lionsgate and Marvel Studios have signed another interim agreement with the WGA (The Angry Beavers, SpongeBob SquarePants) about why he is supporting the strike.
- Mark Evanier on the largest conflict driving the strike.
- Comic book writer Brian K. Vaughan (Lost) on the strike and the potential impact it will have on comic books.

Continuing coverage of the WGA strike follows, listed in reverse chronological order:

- (ADDED February 9, 2008 by Ed Liu): The WGA has finally confirmed weeks of rumors by posting a PDF summary of the tentative agreement that they have reached with the AMPTP, in advance of a meeting with the membership scheduled for tonight at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The major chunk of the agreement will make the WGA “the exclusive bargaining representative for writing for new media (such as Internet or cellular technology),” and the agreement will be in place until May 1, 2011. The agreement is still subject to a final contract and approval by the WGA membership.

- (ADDED February 8, 2008 by Ed Liu) On an appearance on CNBC last night, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner stated that a deal has been struck to end the writer’s strike. Eisner stated that the deal will be presented to the striking writers on Saturday, and stated his opinion that the deal’s acceptance was “inevitable.” A representative from the Writer’s Guild stated in response that, “The strike is NOT over — as you know, we are under a press blackout, but I can tell you that the strike is NOT over.”

- (ADDED February 5, 2008 by Ed Liu) Reports are spreading that the WGA has reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP which is getting a positive reaction from both sides (free registration required). While neither side will comment officially on a settlement, anonymous insiders are reporting that the tentative agreement was reached on Friday. In the meantime, the WGA leadership is reminding its members that the strike is still on-going, and to continue picketing.

- (ADDED January 25, 2008 by Ed Liu): Lionsgate and Marvel Studios have signed another interim agreement with the WGA , clearing the way for work to continue on several comic-book related properties such as Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. The press release issued by Marvel Studios does not mention if or how this agreement will affect any upcoming animated properties. (ADDED by Maxie Zeus): The WGA has also reached an interim agreement with RKO Pictures. RKO plans to announce a schedule of original productions and remakes of films in its 1300-film library next week.

- (ADDED January 24, 2008 by Ed Liu, via CBR Comics Reel): Simpsons producer Mike Scully has posted his thoughts on the DGA/AMPTP preliminary deal and the appropriate influence it should have on the WGA negotiations. He notes some of the unanswered questions as of yet, such as how Internet downloads will be policed and what the “17-day promotional window” really means.

- (ADDED January 22, 2008 by Maxie Zeus): The WGA has officially dropped its demand that it be given jurisdiction over reality and animation writing, The Hollywood Reporter says. The guild says it is dropping this demand to “make absolutely clear [its] commitment to bringing a speedy conclusion to negotiations.” It did say it would continue organizing efforts intended to bring writers in those genres within its representation. The news comes as the WGA and studio chiefs say they will hold informal talks aimed at restarting contract negotiations.

- (ADDED January 21, 2008 by Ed Liu): Salon.com has obtained a copy of the interim contract between David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants production company and the WGA, including the exact language and terms agreed to over the expanded union coverage of animation (relayed via Mark Evanier, who provides analysis on his weblog).

In other news, The New York Times has profiled Patric M. Verrone, head of the WGA and former writer for The Simpsons and Futurama, and his chief lieutenant David J. Young (free registration required), focusing on the decision facing the Guild in the wake of the tentative deal between the AMPTP and the Director’s Guild of America.

- (ADDED January 20, 2008 by Maxie Zeus): Top studio executives and leaders from the WGA will meet informally to discuss the resumption of bargaining between the two sides, Variety reports. The news comes days after the producers negotiated a tentative deal with the Directors’ Guild of America (DGA). According to the trade paper, studio executives have said that the WGA will be offered terms similar to those settled on with the directors.

- (ADDED January 17, 2008 by Maxie Zeus): The AMPTP has reached a tentative deal with the Directors’ Guild of America (DGA) for a new contract, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, the three-year contract would give directors higher royalties from the online sales of movies and TV shows; terms are said to be better than those the AMPTP initially offered the striking WGA, essentially doubling the current paid rate, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

- (ADDED January 16, 2008 by Maxie Zeus): Twentieth Century Fox Television, CBS Paramount Network Television, NBC Universal, and Warner Bros. Television have invoked force majeure clauses to cancel more than sixty television production deals, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The clauses allow studios to unilaterally cancel production deals in the event of crisis events, including strikes. The deals being cancelled can be for as much as $2 million to cover staff overheads on the development of television series.

The move is seen as an admission by the studios that the development of shows for the new season will not occur. It will also allow studios to eliminate deals with marginal television writer-producers.

- (ADDED January 15, 2008 by Ed Liu, via CBR Comics Reel) The WGA has just cut an interim deal with MRC, an independent film, television, and digital studio that was notable for signing Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane with a deal of full creative control and an ownership stake late last year. MRC thus joins United Artists, the Weinstein Company, and Worldwide Pants as studios which may resume production without breaking the strike.

- (ADDED January 14, 2008 by Matt Hazuda): Maxwell Atoms, creator of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, has weighed in on the WGA strike, discussing how animation writers almost never get any residuals for their work, and how the AMPTP’s response to the WGA’s demands about unionizing animation writers has, if anything, eliminated any sympathy he may have had for the AMPTP’s position.

- (ADDED January 11, 2008 by Ed Liu) The New York Times reports that the Weinstein Company has struck an interim deal with the WGA (free registration required), similar to the one negotiated by United Artists last week. In addition to several live-action films that may now restart production, the Weinsteins filed an unfair labor practices complaint .

- (ADDED January 7, 2008 by Ed Liu) Over the weekend, rumors flew that United Artists was about to announce an interim agreement with the WGA, largely accepting the terms that were presented by the WGA to the AMPTP when talks broke off in early December. Similar rumors are currently circulating that Lionsgate, The Weinstein Co., and Lucasfilm may be close to making similar interim deals, which would probably have more of an impact to animation projects than a deal with United Artists.

- (ADDED December 24, 2007) The AMPTP has issued another press release criticizing the WGA for drawing out the writer’s strike, and reiterating its position that it cannot return to the negotiating table until the WGA drops several of its “unreasonable demands,” including the right to unionize animation writers. Writer Mark Evanier has written a post on his weblog that criticizes the AMPTP’s press release for inaccuracies. Evanier also points out how motion-capture technology blurs the distinction between animation and live-action acting, and how failing to clarify these points now will only cause more problems later. And the war goes on.

- (ADDED December 18, 2007) The Writers Guild of America (WGA) will not allow its members to work on the Academy Awards or Golden Globes shows, USA Today reports.

The WGA has turned down the Golden Globes’ request for a waiver so that writers could work on its January 13 broadcast, and the union has also turned down the Oscars’ request to use movie clips and scenes from past Oscar broadcasts for its February 24 telecast. In addition, the WGA said it would deny writing services for the Academy Awards were it asked.

- (ADDED December 17, 2007) The Los Angeles Times talks about how production of animated shows continues during the WGA strike (free registration required). The article notes how networks like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network are “flourishing,” and also briefly chronicles the history of unionization (or the lack of it) in the animation industry and how continued syndication and the ability to generate new audiences in each generation increases the appeal of animated programming for many parent companies. Subjects quoted in the article include Steve Hulett from the Animation Guild, Simpsons producer Mike Scully, and Backyardigans writer Keith Kaczorek.

- (ADDED December 14, 2007) The WGA has filed an unfair labor practices complaint claiming that the AMPTP violated federal law by breaking off contract negotiations last weekend. Entertainment reporter Nikki Finke has posted the complete complaint documentation. The move seems intended to declare the AMPTP’s ultimatum illegal, thus forcing them back to the bargaining table. Meanwhile, the Director’s Guild of America will be delaying its contract negotiations with the AMPTP until January to give the WGA strike more time to resolve itself. Some speculation in Hollywood claimed that the AMPTP would attempt to strike an early deal with the Director’s Guild to apply more pressure on the Writer’s Guild.

In other news, writer Mark Evanier has posted a detailed explanation why much animation writing is not covered by the Writer’s Guild, and provided a summary of organized labor efforts in animation.

- (ADDED December 8, 2007) Contract talks between motion picture and television producers and writers broke off Friday night among heated accusations of duplicity, Reuters reports. Representatives of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) accused the representatives of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers of negotiating in bad faith; WGA representatives countered by accusing AMPTP negotiators of issuing an ultimatum.

The an interview with Newsarama’s Animated Shorts column in question lists various areas that the producers demand be taken out of negotiation before talks can resume. Among those areas is the WGA’s proposal that the union be given jurisdiction over animation writing. The AMPTP notes that the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) has had jurisdiction over animation for more than fifty years. The president of the IATSE, which has been hostile to the WGA walkout, has also issued a statement denouncing the WGA’s proposal regarding representation of animation writers as “poaching.”

- (ADDED December 7, 2007) The Writers Guild of America has raised the issue of unionizing animation writers in talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the Associated Press reports. The WGA raised the issue as part of talks on Wednesday about jurisdiction over writing for the internet, reality TV, and basic cable.

- (ADDED November 30, 2007) After four days of negotiation, the WGA has rejected a new contract offer from the AMPTP. The AMPTP stated that the WGA had asked for time to study the offer, but representatives from the WGA described the new contract as a “massive rollback,” calling on its members to continue the strike.

- (ADDED November 27, 2007) As reported earlier, the AMPTP and the WGA have returned to the bargaining table, while picketing by striking writers continues. Details on the discussions are not available due to the news blackout which both sides agreed to before returning to negotiations. Other news covers the surprisingly uninspiring slogans chanted at the picket lines considering that the strikers are professional writers, from sources ranging from actress Jamie Lee Curtis to the New York City Police Department.
- (ADDED November 27, 2007) In an interview with Newsarama’s Animated Shorts column , David X. Cohen stated that the strike will not affect the three upcoming Futurama direct-to-DVD movies at this time:

DXC: We are in a lucky position. There is no impact, so far, due to the strike. The place we’re at right now is the first movie is completely done. With the other three movies, the scripts are done. They have been written, rewritten and rewritten again and are in Korea right now being animated. We have actually disbanded operation at this point. So there’s no immediate impact on Futurama at this point. What I’m really hoping for is something happens that we would have to get back together again and we do more Futurama.

- (ADDED November 19, 2007) Variety is reporting that the WGA and AMPTP have announced that they will return to the bargaining table after the Thanksgiving holiday on November 26, 2007. Both sides have also agreed to a news blackout. (via Matt Hazuda)

- (ADDED November 14, 2007) Variety is reporting that a new episode of Family Guy, which was completed without the involvement of series creator Seth MacFarlane,will be airing this Sunday on Fox. MacFarlane expressed disappointment in the decision, although he did admit that the network was within its rights to complete episodes without his involvement. (via Matt Hazuda)
- (ADDED November 14, 2007) The “Get Back in That Room” weblog has been started to chronicle all the people who have been lost their jobs as a result of the strike, targeting both the WGA and the AMPTP to show that the strike is having a negative impact on more than just the writers and the AMPTP. So far, the only show represented on the list is Fox’s Family Guy. (via Matt Hazuda)
- (ADDED November 14, 2007) The Animation Guild weblog has posted an update on King of the Hill and The Simpsons. According to the entry by Steve Hulett, the management is telling the King of the Hill crew that all the episodes for this season are written, so the show will be able to stay in production for the duration of the season. Meanwhile, on The Simpsons, all the shows for the current season except the last one have been recorded and work continues on them, which corroborates yesterday’s report that virtually the entire season could be completed without additional work by striking writers. (via Matt Hazuda)

- (ADDED November 13, 2007) The Salt Lake Tribune has a report that The Simpsons can complete up to 22 episodes without interruption, which is essentially the entire season. The source of this report was Bill Morrison, comic book artist for the Simpsons tie-in comics and director of The Simpsons‘ merchandising arm. (via Comic Book Resources Comics Reel, which also links to a continually updated TV Guide chart of how many episodes specific TV shows will be able to air before they shut down production due to the strike)

- (ADDED November 12, 2007) An article in Variety notes Seth MacFarlane triggered an angry response from a crowd of strikers with the following statement (via The Beat):

“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane touched a nerve Friday when he elicited perhaps the angriest response among the 4,000 attendees at Friday’s WGA rally at Fox Plaza. Invoking the image of the companies as schoolyard bullies, he recounted that all “Family Guy” assistants had been fired by Fox on the third day of the strike.

“Instead of negotiating, they lashed out at the little guy,” MacFarlane added. “What a classy move.”

- (ADDED November 10, 2007, via Matt Hazuda) Eric Kaplan, show-runner for Cartoon Network’s Out of Jimmy’s Head, was one of dozens of show-runners who committed to “do no writing and no story breaking — nor will any be asked of our writing staffs” while the WGA strike continues.
- (ADDED November 10, 2007) A representative from MTV Networks, which includes Nickelodeon, gave Toon Zone News the following statement:
“The majority of our networks will not be affected by a WGA strike, and for those that will our exposure is limited. Many of our scripted shows already have full seasons in the can, or have a significant amount of episodes taped or written. Additionally, a number of our scripted shows are either non-WGA or not currently in production. For programming that is affected, we have plans in place to minimize the impact.”

- (ADDED November 9, 2007) A representative from Cartoon Network confirmed for Toon Zone News that, “at this point none of our animated series are directly involved because they do not fall under the WGA,” and also added wishes that the conflict would be resolved quickly and to the satisfaction of all involved parties.

- (ADDED November 8, 2007) Seth MacFarlane has stated that the episode of Family Guy that will air on Sunday, November 11, is “the last fully-produced episode in the can,” and that he will not go back to assist in completing any of the partially finished ones. 20th Century Fox did not comment on their plans for the show after the 11th, stating only that they hope he will come back and complete his non-Writers Guild contract duties on the remaining unfinished episodes. (via TZ member ppccd)
- (ADDED November 8, 2007) Mark Evanier notes that some animated shows will be affected by the strike, and expresses skepticism that WGA members will attempt to move into animation and comics writing while the strike continues.
- (ADDED November 8, 2007) Reuters UK is noting that many writers may move to animated films and TV shows, since many are written under contracts with the Animation Guild rather than WGA. The article states that, “various WGA members have made and renewed deals to work at DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and other animation studios in recent weeks,” according to Steven Hulett of the Animation Guild Local 839. Hulett’s statement was reiterated by a DreamWorks spokeswoman in the article. However, at least one studio executive quoted in the article said that big-name writers would probably not cross picket lines to avoid weakening the position of striking WGA members.

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