The specter of a strike in Hollywood has been hanging over the world like an impending Category 5 hurricane these last few months. Terror has taken up residence in the hearts of the people as they wonder whether Transformers 2 could possibly be made pre-strike, and if not, does that mean we won’t get to see the further adventures of Sam Witwicky and his shape changing friends until some time in the next decade? Young people of today, now you know what it was like for us in school when we had to do our nuclear attack drills. That sense of dread in the pit of your stomach…
Well, Terry George won’t make you feel any better. The writer/director of the upcoming Reservation Road also happens to be on the WGA (Writer’s Guild of America) negotiation team, and he has some dire things to say about the state of Tinseltown labor relations. He tells Blackfilm.com: "If you look at the circumstances, here’s basically what the studios are saying at the moment. This is an antiquated system here and we want to revisit the residual situation. The residual is what most actors and writers live off. It’s that little bit of money you get back when a film shows. They say they want to go back to a profit base distribution thing. I still get statements on "Hotel Rwanda" which basically says we are $20 million dollars in the red and with "In The Name of the Father", we are $16 million dollars in the red. Hollywood bookkeeping is beyond mafia bookkeeping. So the notion that writers and actors work until they declare a profit is ridiculous. It’s a smoke screen to get away from what this all about, which is that the whole industry is moving over to the internet and the new media. All we are saying is to give us a little piece of that and we would be very happy with it. I don’t know if they think they can bust the WGA or the whole industry or make a change here, but we’re not going for it. We’re not asking for a lot. We’re asking for a portion of this; and they have been trying over the last few years with reality TV shows and non-union writers just to chip away at that. My mood and the mood of some of the Guild is ‘Let’s not wait til June 30th’. They all think we are going to wait til June 30th and wait for the actors to come out and by that time they would have stock piled 200 films and it will be a defacto strike anyway. I’m all for going as soon as we can."
Yup, George is pounding the drum that the writers may go on strike some time at the end of the month, when their contract was up. As he mentions, they were considering waiting until June, when the directors and actors see their contracts end, and may strike as well, but the new thought process in the suddenly tough-as-nails WGA is to not let the studios get a bunch of extra months of work out of them. On the other hand, I’ve spoken to a number of WGA members in the last month or two, all of whom think the union is going to fold like the back page of a Mad Magazine.
The writers going on strike next month would really screw up some of Hollywood’s plans. The studios think they have an extra few months to work on their blockbusters – like, say, Justice League of America – but an end of October strike would leave them with very unfinished scripts. Which never really stopped these people in the past when there were no strikes, so who knows.
George talks about the situation like it’s inevitable: "There’s been nothing offered. There’s been no ability to talk at the minute. They haven’t come up with anything on a discussion where you can sit down and actually have a conversation about. We are going to vote on an authorization to strike, the Guild; the whole membership will give the committee the authorization to call a strike. I think it will be almost unanimous." I’m genuinely curious to see what the writers do, and if they strike what effect it will have on film production through the summer.
For the rest of Terry George’s comments, go to Blackfilm.com.