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After some fits and starts, the Writers Guild of America resumed daily talks with studios this week over a new bargaining agreement, though individuals with knowledge of the talks said the situation is “very fluid” with no clear sign of how they will turn out.
Over the past two weeks, the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the studio’s labor-negotiations body, have gotten back to the negotiating table, first with a “talk about resuming talks” on Aug. 4 and subsequent meetings last Friday and this past Tuesday.
The cadence of negotiations has increased with the WGA and AMPTP now in regular contact this week, three individuals with knowledge of the talks told TheWrap, while studio chiefs are now in more frequent discussions with each other about the latest developments.
This is in large part due to an increased urgency by the studios to end the strike over concerns of a prolonged work stoppage accelerating the rate of linear TV cord-cutting with no new scripted programming and harming production on films set for theatrical release next year.
But it is still unclear whether more frequent discussions and the increased strike pressure will be enough to bridge the gap on the most disputed issues surrounding the contract, most notably the issue of staffing for writers’ rooms. The WGA seeks terms that codify the traditional writers room in the contract and ensures upward mobility for younger staff writers looking to build the experience needed to become writer-producers.
Studios, on the other hand, have long stood against the WGA setting quotas on how many writers they hire, using shows written entirely by a single writer like Mike White’s “The White Lotus” and Taylor Sheridan’s “Yellowstone” as examples of how such quotas would be too inflexible for both studios and writer-producers.
Despite this impasse, studio insiders said there’s a concentrated effort by their side to get a deal done with the WGA, and that includes trying to keep a lid on the finer details of what has happened during negotiations. One executive who was not authorized to speak publicly voiced frustration about studio leaks to Bloomberg and Variety this past week about details of the AMPTP’s latest offer to the WGA.
“We’re supposed to keep the contract talks with the guilds under wraps like we always do when there isn’t a strike, but apparently some people forgot that,” the executive grumbled. “Let’s just get this done.”
On the picket lines, the leaks have been met with dismissiveness, with WGA members telling TheWrap that the general mentality among the rank and file is to “keep calm and picket on” until their negotiating committee formally announces a deal.
“Any leak that comes out about what the studios are offering is an effort by those studios to influence the general public, who might think that offer sounds reasonable but don’t fully understand how the industry works or what goes into making a show or how we get compensated for it,” said WGA strike captain Haley Harris.
WGA leadership has not sent any memos to members regarding the talks since informing them Friday that the negotiating committee had received AMPTP’s latest counterproposal.
“Sometimes more progress can be made in negotiations when they are conducted without a blow-by-blow description of the moves on each side and a subsequent public dissection of the meaning of the moves,” the memo read. “That will be our approach, at least for the time being, until there is something of significance to report, or unless management uses the media or industry surrogates to try to influence the narrative.”
Harris said she and her fellow guild members who have marched on the Paramount picket line for the past 108 days are confident that the WGA won’t come to them with an unsatisfactory deal, as all the terms that the guild are fighting for won’t have the desired effect if anything gets left out.
“All of these different asks — residuals, employment length, minimum room size — all go hand in hand because if we don’t get one but don’t get the others, they’ll just undercut us on what we don’t get,” she said. “If we get residual increases but not minimum room size, the studios will try to push writers towards writing shows on their own.”
For all of TheWrap’s strike coverage, click here.