Writers, pitch those sign slogans! The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike has officially begun, and today’s picketers came out with guns blazing.
On Sunday night, talks between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) came to a halt, after over ten hours of negotiations. The unsuccessful negotiations — called by federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez — were a final attempt to resolve issues surrounding new media residuals. The WGA argues that they are being unfairly compensated for their work, and the studios argue that the WGA demands would ultimately harm the growth of new media. To show the importance of this issue, the WGA took off the table a demand for increased compensation for DVD sales, hoping that it would create movement around the new media issue, but no counteroffer was forthcoming. For more details on the writer’s demands, check out RT’s strike breakdown.
In preparation for the strike, hundreds of strike captains met at the WGA West headquarters on Saturday in order to discuss logistics of picketing. The captains then issued instructions to WGA members, stating that all members are expected to picket for four hours each day. According to our source on the ground, picketing lines thus far seem extremely organized — for both WGA East and West members in New York and Los Angeles, respectively — including a plethora of prepared chants and signs at each location. Members could be heard chanting, “On strike, shut ’em down, Hollywood’s a union town!” and “What do we want? — A contract! When do we want it? — Now!!”
The strike will have a major impact on Hollywood, including a predicted dip in tourism and hard times for local businesses — from restaurants to dry cleaners. The first programs to be affected are late-night talk shows, such as The Tonight Show, which is set to begin airing reruns tonight. Despite this, Jay Leno was at NBC Studios today, showing his support by personally handing out donuts to many hungry writers who were stuck with the morning picketing shift.
We’re told that Leno joked that if tonight’s monologue was about Reagan visiting Pittsburgh and the guest was Mr. T, the audience would know it’s a rerun. The New Adventures of Old Christine officially shut down today, and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss joined picketers as a supporting member of the Screen Actors Guild. In New York, Tina Fey joined the WGA East on the picket line. In addition, more than a hundred show runners have said they will not go to work today, to show solidarity with the WGA. Take a look at RT’s strike update to hear about the show runners’ ad in Variety.
While some film and television productions may get by without writers by allowing actors to ad-lib or having non-WGA directors and producers try their hand at scripting, short-lead shows like Saturday Night Live will see episodes cancelled altogether. Up-and-comer actor Jonah Hill (Superbad, Knocked Up) voiced his frustrated support of the strike by blogging sadness at the cancellation of his first SNL hosting gig, which would have aired next week. “A lot of people will be affected by this strike and me not hosting SNL isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of it all,” he wrote. “But for me, it is a sad day.”
This is the first WGA walkout since 1988, which lasted over five months and cost the industry an estimated $500 million. With the significantly increased costs of filming movies and television programs, the current WGA strike could be detrimental to the entertainment industry’s economy. Perhaps the well-organized WGA picketing lines in Los Angeles and New York will help speed up negotiations, but nothing is clear at the moment.
For more of RT’s earlier strike coverage, check out: