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Writers and producers back at the table

Doug Krizner Jan 25, 2008
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Writers and producers back at the table

Doug Krizner Jan 25, 2008
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Doug Krizner: Two high-profile TV shows are going back into production during the strike by screenwriters. The Writers Guild has an interim deal with the independent studio Lion’s Gate, which means “Weeds,” airing on Showtime, and “Mad Men,” which runs on AMC, will go back to work. The Writers also worked out a deal with Marvel Studios, which produces movies like “Captain America.” In Hollywood yesterday, union leaders and studio moguls talked for a third day.

Let’s bring in Mike Speier of Variety. Mike, there’s seems to be some optimism about settling this strike.

Mike Speier: Well, at least we’re back at the table right now, and that is a far cry from where we were a week ago. Because a week ago, nobody was talking, and then the directors made their deal. And when the directors made their deal, the writers and the producers looked at each other and said, well, let’s get back to the table for informal talks.

Krizner: So I’m hearing that they’ve dropped two key demands in these negotiations. What are they?

Speier: The writers always had requested — or demanded, rather — that they had jurisdiction over everything on television, including animation and reality. And that was always a sticking point with the producers. I mean, the fact that the producers get to keep jurisdiction over something is obviously a big deal whenever there’s a negotiation.

Krizner: So if they were to fix this strike in the next week, is really gonna matter now? I mean, isn’t the TV season pretty much already lost?

Speier: The TV season, I would say half of it is lost. They could probably get some episodes done in about three to four weeks, and they could probably on half the shows cut some corners, get some things done in a few weeks.

Krizner: But pilot season has been toasted, right?

Speier: Pilot season is the one that’s a little bit more troubling in that the studios have already cut ties with a lot of their people on the lot, because they just couldn’t afford them anymore. That said, pilot season is for next year. So if they have time to even make shows for this year, they certainly have time to order up some pilots for next year. It’s just going to be a different process.

Krizner: Is there still a lot of uniformity, cohesion within the guild, or have people been starting to fight among themselves?

Speier: That depends on who you ask. If you ask the guild, they’re going to stand tough and say our people are standing firm and we’re all together, and even the writers will say there’s no dissension at all. Of course, you look at the cracks in the armor, and you see that all the writers are kind of looking at each other, saying, why did the directors make a deal so quickly? Why couldn’t we be like that? If our negotiating team on behalf of us doesn’t come up with something, we’re going to get really angry, because it’s been weeks now.

Krizner: Mike Speier, gut check: What do you think is gonna happen here?

Speier: I think that there will be a deal sooner rather than later. I think the Oscars are a key point — nobody wants to cancel the Oscars. I think it’s a reasonable assumption to think that everyone’s talking, and by the Oscars there’s a deal, and we’re going to see the Academy Awards.

Krizner: Mike Speier is executive editor at Variety here in LA. Mike, thanks so much.

Speier: Pleasure.

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