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Home Features Top of the Week Writers Strike Update and Your Soap Operas

Writers Strike Update and Your Soap Operas

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The mess is just getting bigger and your soaps will start to suffer


WGA Strike posterOver three months ago, on November 5, 2007, the WGA (Writers Guild of America) voted to strike against the AMPTP (Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers).  Their strike demands included doubling their share of sales from DVD’s (from 4 to 8 cents a DVD), and a certain percentage of revenues and licensing fees  earned from internet streaming and downloads.  With even your soaps now streaming online, this latter demand is crucial in establishing industry precedents going forward.

Just prior to the strike in early November, Soapdom polled all of the soaps to see if or how they prepared for the imminent strike.  Most shows would not get into specifics, but did say things like, “we are covered,” and “we have material that will carry us through January.”

Well, my cyber soap fan friends, we are now well into January and there does not look like any headway has been made in resolving the strike – especially as the two sides have not even sat down to the bargaining table in over a month.  There’s a certain arrogance in that, I believe.  This strike is not only impairing our television and future film viewing, it’s crippling the lives of thousands of production, staff and ancillary workers and businesses in the industry and beyond who are not writers, but who have been forced out of work thanks to the strike.  The irony here is that the striking writers (who may or may not be receiving strike pay) and the innocent victims in this mess – the production workers, staffs, etc. – are losing all sorts of money due to the lack of work, while the studios and television networks are saving millions in not having to pay salaries and other production costs.  The striking writers and the others affected by the strike will never recoup that money.

Granted, the studios and networks are also losing millions in advertising dollars as advertisers pull out of some of the shoddy programming that’s been scheduled to fill in on prime time.  No one is winning here.

Let's look at some of the major repercussions of the strike so far:

1)    The first casualties were the “Up Fronts.”  They were cancelled.  The Up Fronts are the presentations to advertisers of a network’s new programming for the upcoming season and typically take place in January.
2)    The Golden Globes Awards show has been cancelled and replaced with a news conference.
3)    Over 58 television programs have been shut down due to lack of scripts, putting thousands and thousands of people and businesses out of work.
4)    Some production companies like David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants and United Artists, have come to separate interim agreements with the WGA allowing their writers to get back to work, while late night talk show hosts, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien and others have come under fire for writing their own monologues.
5)    The Academy Awards broadcast is at risk of being cancelled.
6)    The entire Pilot season is at risk of being cancelled, meaning the 2008 fall season of new, scripted shows will be basically non existent.
7)    Today it was just announced that ICM, a major talent agency, has laid off a number of agents due to lack of their bringing any commissions into the agency because they cannot book their clients and has cut back the salaries of others.
8)    Warner Bros. is about to “fire” its show runners. Show runners -- typically writers and members of the WGA, but who also hold producer’s contracts with the studios --  are in breach of their studio contracts if they are siding with the writers.

It’s a mess.

Flip back to the soap opera world. Your soaps will continue to air but they are now being written by scabs or people who opted to resign from the WGA to continue head writing their respective soaps, while other soaps are suffering because their head writers are picketing the show. Expect to see a decline in the continuity and overall storytelling as these pinch hitters do their best to fill in.  Your shows will remain on the air, but the quality of upcoming episodes could be lacking.  If your favorite character does or says something totally out of character in the near future, write it up to the strike.  At least the production crews and staff of the soaps will keep their jobs.

Let’s all hope this strike ends soon.

Comments (6)add comment

gidget6 said:

I do not think the writers are wrong in their stand. Any of their work shown anywhere is still their work and they should own it. If any one profits from the writers material then the writers deserve to recive fair compensation for it. Hang in there writers we are behind you.
January 11, 2008
Votes: +0

sjm55 said:

I totally agree with you, gidget6! I think the "big guys" at the top are being totally narrow-minded and selfish. There would be NO shows to produce if they didn't have the writers. I think they're all run by 20 year olds (a slight exaggeration, I realize! LOL!) who think reality shows are the only thing people want to watch and that these same people would never again miss a good drama or half hour comedy. It just makes me see "red." The writers aren't really asking for too much. Most actors are on their side, also.
January 11, 2008
Votes: +0

QueenRuler said:

Hi gidget6 and sjm55,

Your comments are right on the money. What gets me is the arrogance of the producers who have walked away from the bargaining table. From what I hear from sources near the top, the writers are ready and willing to get back to talking but the producers are not so interested. Meantime, all of our programming is suffering, not to mention the crews, production staff, actors, and of course, the writers, who are all out of work. What's interesting to me is that no one is stepping in to mediate and get the parties back to the bargaining table.

Your QueenRuler
January 11, 2008
Votes: +0

Marla J said:

I just read that George Clooney is putting together a strike busting team. Something to get every back to the table and negotiating. I hope he can do it. It seems we are into a stalemate. No one is budging. While I agree in principal with the writers, I also dont think the execs are the bad guys either. To produce a show it takes a team - writers, directors, producers, etc.... we need them all to make a show and I dont think one is any more important than the other. But the losers are more than just the writers - its the viewers and all the businesses that support this industy.
January 12, 2008
Votes: +0

toots1941 said:

I agree with the writers, but this strike is a boomerang, not just people in the entertainment business, but just about everyone, right down to the restaurants, waiters, who would have made megabucks with all the parties from the "Golden Globe Awards", or possibly the Oscars.
It has hit everyone.
As far as the statement, if we see one of actors say or do something that is off character, the scab writers will do their best, well, there has been no scab writers for several years, and every character on GL says and does things that are not in character. So what's new theresmilies/smiley.gif
January 13, 2008
Votes: +0

Marla J said:

I just read the studio's have cancelled some of the writers contracts. I guess this surprised the writers they didnt see this coming.
Everyone loses. Even when this is over there will be no winners.

Report: Studios cancel writers contracts
> Tue Jan 15, 4:45 AM PST
> Four major studios have canceled dozens of writers' contracts in a
> possible concession that the current television season cannot be
> saved, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
> The move means the 2-month old writers strike may also endanger next
> season's new shows, the Times said.
> January is usually the beginning of pilot season, when networks order
> new scripted shows. But the strike leaves networks without a pool of
> comedy and drama scripts from which to choose.
> 20th Century Fox Television, CBS Paramount Network Television, NBC
> Universal and Warner Bros. Television told the Times they have
> terminated development and production agreements.
> Studios typically pay $500,000 to $2 million a year per writer for
> them and their staffs to develop new show concepts.
> "I didn't see it coming," Barbara Hall, a writer and producer whose
> credits include former CBS series "Joan of Arcadia" and "Judging Amy,"
> told the Times, which said ABC executives gave her the news Friday. "I
> am not entirely sure what their strategy is, all I know was that I was
> a casualty of it."
> The newspaper said more than 65 deals with writers have been
> eliminated since Friday.
> Copyright C 2008 The a*sociated Press. All rights reserved. The
> information contained in the AP News report may not be published,
> broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written
> authority of The a*sociated Press.
January 16, 2008
Votes: +0

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