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Writers Guild Strike — Day 3

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The third day of the Writers Guild strike it is having a noticeable impact on television production. The first to be affected were the late night shows of Jay Leno, Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel all going into re-runs. Now some of the prime time schedule is being affected; “Desperate Housewives” will shut down production this Friday, as well as “NCIS”, “The Unit”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “The Office” and “Private Practice”.

Hollywood sign 3

Since most productions are filmed about 5 episodes ahead of air dates, you will not see any impact on your favorite shows immediately. In fact with the traditional holiday specials and pre-emptions this month and next those hit shows are probably good until at least the end of January 2008.

With the writers out no new shows are being written and now the “Showrunners” of these hit shows are showing solidarity and withholding their services. These are the brain trust of any show — they drive the ideas and keep the show on it’s popular course.

Daily Variety writes, As showrunners rallied en masse Wednesday outside the Disney studio gates, the fallout from the three-day-old Writers Guild of America walkout began impacting some of primetime’s biggest hits, including Fox’s “24” and “Family Guy” and NBC’s “The Office. Showrunners weren’t backing down but, after a meeting following the rally, they did appear to come to a consensus to try to use whatever leverage they have to woo studios back to the negotiating table.

For now, they’re staying off the job — and writing is out of the question until a settlement is reached. But, said one showrunner who was at the powwow, “We will gladly return to our (showrunner) jobs the day that the producers return to the negotiating table.”

On the programming front, Fox said it would delay the planned season premiere of “24” indefinitely, citing uncertainty over the strike’s duration as the reason. Meanwhile, NBC gave up producing one more episode of “The Office” after key actors on the show failed to come to work. That means that show will be in repeats after Nov. 15.

On the picket lines, the showrunner rally — held in front of the Walt Disney Studios — brought out a who’s who of big name scribes, among them Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (“Lost”), Marc Cherry (“Desperate Housewives”), Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Neal Baer (“Law & Order: SVU”), Carol Mendelsohn (“CSI”), Josh Schwartz (“Chuck”), Shawn Ryan (“The Unit”), Alan Ball (“Six Feet Under”), Greg Daniels (“The Office”) and Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”).

“For a show to keep going without a showrunner, it’s like selling water and white powder and calling it milk,” said “The Office” exec producer Greg Daniels.

As more and more shows shut down there will soon be thousands of us without work. Thanksgiving and Christmas will feel very bleak and the new year will be tougher as the Directors Guild and the Screen Actors Guild’s contracts come up for renewal next June. The WGA battle is only the tip of the iceberg for what could be a long year of labor unrest in Tinsel Town.

Luckily we are still shooting, but the mood has been very somber on our set. Hollywood is a union town; Actors, Directors, Writers, Drivers and film technicians are all members of their respective unions. We have ‘no strike’ clauses in our contracts – joining the strike would mean instant dismissal.

So when the Writers Guild picketers are at every gate of the studio, blowing whistles, chanting and rallying passing cars to honk their horns in support — it feels very strange. We feel for their cause and know that if all of us walked and stood together in solidarity – the Producers would be at the bargaining table tomorrow.

Thursday is payday, this week’s check will give me pause knowing that the money could stop any day. I’ll salt what I can away just for that potential possibility that this job could end very suddenly.

Posted: 2247PT 11/07/07


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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Thursday, November 8, 2007 1:22 pm

    From a European perspective, the principle of an individual “no strike” clause sounds incredible.

    I understand that on occasion the unions themselves commit to no strike clauses, but they do so usually on behalf of their membership. What is more the agreements aren’t technically legally binding on an individual level– they merely prevent the unions from being the organizing force behind a strike as the WGA has been.

    Does this mean that your employers are writing “no strike” clause into individual contracts? Is that even legal? I’m guessing that what’s written on paper bears little effect on reality, which must make the pill even harder to swallow.

  2. Friday, November 9, 2007 3:03 pm

    Sorry to say I only recognize a few of those titles. I don’t watch much TV with my work schedule the way it is.
    Good luck.

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