Last time we spoke to our favourite former WGA attorney and prolific Huffpo blogger, Jonathan Handel, he gave us a pretty grim assessment on the state of the studios vs. the writers. The studios had just broken off talks, and the two sides were farther apart than most observers realised: Not only were they miles apart on digital, the guild was sticking to other demands: It wanted to unionize reality and animation writers, who aren’t part of the WGA, and it wanted the ability to call sympathy strikes — the ability to walk out, if, say, the actors guild does.
The digital negotiations are knotty, but it’s those other demands that seem to be real non-starters, Handel says. Giving the writers the ability to unionize reality shows, for instance, would take away the lifeboat that the networks are currently using: The next time the writers went on strike, there’d be no new shows available – period.
Not an optimistic scenario for the studios, the writers, or the Los Angeles economy, which is losing $220 million a month to the strike. But with the Director’s Guild of America set to start talks in the New Year, Handel sees a possible way out for the WGA, provided they stick to cutting the best digital deal they can, and drop their other demands.
Here’s Handel’s (admittedly complicated) scenario on how the WGA could get what it wants on digital, and also save face:
- The DGA does a deal on new media residuals that’s close to what the WGA wants.
- The WGA leadership rejects the DGA deal as a template, but drops its reality and animation demands to return to the table
- SAG leadership rejects the DGA deal even more strenuously and signals it won’t accept it either
- The WGA negotiates a slight improvement in the new media formulas, in part by pointing out that SAG will be even harder for the studios to deal with.
- The studios bend to avoid the horror of two unions on strike at the same time and the WGA confidentially promises to sell the new media deal to SAG leadership.
- The DGA would probably have a “favoured nations” clause in its deal requiring the AMPTP to offer it any improved deal. So, the AMPTP grants the DGA, as well as SAG, the benefit of the improved new media formula.
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