I keep some strange hours of late. Los Angeles is finally joining a whole lot of the country with a heat wave, and while I’m a bit better off than many (I won’t be experiencing triple digits or ultra-high humidity), the difference is noticeable to me. My body tends to collapse just after lunch and dinner and then usually around 1 or 2 AM my biological clock gets to be TICKIN’ LIKE THIS (love to you, Mona Lisa Vito). I tend to then think about what may have happened the day before and what may be expected to occur in the day ahead, I take my perch on my command center chair and let the words flow, sometimes regrettably, but never dishonestly.
Today is one where anticipation is making me especially antsy. I’m especially sympatico with creatives, and whether some like it or not I’m extremely supportive of SAG-AFTRA members. Two weeks ago an impending holiday weekend stopped the clock on their ongoing negotiations to try and avoid joining their WGA brethren and sistren on the picket lines. The potential of both unions being on strike simultaneously for the first time since 1960 is apparently that much scarier for the braintrust of the AMPTP membership. enough so that apparently before some of them took off for Sun Valley the likes of David Zaslav, Ted Sarandos and Bob Iger’s top lieutenants Dana Walden and Alan Bergman, among others, held a secret pow-wow to address their options. Variety’s highly connected tandem of Gene Maddaus and Cynthia Littleton broke the news yesterday thusly:
Top Hollywood players are working on a plan to call in federal mediators to help avert a SAG-AFTRA strike, with just a day to go before the contract deadline. In addition to the executives discussing efforts to bring in a federal mediator, talent agency chieftains including Ari Emanuel of WME, Bryan Lourd of CAA and UTA’s Jeremy Zimmer have reached out to SAG-AFTRA leaders in recent days to offer assistance that could stave off a second Hollywood work stoppage this summer.
Yes, some of the same braintrust that has helped get people to the table in Washington to agree on ideas like “Build Back Better” and the debt ceiling are waking up in the same bubbling cauldron I am. To the surprise of some observers, the SAG-AFTRA membership will apparently sit down at the table as zero hour approaches, mere minutes after many of them will gather to announce the nominees for the 2023 Emmy Awards. But in the process, several of them made sure to help set the record straight for the degree of skepticism that will accompany them with the likes of DEADLINE’s David Robb:
SAG-AFTRA has agreed to federal mediation in order the break the bargaining deadlock with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, but said that “we are not confident that the employers have any intention of bargaining toward an agreement.”
The deadline for reaching an agreement remains Wednesday at midnight PT.
“We will not be distracted from negotiating in good faith to secure a fair and just deal by the expiration of our agreement. We are committed to the negotiating process and will explore and exhaust every possible opportunity to make a deal, however we are not confident that the employers have any intention of bargaining toward an agreement.”
“Furthermore, we condemn the tactic outlined in today’s inaccurate Variety piece naming the CEOs of several entertainment conglomerates as the force behind the request for mediation; information that was leaked to the press by the CEOs and their ‘anonymous sources’ before our negotiators were even told of the request for mediation. The AMPTP has abused our trust and damaged the respect we have for them in this process. We will not be manipulated by this cynical ploy to engineer an extension when the companies have had more than enough time to make a fair deal.
What apparently ticked off SAG-AFTRA leaders was this recap which the VARIETY! reporters made sure to include:
Sources close to the negotiations say the AMPTP representatives and member company leaders are frustrated at what they see as SAG-AFTRA’s intransigence. There’s a strong feeling that a militant minority in the union is having outsize influence on the negotiating strategy, with no regard to the heavy toll that a strike would take on actors as well as other unions and myriad businesses that bank on production-related work.
“We’re negotiating with ourselves and we’re not getting anywhere,” the source said. “How can a mediator hurt?”
Perhaps, since so many members are also part of and/or personally close with WGA members, they may have seen this piece filed yesterday by DEADLINE’s veteran reporter Dominic Patten:
EXCLUSIVE: Regardless of whether SAG-AFTRA goes on strike this week, the studios have no intention of sitting down with the Writers Guild for several more months.
“I think we’re in for a long strike, and they’re going to let it bleed out,” said one industry veteran intimate with the POV of studio CEOs. With the scribes’ strike now finishing its 71st day and the actors’ union just 30 hours from a possible labor action of its own, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are planning to dig in hard this fall before even entertaining the idea of more talks with the WGA, I’ve learned. “Not Halloween precisely, but late October, for sure, is the intention,” says a top-tier producer close to the Carol Lombardini-run AMPTP.
Receiving positive feedback from Wall Street since the WGA went on strike May 2, Warner Bros Discovery, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Paramount and others have become determined to “break the WGA,” as one studio exec blatantly put it.
To do so, the studios and the AMPTP believe that by October most writers will be running out of money after five months on the picket lines and no work.
“The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” a studio executive told Deadline. Acknowledging the cold-as-ice approach, several other sources reiterated the statement. One insider called it “a cruel but necessary evil.”
The studios and streamers’ next think financially strapped writers would go to WGA leadership and demand they restart talks before what could be a very cold Christmas.
So when I see social media posts from writer friends who specifically call the AMPTP braintrust “cowards” who are more concerned with trying to save face with actors, who at least were able to allow some productions (that middle finger many are offering is aimed at you, Ryan Murphy) to continue, especially overseas, I actually feel their pain. I’ve had several cold holidays lately, and I don’t wish anything close to it on my worst enemies, or even the union members I still wish would give a rat’s ass about moi.
But if anyone paying attention through all of this angst saw the seemingly aptly-timed announcement of FOX’s fall schedule, delayed from the spring upfronts but curiously timed to drop right before the SAG-AFTRA deadline, one gets the idea of exactly how indifferent the AMPTPers may be: Per the very busy DEADLINE’s Peter White and Denise Petski:
The fact that Fox is leaning entirely on reality shows and animated series, as well as wrestling, is not a surprise given the fact that the writers strike, which is in Day 71, has disrupted production, as well as the threat of an actors strike.
It has parked its lineup of scripted series including 9-1-1: Lone Star, The Cleaning Lady, Accused, Alert: Missing Persons Unit, Animal Control and new series such as Doc and Rescue: HI-Surf for the time being.
The biggest changes to its 2023/24 schedule on the unscripted side is the move of Lego Masters from Wednesday night to Thursday night after Hell’s Kitchen.
Remember, this is a network now run by a veteran unscripted executive (Rob Wade) who ultimately reports to a mogul who took great pride in breaking Fleet Street.
The same network that is “scheduled” to carry the Emmy Awards on September 18th to help jump-start the promotion for this lineup, but also announced contigency plans for alternate dates should today not go quite as well as they may “hope”.
Delaying an episode of a show called KRAPAPOLIS down the road probably isn’t something that is costing Wade or his scheduling team much sleep tonight.
But I know it’s keeping some people up. I’m a bit surprised that the number of Instagram posts that I’m seeing this time of the morning, and the degree of concern and consternation accompanying them, are as prolific as they have been.
And if this what it’s like before today’s longest day unfolds, should things go as so many fear I’m loathe to try and anticipate what I might see tomorrow morning. Candidly, I’ve actually got some plans tonight with someone who knows one of those nervous SAG members as well as I once did, so I might actually be asleep 24 hours from now as I write this (2:44 AM, per my laptop’s clock).
I really wish I was in a position to offer something resembling help. I’ve been resolute in insisting that access to data that their counterparts in Europe are able to get that would be able to show exactly how the streamers they are at war with are already compensating talent so as to formulate a fact-based foundation for a proposal that someone like Julie Yu, the dispatch from the Biden administration who will reportedly be sitting down with Fran Drescher and team later today, could work with. I’ve put that idea, like so many others I get at this time of the morning, out into a pink bubble, on the pious hope that someone might actually see it and at least give it some thought.
Maybe somebody will. Maybe there might be a miraculous last-minute averting to a SAG strike, Maybe the AMPTPers might be dressed down enough by the federal swat team they requested to do what they’ve been unable or unwilling to do to bring them back to a less “cruel but necessary” poition with the WGA. Maybe the nonstop promotion for the Emmy nominees that will take their bows later this morning might actually occur. Maybe some makegoods of the panels and sessions which won’t take place in San Diego later this month at Comic-Con might take place later this summer. Maybe some of the members I still care about tremendously might actually in attendance, and maybe they might actually give me a hug for the many sleepless nights I have worrying about them.
Or, more likely, tomorrow will be the beginning of many, many more even longer days and sleepless nights ahead. Possibly, if things really get bad enough at some point, even Rob Wade might not be able to sleep.
I’ll at least be dreaming of that possibility, as well as the others I’ve rattled off. Bear in mind that I often regret expressing my thoughts, but never apologize for their honesty. Remember that, and perhaps let those I’m dogwhistling to about that fact.
Until next time…