Too Many Cooks?

A writer once stopped by my old apartment to work on a script with my roommate, who was ostensibly collaborating with him on a “passion project”.  While they were brainstorming, the writer took over the kitchen to prepare dinner for them, which included his “special sauce”, which he casually explained was “like the kind usually made on Sundays”.  I complimented him on the aroma, but he was dismissive and said “It’s only ready when I say it’s ready”.

My roommate, who is not only of Italian descent (as is her is writer friend) but now also has dual citizenship, spent many Sundays making such sauces, and having actually tasted her cooking, I can attest it’s pretty darn good.  She offered to help him stir.  But the writer not only chased her away (fool), he urged that I find something else to do as well.  I never did get a chance to taste his cooking, but if it’s anything like his writing, I suspect I missed out on something special.

So I do get that creatives tend to be control freaks, particularly when they’re fueled by the passion of putting their personal stamp on something,  I’ve had several executives eye-roll at the fact that although one of the key sticking points in the now 145-day old strike of the WGA against the AMPTP is allowing the size and scope of writers’ rooms to remain at a significant level, the most successful writers prefer to work alone and only invite input when they determine it’s needed.  One particularly snarky executive, a former colleague of mine who is still in a high-level position overseeing several platforms, observed “Taylor Sheridan locks himself up on his ranch and churns out hit series on his own.  Everyone who wishes they could be him are the ones on the picket line”.

The degree of accuracy of that viewpoint can be debated, but what is pretty clear to me is that as this week’s negotiations between writers and executives unfolded, with three consecutive days of meetings that apparently are still ongoing, the desire to control the narrative is now more of an issue than ever.  And with maverick trade press outlets seizing these moments to accelerate both their value and relevance, they are doing their absolute best to provide not only fodder for discussion, but indeed try and control the narrative in a way they see as existential as the striking writers (and actors) attest is what is motivating them.

Outlets like THE WRAP  dutifully reported the progress that had been made last night.  Jeremy Fuster filed this encouraging recap, although I’ve included the conflicting headline that accompanied the story to illustrate that perhaps those writers might want to consult a Jewish calendar for clarity:

WGA and Studio Talks to Continue on Saturday

Negotiations between the Writers Guild and AMPTP will resume after the Yom Kippur holiday

The third day of renewed talks between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood studios did not yield a new deal, but talks will continue on Saturday, WGA told members in a memo Friday night.

“The WGA and AMPTP met for bargaining on Friday and will meet again on Saturday,” WGA told members. “Thank you for the wonderful show of support on the picket lines today! It means so much to us as we continue to work toward a deal that writers deserve.”

The Hollywood trade press has been exceptionally writer-friendly, and has been quick to call out the kind of coverage that mainstream media is providing as somewhat skewed and biased.  They’ve been particularly peeved at what has been reported by CNBC’s David Faber, who was the journalist that interviewed Disney’s Bob Iger in Sun Valley in July, with the impressive Rocky Mountains in the backdrop, pleading poverty and all but telegraphing the potential sell-offs and deals that they are now “exploring”, the one where VARIETY! reported Iger threw down this memorable gauntlet.  So it’s no surprise that DEADLINE’s Dominic Patten and Anthony D’Alessandro started their extensive Thursday coverage all but throwing Faber under the bus as little more than the puppet for the AMPTP’s positioning, clearly one their expensive PR consultant is utilizing:

Today began with some recriminations about a CNBC missive late last night that asserted a deal was coming today or “without deal tomorrow strike likely continues through year end,” as cable host David Faber tweeted. Reminiscent of past sharp salvos against the guild and its members from the C-suites, the blast radius from the report this morning saw Iger being accused of pushing the story – an accusation the Mouse House boss denied.

It wouldn’t surprise me if some people were to connect Faber’s ill-fated guest hosting gig on JEOPARDY! as being tied to his friendship with Iger.  Since Bob wasn’t in charge when that went down, I can immediately put that thought to rest.

But I can’t put to rest the kind of desire to stir the pot that exists at THE ANKLER, who has been amplifying their coverage with their detailed analysis of correspondances occurring on a What’sApp chain that produced this bombshell (their word, not mine) from Peter Kiefer as Shabbat descended upon the city:

On the same night the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers failed to reach a settlement, the 500-member WhatsApp showrunners group members have used for solidarity and discussion was burning up after a text message was placed in the chain that had been received by several writers from their agents.

The text (placed in the chat before news broke that negotiations had ended without resolution at 8:45 p.m.) read: “Latest updates I heard they are truly on the one yard line. Won’t get done tonight but will by Sunday evening, or earlier. Down to two points.”

The text also alluded to former WGA chief negotiator David Young (including details The Ankler is not republishing), claiming, “Turns out the WGA negotiating committee calls David and runs everything by him…last night at 5 they agreed to a deal. It was David who told them to go back and ask for those other two points and ‘squeeze their nuts the same way we did the agents’. That’s what happened and that’s who’s been behind the scenes this entire time, hence why it’s taking so long.”

The text continued:

“That’s what happened and that’s who’s been behind the scenes this entire time, hence why it’s taking so long. Kim Masters has the story and is going to break it soon”

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Masters had little to say except this:

But her colleague Rebecca Keegan had an awful lot to say about Young in this illustrative 2019 profile.  Young isn’t actually a writer it turns out, but yet seems to want control of this situation much as any good cook wants to control their kitchen.  Young seems to have more in common with Shawn Fain, who is determined to bring the auto industry to its knees and is attempting to leverage UAW membership’s reelection endorsement of Joe Biden to it.

Biden, per Reuters, is planning to visit Detroit next week, a day before his far more media-manipulative opponent does the same.  Several ANKLER reporters expressed a desire to have Biden himself step into these negotiations, observing that California governor Gavin Newsom has already been dialoguing with AMPTP leadership, and not getting very far in the process.

I’m not sure I would want him in my kitchen if this is any way he chooses to look.

But here’s one thing I would like to remind anyone who thinks allowing someone like Young to dictate when HE says a deal’s a deal: Every single day that goes by where a five-year-old umpteenth rerun of YELLOWSTONE can reach 6.5 million viewers on CBS, where 9.3 million viewers will watch Deion Sanders coach a college football game at 2:15 AM on a Sunday and then 11.8 million will watch him interviewed leading in to YELLOWSTONE, where, per SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL,  13.9 million viewers will watch a mismatch of an NFL game on a streaming service that just announced an advertising tier, is one less day that the likes of David Young, or, for that matter, his fellow WGA members are considered absolutely essential.

And it ain’t David Faber who’s breaking that news.

It might just be time for some of those creatives who have been around a kitchen or two, and certainly those who have been around a writers’ room–even one that they insist be solo–to step in and grab control of this narrative, as well as the negotiations.

Keep this in mind:  Nexstar found a way to restore their stations to DIRECTV even as negotiations have let to reach a conclusion.  Respectfully, those stations have  greater appeal than any single work done by almost every single WGA member.   And way more than David Young ever will have.

If they can figure out a way to get things up and rolling again, so can the WGA.

Go sniff the sauce.  It just might be time to tell the cook it’s ready.

Until next time…




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