Welcome Back. Now Sit Down And Shut Up.

Ah, there’s good news for a change.  This morning the WGA and AMPTP will indeed sit down on Day 102 of the writers’ portion of the double strike, and it was actually at the behest of this lovely lady.  As DEADLINE’s David Robb reported yesterday:

The WGA and the AMPTP have agreed to resume bargaining for a deal that could end the guild’s ongoing strike.

In a message to members Thursday, the guild said that Carol Lombardini, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, “has asked the WGA Negotiating Committee to meet with AMPTP negotiators on Friday. We expect the AMPTP to provide responses to WGA proposals.”

“Our committee returns to the bargaining table ready to make a fair deal, knowing the unified WGA membership stands behind us and buoyed by the ongoing support of our union allies,” the guild said.

Great, Carol.  Nice of you to grace the creative community with your presence again, especailly so soon after your most recent sit-down .  You know, the one that Robb reminded transpired thusly:

The August 4 meeting, which was not a bargaining session but a sit-down to discuss a resumption of talks, ended acrimoniously, with the guild saying at the time that the “AMPTP playbook continues.”  

The guild also accused the AMPTP of leaking details of the meeting to the press, saying that “before the negotiating committee even had a chance to meet, our communications department began hearing from the trades asking for comments on studio-leaked rumors of the contents of the confidential meeting. This is after the AMPTP spent much of the meeting emphasizing the need for a press blackout.”

At that meeting, WGA leaders said that Lombardini told them that the agreement reached with the Directors Guild in June “would be the deal on any pattern issues. She stated they were willing to increase their offer on a few writer-specific TV minimums – and willing to talk about AI – but that they were not willing to engage on the preservation of the writers’ room, or success-based residuals. She did not indicate willingness to address screenwriter issues, Appendix A issues, and many of the other proposals that remain on our list.”

Lombardini’s response, they said, “Echoes what was written in the AMPTP press statement yesterday: “People just want to get back to work.”

And indeed, there will be many familiar and recognizable names and faces from the WGA negotiating team that will show up today to do just that.  But I have a strong hunch that Lombardini might be as high up the food chain as the AMPTP brass is willing to supply because, hey, the folks she answers to have had a busy week, given the number of earnings calls and press conferences they held.   And I have an even stronger hunch that, at least privately, Lombardini might allow that they didn’t exactly go swimmingly.

How else can you explain the word salads that came out of the mouths of the likes of our new bestie Tail Gunnar (aka CFO Gunnar Weidenfels) he of the braggadaccio about the $100 million savings that Warner Brother Discovery realized in 2Q23, one that infuriated social media enough to compare such hyperbole to someone suggesting that they were able to save on electricity costs by setting fire to the building?  Or the conflated projections of his Paramount Global counterpart Naveen Chopra, who believes that because Paramount Global viewers indicate they will watch NFL football in upcoming months they won’t need to make as much original scripted content to pacify his viewers?  Or the wistful lament of Bob Iger to be more understanding, in the same breath as his announcement that Disney+ lost 1.9 million subscribers and his immediate response to that was to RAISE its cost for the second time in  a year?

I’m doubtful any of these winning personalities will be sitting around a table today–for that matter, almost any of Lombardini’s clients.  After all, it’s still August, and those vacation homes are pretty tempting.

So sorry, Carol, it’s gonna be heavily on you to deliver on your promises.  And given how well your clients’ tap dancing has been received, it’s high time you listened and learned.

In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Times released results of a survey this week that Alexa Stevens of THE MARY SUE recapped:

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times released the results of a survey gauging U.S. consumers’ opinions on the SAG-AFTRA strike…7 percent sympathize most with the studios, producers, and distributors.

And the same paper devoted more space to the saga of Ethan Drogin,  someone who contributed to arguably this summer’s most popular entertainment offering on any screen, who should be doing a victory lap but instead felt compelled to educate potential future survey respondents with his “success story”:

In America, unprecedented success begets unprecedented wealth. When Michael Jordan wins six championships or Mark Zuckerberg invents social media, they earn billions.

And not only them but also their teammates — the people whose contributions weren’t just meaningful but necessary. In success, they get paid, too.

But not in Hollywood. Here, when you write for a show that becomes an unprecedented success, there is no such windfall. There is only a check for $259.71.

That’s how much the “Suits” episode I wrote, “Identity Crisis,” earned last quarter in streaming residuals. All together, NBCUniversal paid the six original “Suits” writers less than $3,000 last quarter to stream our 11 Season 1 episodes on two platforms.

And you might want to also pay attention to this additional point of information from Drogin on what he still hasn’t seen penny one from:

“Suits” became so popular globally that it was licensed and remade in South Korea, Japan and Egypt. When that happens, studios are supposed to pay the writers for the source material.

But a couple of quarters after the Egyptian version of “Suits” began airing last year, I asked the Writers Guild of America to look into why I hadn’t been paid. So far, the guild’s small but intrepid enforcement team has been stonewalled.

And you definitely need to heed the words quoted by THE WRAP’s Eileen AJ Connelly from an esteemed local academian:

The first 100 days of the Hollywood writers’ strike has cost the California economy $3 billion, a Cal State Northridge professor says.

Todd Holmes, a professor of entertainment industry management at the San Fernando Valley school, further warned that if the strikes last until October, which would be a record for the industry, the economic cost could reach $5 billion, CNBC reported.

But here’s the good news, Carol.  The very same poll that Stevens reported on also revealed that unlike the pending presidential election, for as small as the percentage of the support your side has, there’s still an awful lot of confusion and undecided votes to be had, as she further observed:

While 72 percent of those surveyed indicated awareness of the strike, only 60 percent were even somewhat aware of the issues involved with the strike.  Maybe this lack of awareness explains the fact that only 38 percent of those surveyed indicated sympathy for writers and actors over the studios.  29 percent are equally sympathetic to both parties, and 25 percent are unsure which party they favor more. 

So we say you’ve got a chance to make some impact. But be warned.  There’s even more disturbing headlines starting to crop up. .  Like this one from THE WRAP’s Scott Mendelson that dropped yesterday:

Creative Artists Agency is instituting a round of layoffs, according to an insider with knowledge of the company. The staff reductions, which will impact 60 people across multiple departments, are expected early next week \.

CAA was quick to deny that there was a direct correlation between these layoffs to the strikes.  But as Mendelson reminds, it also cannot be asserted that there isn’t any cause and effect: rival agency WME’s CEO Ari Emanuel said earlier this week that the strikes are costing Endeavor $25 million a month.

That’s likely to have a chilling impact on the whole ecosystem, and will undoubtedly trickle up to your clients, certainly in time for the next round of earnings calls.  Who knows?  They might not even be able to afford to pay you as much much longer.

So glad to see you, Carol.  Pay attention and take copious notes or make sure your phone is charged to capture video of what transpires.  And make sure your busy clients not miss a single bit of what they have to say to you.

Because based upon what they said and how it was received last week, Lord knows they need better writers ASAP.

Until next time…


Leave a Comment