Los Angeles has some of the worst traffic in the world, but it was even more snarled than usual pulling off the Harbor Freeway Saturday night — and Kobe and Pau Gasol weren’t even playing. The gridlock wasn’t being caused by a Lakers game at Staples. It was being caused by a meeting of the Writers Guild membership at the Shrine Auditorium to hear the proposed deal with the AMPTP (known hereabouts as “the producers” but actually the studios and their conglomerate owners) that would end the four-month old writers’ strike.
From the looks of all the Lexus and Mercedes clogging Expedition Boulevard it seemed the membership was turning out in force. And none too soon, since those fancy cars were about to be traded in for something more pedestrian if the strike continued any longer — and not to make a global warming statement.
It took me about forty minutes to find parking in this mess and I was moving fast on foot to make up for lost time, dodging the media trucks, when I was stopped at the door of the Shrine by a leafleter from the World Socialist Website who wanted the writers to turn down the offer. “A rotten compromise is in the making that represents a betrayal of the writers’ interests,” his handout said. “It should be voted down and the strike extended to the entire industry.”
Fat chance. I felt sorry for the poor throwback. This crowd, I guessed, couldn’t have been more anxious to get this strike over with. And once inside, having been ID’d as a Guild member and strip searched (just kidding), I saw my guess was right. Virtually every utterance of the Guild negotiating committee, spread out across the Shrine stage like some Brentwood politburo with a massive screen showing them in close up above their heads — just like a Laker game — was met with hearty, relieved applause, as they explained the proposed deal.
So who won this thing? Probably no one. But it’s usually that way anyway. The writers apparently did get a better deal than the directors in the highly disputed area of new online media, earning for the first time a small piece of the “producer’s gross” after an exclusion known in the industry as a “window.” The devil will be in the details on this (not to mention as yet unknown patterns of Internet usage) but the producers may be finally waking up to the truth — in the area of television especially, writers are more important than directors.
The days of Fellini, et al, are long gone and likely to be further submerged by the new online media where the creator of the story will be king. Who these creators will actually be is anybody’s guess, but the Writers Guild has apparently extended its jurisdiction to include professional writers it never before represented (playwrights and novelists) in this brave new online world.
For those interested in the fine print of this, the Guild will soon be posting the deal on its website. Moment-to-moment strike coverage is available from the redoubtable Nikki Finke.
The strike is not fully over, a vote of the Writers Guild membership (east and west) must occur, but a resumption of work will probably happen on Wednesday — just in time to salvage some of the next television season and the Academy Award ceremony later this month.
The looming deadline of these two events undoubtedly spurred the two sides to compromise.
Roger L. Simon is an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, novelist and blogger, and the CEO of Pajamas Media.