Recent conversations I’ve had in Hollywood about the standoff between the studios and the guilds have evolved toward a familiar gripe. At this point, it’s not so much who’s wrong or right on the subjects of AI, writers room staffing or streaming residuals. The focus instead is on the lack of time that has been spent in a negotiating room while an industry suffers.
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A settlement of last WGA strike came in 100 days. This time, the AMPTP and WGA didn’t even meet until after the 100-day mark. Meetings between them have become a bit more frequent this month, but did it have to take this long? The signatories have not had any negotiating sessions with SAG-AFTRA leadership since that guild called a strike.
While the AMPTP and the striking guilds avoid one another, workers above and below the line who are not even part of this dispute struggle to hang on. Their resources were strained during the prolonged production shutdown caused by Covid, and now they’re enduring two ongoing strikes that have brought most film and TV productions to a screeching halt again. No one can feel any sense of confidence this will change soon, given the tiny amount of time AMPTP negotiators have actually spent sitting across the table from reps for writers and actors.
This is not OK, is what these people are saying.
They are weary of the rumors that talks have turned a corner, only to find out, nah. They are weary of the virtue signaling that follows each rejected exchange of proposals.
It is time for these negotiators to lock themselves in a room and pick up the pace. There are no heroes here, at this point. Everyone recognizes the complexity of issues as Hollywood feels the tectonic shifts in the ground caused by technology and streaming.
But we also know two deals will eventually be made. Sitting across the table seems the plausible path toward resolution. Enough with waiting each other out in a battle of attrition that is hurting too many people. Maybe AMPTP should invite to the negotiating table those backchanneling moguls sitting in a backroom, trying to play Lew Wasserman. It has been said that the AMPTP has a playbook and isn’t as strong calling audibles. These moguls do that all the time, and they’re great at it.
This is a critical moment. So get in the room and try harder, all of you, before more industrywide layoffs hit this fall, along with a spike in For Sale signs on front lawns.
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