The third day of negotiations in a row between Hollywood studios and striking screenwriters ended on Friday evening without an agreement. But the sides have made significant progress, according to three people briefed on the talks.
The sides plan to meet again on Saturday.
Friday’s meeting began at 11 a.m. Pacific time at the suburban Los Angeles headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which negotiates on behalf of major entertainment companies. For the third day in a row, several Hollywood moguls took direct part in the negotiations, which ended shortly after 8 p.m
Robert A. Iger, CEO of Disney; Donna Langley, NBCUniversal’s chief content officer for Universal Pictures; Ted Sarandos, co-chief executive of Netflix; and David Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery, had previously delegated negotiations with the union to others. Their direct involvement – long overdue, according to many writers and some analysts – has contributed to significant progress in recent days, according to people familiar with the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic nature of the effort.
During Thursday’s negotiations, the sides had narrowed their differences, for example on the issue of minimum staffing for television writers’ rooms, an issue that the studios had refused to address before the union called for a strike in early May.
But Thursday’s meeting took a turn after the sides agreed to a brief break around 5 p.m., according to people familiar with the talks. The studio’s executives and labor lawyers had expected the guild’s negotiators to return to discuss points they had previously worked on. Instead, the guild made additional demands – one of which was to condition the screenwriters’ return to work to a resolution of the actors’ strike.
The actors’ union known as SAG-AFTRA joined the writers on the picket line on July 14. Their demands exceed those of the Writers Guild. Among other things, the actors want 2 percent of the total revenue generated by streaming shows, which the studios say is unrealistic.
Several hours after the talks ended Thursday evening, the guild emailed its members to say the sides would meet Friday.
“Your bargaining committee appreciates all the messages of solidarity and support we have received over the past few days and asks as many of you as possible to stand on the picket lines tomorrow,” the email said.
The guild extended picket line hours Friday to 2 p.m. Picketing usually ended at 12 p.m.
In Los Angeles, several hundred writers gathered to demonstrate in front of the arched Paramount Pictures gate, far more than in recent weeks. The Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA held themed pickets to keep members engaged, and Friday’s theme happened to be “Puppet Day,” which meant some protesters held felt hand puppets and marionettes in addition to the picket signs. The mood was optimistic.
Writer pickets even began outside Netflix’s Hollywood offices on Friday afternoon give farewell speeches, delivered via megaphone. At the CBS lot in Studio City, the theme was “Silent Disco,” with several hundred writers dancing and picketing with headphones.
Talks were mostly back on track when the picketing ended Friday, according to two people familiar with the matter. On the thorny issue of television show minimums, the sides discussed a proposal that would hire at least four writers, regardless of the number of episodes or whether a showrunner feels the work could be done with fewer. (Earlier this week, studios pushed for a sliding number based on episode count.)
They also discussed a plan in which, for the first time, authors would receive payments from streaming services based on a percentage of active subscribers — in addition to other fees. The guild originally asked entertainment companies to adopt viewer-based royalty payments (known in Hollywood as residual) to “reward programs with higher viewership.”
Writers have been on strike for 144 days. The longest writers’ strike lasted 153 days in 1988.
“Thank you for your wonderful support on the picket line today!” The guild’s bargaining committee said in an email to members late Friday. “It means a lot to us as we continue to work toward a deal the writers deserve.”
Nicole Sperling contributed reporting.
Source : www.nytimes.com