WGA, Hollywood Studios Close to a Deal on Ending Writers’ Strike, Sources Say

The Writers Guild of America and the major Hollywood studios are closing in on a deal that would end a 145-day strike that has roiled the film and TV business and caused thousands of job losses.

Lawyers for the two sides were haggling over the details of a possible agreement on Saturday during a meeting that began mid-morning, according to people close to the discussions who were not authorized to comment.

However, the union and studio alliance had not announced a deal as of early Saturday evening.

In a joint statement, the WGA and the studios said they would meet again Sunday.Studio sources told The Times the two sides hoped to finalize a deal then.

“Thank you for your continued encouragement as we press ahead to secure the best deal we can for writers,” the WGA’s negotiating committee said in an email to members Saturday night.

Saturday marked the fourth straight day of talks, which kicked off Wednesday with the heads of four major studios participating directly.

Should the companies reach a pact this weekend, they won’t immediately restart productions. The entertainment company leaders still must turn their attention to the 160,000-member performers union, SAG-AFTRA, to accelerate those stalled talks in an effort to get the industry back to work.

The thorniest issues in the long-running labor dispute have included language governing the use of artificial intelligence, minimum staffing in writers rooms and the establishment of residuals to reward scribes based on viewership of streaming series.

The work stoppage began in early May and gained momentum as actors led by SAG-AFTRA joined writers on the picket line in mid-July, further shutting down film and scripted television productions and hobbling studios’ ability to promote would-be blockbuster movies.

Any agreement on a new three-year film and TV contract would have to be ratified by a vote of the WGA’s 11,500 members, who have strongly supported the walkout and have enjoyed unusual levels of solidarity from fellow unions amid the nation’s “hot labor summer.”

There has been significant pressure on both sides to reach an agreement in recent weeks. Many Hollywood industry workers have struggled to pay their rent and bills, with some moving out of state to make ends meet. Studios have also felt the financial pain, modifying their film slates and leaning on live sports and unscripted television.

WGA negotiators met with studio representatives Wednesday for the first time since a disastrous meeting in late August. This week, top executives joined the proceedings: Walt Disney Co.’s Bob Iger, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley.

Friday’s marathon session started at 11 a.m. at the headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — which represents the big entertainment companies — in Sherman Oaks. The meeting ended at about 8:30 p.m., amid growing hopes that the sides would be able to reach an accord before the Yom Kippur holiday.

The apparent progress marked a stark contrast with the last round of talks, which started in August after three months of striking.

Negotiations fell apart after an Aug. 22 meeting with the four leading CEOs — Iger, Zaslav, Langley and Sarandos — which writers’ representatives described as a “lecture” and a browbeating session in which they were pressured to accept an Aug. 11 proposal from the AMPTP.

After the meeting, the alliance released a summary of its proposal, causing an uproar among writers who saw it as a tactic to go around the WGA’s negotiating committee. The effort deepened the mistrust between the two sides.

Studio brass thought the move would allow writers and the larger community to see that the AMPTP had given substantial ground in an effort to reach a deal.

The studio’s proposal offered wage increases and signaled a willingness from the alliance to negotiate on topics it previously considered off the table, such as sharing of viewership data with the WGA and staffing in writers rooms.

But the WGA’s negotiating committee felt the proposal did not go far enough. Writers on the picket lines were not impressed, calling the studios’ proposals “half-measures.”

Frustration among workers, including film crew workers, continued to build as the strikes stretched beyond Labor Day.

Political leaders including Gov. Gavin Newsom, L.A. Mayor Karen Bass and state Treasurer Fiona Ma also weighed in, urging the parties to settle the dispute.

For weeks, the two sides remained at a standstill, arguing over whose turn it was to make a counteroffer. The WGA’s negotiating committee even suggested that some studios might be willing to break from the alliance and negotiate separately with the guild, exploiting potential fractures in the alliance. The AMPTP rejected that notion.

This week, though, talks got serious.

Studios wanted to get a deal done by early October to salvage their 2024 film slates, which would require them to be back in production soon. They’re also hoping to salvage what they can of the 2023-24 television season.

Click here to read the full article in LA Times

California Gov. Gavin Newsom Offers to Help Negotiate Hollywood Strike

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has contacted all sides of the strikes that have hobbled Hollywood, his office said Wednesday, offering to help broker a deal to restart an industry that is crucial to keeping the state’s economy humming amid signs of weakness.

So far, neither studio executives nor actors and writers have shown formal interest in bringing Newsom to the negotiating table, said Anthony York, Newsom’s senior adviser for communications. But York said both Newsom and senior members of his administration have been in touch with all sides as the two strikes stretch deeper into the summer blockbuster season.

“It’s clear that the sides are still far apart, but he is deeply concerned about the impact a prolonged strike can have on the regional and state economy,” York said. He further noted “thousands of jobs depend directly or indirectly on Hollywood getting back to work,” including crew, staff and catering.

The last time the writers went on strike more than a decade ago, the 100-day work stoppage cost the state’s economy an estimated $2 billion. The economic hit could be even bigger this time around now that actors have joined the picket lines. The strikes come after Newsom signed a state budget that included a more than $31 billion deficit in part because of a slowdown in the tech sector, another one of the state’s key industries.

The writers have been on strike since May, and the actors joined them earlier this month. Both unions have concerns about how they will be paid in an age where fewer people are paying to go to the movies or watch cable TV in favor of streaming services. And they are worried how the rise of artificial intelligence will affect the creative process of how movies and TV shows are made and who is paid to make them.

The Democratic governor first offered to help mediate a deal in May, shortly after the writers strike began, saying he was sympathetic to their concerns about streaming and artificial intelligence.

Now in his final term in office, Newsom has worked hard to boost his national profile as he sets his sights on life after the governor’s office. He is widely considered a future presidential contender, though he has said he has no plans to run. Any role for Newsom to help end strikes halting one of the country’s most recognizable industries could bolster his status on the national stage.

Labor actions have lit up California this summer, and it has become common for politicians and their allies to step in to broker deals. New Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, for example, helped negotiate an end to a strike by Los Angeles school staff. Acting Biden administration Labor Secretary Julie Su, a former California labor leader, helped reach an end to a contract dispute at Southern California ports.

Asked about Newsom’s involvement, Bass spokesman Zach Seidl said in a statement that “this is a historic inflection point for our city. … We continue to engage with labor leaders, studio heads, elected leaders and other impacted parties to arrive at a fair and equitable solution.”

York declined to say who Newsom has spoken with, either on the unions’ side or the studios. Representatives for the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers declined to comment.

Hollywood isn’t just a major economic driver in California — it’s also a fundraising powerhouse for mostly Democratic candidates, including Newsom. In 2021, when Newsom was facing a recall election that could have removed him from office, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings donated $3 million to help defeat it. He has received smaller contributions from executives at Disney, Sony and Lionsgate. Prominent directors and producers like Stephen Spielberg and Chuck Lorre have also donated to his campaigns.

Newsom’s relationships with some of Hollywood’s most powerful executives could potentially help him in any negotiations over the strikes as he continues to advocate for the causes of the workers. Newsom also has a connection to Hollywood through his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who used to be an actor and is now a documentary director.

Click here to read the full article in AP News