3/1/08

WGA strike leader faces the damage

The scenario sounds like the end of a classic television or film script: a battle ends, a victory is declared, and the exhausted combatant warns: “we’ve only just begun to fight.” That’s an exaggeration version of what ex-Teamster Patric Verrone, the president of the Writers Guild of America, West, now faces. A new contract with Hollywood studios was ratified this week, officially putting an end to the writers’ strike. “Now we now have three years of enforcement to do,” Mr. Verrone said in an interview Wednesday, sounding neither enthusiastic nor exhausted.

The guild succeeded in setting a formula for Internet media payments, assuring that writers will be paid when they create Web episodes or when their content is re-purposed online. It also secured the right to review and audit the online deals made by studios.

“We have to be vigilant to make sure those deals are fair,” he said.

Additionally, now that the guild had some jurisdiction over scripted online video, the guild must develop guidelines for digital members.

“We’re going to have to adopt our own membership standards for people who write a certain amount of digital content,” Mr. Verrone said. Writing one television episode doesn’t automatically qualify a writer for guild membership; similarly, “I don’t know how many Webisodes it will take,” he said.

Mr. Verrone said that his group would continue to try to represent writers on reality shows and animated programs. While the guild represents the writers on some individual programs, it pulled the broader proposals relating to reality and animation off the table during negotiations with the studios alliance last month.

The strike raised the profile of the writers on those shows, Mr. Verrone said, making it easier to direct guild members “not to work on those programs unless they are covered.”

(tvdecoder.blogs.nytimes.com)

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