So much for settling the strike by Christmas. On Friday, the producers’ side walked out of the negotiations as the writers dug in their heels over the Writers’ Guild demand, which they until recently had not been stressing, that it get to represent reality-TV and animation staffers.
Seeing as how the usual purposes of a negotiation are (1) for the two sides to talk to one another and (2) to get closer on terms, not farther apart, this is not exactly good news. Nor is the fact that both sides seem to be acting as if they are in an extremely strong negotiating position, which is to say that each seems to think that, as the strike cripples the TV business, it will be slightly less screwed than the other side.
You can read lengthier accounts at Deadline Hollywoood Daily, the LA Times or Variety. But the most disturbing passage I’ve read today is in Michael Cieply’s analysis in the New York Times. Describing an interview eight months ago with WGA leader Patric Verrone, Cieply writes:
Mr. Verrone described the looming negotiations with employers as a confrontation much grander than a simple fight over pay formulas. This battle would be about respect.
I sincerely hope this is a misquotation or calculated crazy talk to psych out the other side. Because if Verrone honestly believes and is acting on this, then God help the writers and us all. Strikes are about getting things: concrete things like money, benefits, work conditions. Thus far the things the writers have been asking for, in terms of Internet money, are reasonable and deserved. (Repping reality staffers may or may not be justified, but it’s probably a pipe dream, as it amounts to asking producers for a massive advantage come the next strike.)
But respect? There are far better things to walk out over than getting massive, vertically integrated media companies to feign respect for you. That’s what your assistant is for.