WGA Contract Expires Tonight

wga_logo.pngThe contract covering the fine people who write the movies and TV shows you love so much expires tonight at midnight. Though the industry has been sweating a strike for a while now, Variety says it probably won’t happen for at least another week.

The writers are still steamed about the last contract they signed because they didn’t benefit from the burgeoning home video industry in the way they thought they should and they don’t want the same thing to happen now with the internet. I also get the impression there’s some age-old but still simmering resentment about a perceived lack of respect for writers among the studio bean counters…or maybe I’m just confusing Robert Altman’s The Player with reality.

There’s more to it than all that, but the question is how it might effect you and me, the consumers. Will we turn up at the cineplex this weekend to find the doors closed?

The short answer is: no. In fact, movie lovers can probably rest easy for a while longer. According to Variety, the studios are saying they’ve got around 50 films ready to go and that each studio has around 5 films they could probably pull off without the need of significant rewrites.

For the most part, most studio 2008 slates aren’t an issue, since those movies are either done or safely along in the process, save for some of the late-year titles. The threat of a strike has meant that they are going into production sooner than they normally would have with 2009 films, or pics slated for release toward the end of 2008.

Variety goes on to quote one studio insider as saying that the strike would have to go on for 6 or 7 months before movies would feel the impact.

Of course the studios could be lying. Does it seem weird to anyone else that mainstream media isn’t talking much about this whole issue? Could it be because in the end they’re owned by the same conglomerates that run the studios? I don’t know. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I’m just saying.

Also, just because the studios are comfortable they’ll have plenty of product for the pipeline, it doesn’t mean the product is going to be any good. What if a movie needs rewrites after production starts as they so often do? Too bad. They’re stuck with what they have. 

I don’t think the strike would have any impact on foreign films and many independent films are able to get guild wavers so maybe even in the worst case scenario, this would just mean less mainstream studio product. Maybe.

Regardless of the outlook for movies, TV is another story because scripts aren’t written until each episode is closer to production. In the case of live TV like Saturday Night Live or the late night talk shows, there are no scripts just sitting around waiting to be produced. Those shows would probably go into reruns almost right away.

In the end, a strike could mean a bunch of lower quality mainstream movies., but how much worse could summer get and how much less could I care? A bigger worry is what would happen to the crop of fringe movies made by mainstream studios. Movies like Zodiac and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford? Take away that category of movies and the cineplex is a much less interesting place.

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3 thoughts on “WGA Contract Expires Tonight

  1. It will be interesting to see how this plays out but it’s probably important to note that many of the scripts the studios “have in the can” are remakes or standard studio product, i.e. CRAP. I have a feeling this strike will have a more dramatic effect on the smaller, artsier fare that the studio’s “indie” wings are known for. I’ve heard far less about any pre-strike output from them than I have about remakes of Witch Mountain, Escape from New York, and The Day the Earth Stood Still and the big screen version of GI Joe.

    2009 could be a pretty painful year at the multiplexes considering that’s when most of these “strike-proof” projects are intended to hit.

    I suppose one plus is that it appears Transformers 2 isn’t going to make it into production in time to beat the strike, not that the script for that one couldn’t be written by Joe Schmoe and not be a perfect compliment to the first one.

  2. One of the articles in Variety wondered aloud whether the strike would actually benefit the true indie market…not the mini-majors, but genuinely independent film. Some have visions, if the strike happens, of the studios descending upon Sundance and other film festivals like vultures and snapping up anything in sight.

    I don’t know though. I’d rather not see a strike.

  3. It might be time to start marketing your own script, CJ. You know, the one with the jet-pack monkies and the erotic part specifically written for Natalie Portman.

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