It's the end of the strike as we know it, and I feel fine!
Yes, writers across America are heading back to work today. The strike started on November 5th of last year, and has lasted over three months. The WGA and the AMPTP have been building toward a conclusion for a couple weeks now, so the wrap-up doesn't come as a huge surprise. Still, it sure is great to see an official announcement, isn't it?
Members of the WGA voted on the issue, and the decision was a landslide. 3,775 ballots were cast, and 3,492 of those voters checked "yes." That's a total of 92.5% in favor of ending the strike. So, a few holdouts -- 283 to be exact -- but by and large Guild members are very happy with the new contract. The official ratification of the deal is slated for February 26th.
WGA East President Michael Winship announced that "We're (now) receiving a percentage of the distributor's gross, which is very real money, as opposed to what people refer to as creative or Hollywood accounting." Last night, WGA West President Patric Verrone announced that writers could return to work immediately, and remarked that several -- like those working on the Academy Awards broadcast -- were going to take him literally. (So rest easy -- Bruce Vilanch will not have to cut any money from his oversized zany T-shirt budget this year.) There will be a press conference Thursday to announce official Oscar plans. The ceremony is still set for February 24th, so there won't be as much preparation time as usual, but that's probably a good thing. The Academy Awards have needed to loosen up a bit for a long while.
In response to the strike's conclusion, the top eight executives at the AMPTP -- some of the richest men in the world -- issued this statement:
"The strike has been extraordinarily difficult for all of us, but the hardest hit of all have been the many thousands of businesses, workers and families that are economically dependent on our industry. We hope now to focus our collective efforts on what this industry does best -- writers, directors, actors, production crews, and entertainment companies working together to deliver great content to our worldwide audiences."
CBS President Les Moonves told Variety: "We will never know if they would have achieved these things without a strike. I think it's really important now that everybody come back together, and work together. I think that's going to happen. Let's not look backward; let's look forward. Let's not talk just once every three years but maybe every month. Especially on new media. The rules of our business are changing so rapidly, the ways people are using media and content are changing so rapidly. For our creative partners, relationships and communication are really important. The (WGA) realizes it, and we realize it."
We'll never know if writers would have achieved these things without a strike? Really, Les? It took three months to get results with a strike! You think if they had asked you politely, you would have coughed up the dough with a smile? Puh-leeze. But I'm not looking backward, I'm looking forward!
So what's next? Production can resume on your favorite television shows. Stalled movies can be jump-started. Folks will return to work all over town, the Los Angeles economy will balance out, and bank accounts all across the industry will breathe a collective sigh of relief. In short, it's a very good thing. Here's hoping that when the Screen Actors Guild contract negotiations begin (their current contract ends June 30th of this year), the resolution is swift and painless.
Variety recently ran a story about how the WGA's strike gains are completely offset by the money they lost while out of work. What many fail to realize is that the members of the Writers Guild weren't striking simply to line their own pockets. When I picketed during the strike, I was told again and again by established writers that "we're doing this for you young guys and girls coming up now." As a writer getting my start, I'm supremely grateful that I will be fairly compensated going forward. And it's all because of what took place over the past few months. Is it a perfect contract? No, and you may hear grumbling in the weeks ahead that the strike "wasn't worth it." But time will prove the naysayers wrong.
This has been a grueling three months for almost everyone in the entertainment industry. It's been hard, but sometimes it takes a major gesture to get peoples' attention. Congratulations to all involved for resolving the strike, and a huge thanks to all those who walked the picket lines day in and day out to carve out a brighter future for writers everywhere, both current and future. Now...
BACK TO WORK!!!