Entertainment Weekly

Subscribe

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

Strike panel sparks talk at Sundance

Posted on

In Park City this morning, attorney Jonathan Handel, Writers Guild of America member Howard Rodman, and Screen Actors Gulid member Jason Stuart were on hand for a panel at Queer Lounge to discuss the ongoing WGA strike and what the Directors Guild of America’s deal means for the current “informal talks” between the writers and producers. They batted around a lot of numbers and gave some background on the he said/she said aspect of the negotiations: It seems as if the main sticking points between the WGA and AMPTP are new media and reality TV. So during the Q&A portion of the panel, the Hollywood Insider asked, “If the AMPTP makes a reasonable compromise on new media, what’s the probability that reality TV will be taken off of the table?” After the jump, their responses.

HOWARD RODMAN: I think we’re all in agreement up here. The central issue of this negotiation is new media. I’m speaking personally, not as a member of the Writers Guild board, but I think everybody up here on this panel knows that if there is a good deal in new media, electronic sell-through and all of those things, then the other issues…let’s put it this way, those issues are not the sticking points.

JASON STUART: Also, keep in mind the guys that worked on America’s Next Top Model struck and left their set because they just wanted to be union and be paid union wages, because a lot of people on reality shows are writers [but] not hired as writers. They’re called producers. And they were fired. They were all fired from their jobs after that strike.

JONATHAN HANDEL: The other reason the studios are just not going to grant reality and animation is that some shows on a show-by-show basis have chosen jurisdiction with the Writers Guild. Animation, for example…. (And, in fact, [WGA West president] Patric Verrone is an animation writer.) But there are other aspects of animation that are under [International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees] jurisdiction, and likewise with reality. The studios (A) are not going to step into an inner-union jurisdictional dispute, and (B) if they did, they would favor [IATSE], which tends to make deals in a more favorable [way].

RODMAN: You know, Vladamir Nabokov once said that reality is one of those words that only makes sense in quotation marks, and I agree with him on that. I think that if they pay less on Internet, they’re going to call it Internet. If they can do it without writers by calling it reality, then they’ll call it reality. The Writers Guild traditionally has covered variety shows and game shows, but now on something like American Idol, they say, “Oh, reality — we don’t have writers.” I mean if there’s anyone in this room who believes honestly that every word that emerges from Ryan Seacrest’s mouth originated from the Ryan Seascrest head, then we should talk afterwards.

HOWARD RODMAN: I think we’re all in agreement up here. The central issue of this negotiation is new media. I’m speaking personally, not as a member of the Writers Guild board, but I think everybody up here on this panel knows that if there is a good deal in new media, electronic sell-through and all of those things, then the other issues…let’s put it this way, those issues are not the sticking points.

JASON STUART: Also, keep in mind the guys that worked on America’s Next Top Model struck and left their set because they just wanted to be union and be paid union wages, because a lot of people on reality shows are writers [but] not hired as writers. They’re called producers. And they were fired. They were all fired from their jobs after that strike.

JONATHAN HANDEL: The other reason the studios are just not going to grant reality and animation is that some shows on a show-by-show basis have chosen jurisdiction with the Writers Guild. Animation, for example…. (And, in fact, [WGA West president] Patric Verrone is an animation writer.) But there are other aspects of animation that are under [International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees] jurisdiction, and likewise with reality. The studios (A) are not going to step into an inner-union jurisdictional dispute, and (B) if they did, they would favor [IATSE], which tends to make deals in a more favorable [way].

RODMAN: You know, Vladamir Nabokov once said that reality is one of those words that only makes sense in quotation marks, and I agree with him on that. I think that if they pay less on Internet, they’re going to call it Internet. If they can do it without writers by calling it reality, then they’ll call it reality. The Writers Guild traditionally has covered variety shows and game shows, but now on something like American Idol, they say, “Oh, reality — we don’t have writers.” I mean if there’s anyone in this room who believes honestly that every word that emerges from Ryan Seacrest’s mouth originated from the Ryan Seascrest head, then we should talk afterwards.