Author: Peter Indall
The consequences of the writers’ strike that began on Monday, November 5, have begun to alter the TV landscape. Late night talk shows began running repeats at the beginning of the strike and shows such as The Office have been forced to shut down production. Soon, studios will run through the stockpile of scripts they accumulated in the run up to the strike and virtually all scripted shows will cease production of new episodes.
If this happens, the number of reality format programs will multiply. The repercussions of the strike are not limited to television; several film projects have also experienced delays, such as the film version of the hit musical Nine and the film adaptation of Gregory David Robert’s novel Shantaram, set to star Johnny Depp. Hundreds of people have already lost their jobs and that number will increase as the ripple effects of the strike continue to expand.
Introducing his film Ratatouille at a campus event on Wednesday, November 28, producer Brad Lewis responded to questions about the ongoing strike. Joking that he hoped “the press isn’t here,” he tried to remain diplomatic about the divisive nature of the strike. He summed up the basic conflict: “We can blame Steve Jobs for coming with new ways to view entertainment. And it makes sense that people would want to get paid for their work,” he said.
The debate between largely untested forms of media and equal pay is reflected in his view. The emergence of new technology creating contentious labor negotiations has spread beyond the film and television industry to also include Broadway.
On the East Coast, another entertainment-related strike hit November 10 and ended November 28 with the additional work stoppage by the stagehands union on Broadway. Twenty-six shows were forced to suspend performances for nearly three weeks during the holiday season in New York, costing the local economy an estimated two million dollars per day. The arrival of better technology to reduce labor needed backstage has been the divisive issue since the stagehands union’s contract expired on July 31. That strike ended this past week when a tentative agreement was made granting concessions to the stagehand union’s concern over safety accompanying reduced backstage staff.
Back in Los Angeles, a large rally of multiple unions in support of the writers’ strike shut down a mile-long stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, Tuesday, November 20. On November 26, the writers and studios resumed talks in the hopes of hammering out an agreement. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) also attended the meetings in solidarity with the writers, as the outcome of the strike will have major ramifications when their collective bargaining agreement expires June 30, 2008.
After four days of extensive talks, no agreement had been met. However, talks are set to resume on Tuesday, December 4, and sources in both camps indicate that despite differences, they are coming closer to reaching an amicable agreement.
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