A meeting that had been scheduled for today between the leaders of the Writers Guild of America and a group of concerned showrunners has been postponed as the guild prepares to resume contract bargaining talks with Hollywood’s major studios next week.
The meeting was set to take place on Friday. Kenya Barris, Noah Hawley and Sam Esmail have been among the showrunners seeking insight from WGA leadership to restart talks and bring an end the strike, which is now in its 137th day. The guild’s back-and-forth with showrunners came as the WGA also connected with the AMPTP on resuming bargaining negotiations next week. In that context, it’s understood that the sides agreed that the WGA should focus on preparing for negotiations. The approach of the Rosh Hashanah holiday this evening also complicated the effort for a Friday sit-down at WGA West headquarters.
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The showrunners group has been active since Labor Day in trying to sit down with David Goodman and Chris Keyser, the co-chairs of the WGA negotiating committee, to express the urgency of resuming negotiations.
The meeting was first set for Sept. 8. It was rescheduled to Sept. 11, then canceled, then rescheduled again for Sept. 15.
Nevertheless, rumors about the meeting have circulated widely since last week, and may have added to the pressure on WGA leaders to return to the bargaining table.
On Wednesday, the WGA reached out to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to restart talks, according to the studio alliance. The WGA confirmed that the two sides are working on scheduling a resumption in talks, but did not comment on who made the first call.
Despite rising restlessness within the guild, there are no signs of open revolt or an effort to sideline leadership. All sides are in fact at pains not to be seen to be in disagreement, as the WGA has emphasized its rock-solid solidarity.
WGA leaders have put out the word that a showrunner meeting would be no big deal, as they talk with members all the time. And the showrunners themselves have sent a message that they are trying to be helpful, and are not trying to divide the guild.
The WGA has said that the latest offer from the AMPTP, which was made on Aug. 11, is not “nearly enough,” and has laid out deficiencies and loopholes in a half dozen areas. The WGA countered on Aug. 15, making slight moves from its previous position in a couple of areas.
The union and the studios spent the last three weeks waiting for the other to make a move. The WGA told members that a new offer from the studios would be coming, while the studios have said it’s the WGA’s turn to respond.
This week, several talk shows have announced they are returning for the fall season. Drew Barrymore drew sharp criticism for her announcement on Sunday that she would resume taping episodes without her three WGA writers. Bill Maher made a similar announcement on Wednesday. “The View” has also been taping since May without its two WGA writers.
The hosts are following the pattern set by Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Ellen DeGeneres, and others in the 2007-08 writers strike. Those hosts all returned to the air within a few weeks of the commencement of the strike, but without pre-written material.
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