Writers Guild to Meet With Showrunners on Friday as Strike Enters 20th Week

As the writers strike labors on in its 20th week, hundreds of showrunners united in a show of solidarity at Fox in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, some of the television industry’s top creators are set to meet with the Writers Guild of America’s top leadership Friday for a high-level status update on where negotiations stand.

Sources say Kenya Barris (Black-ish), Noah Hawley (Fargo) and Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot) are among a small contingent who had sought out a meeting with the WGA negotiating committee co-chair Chris Keyser and other union officials. The buzz about a showrunner meeting first surfaced late last week and was fueled over the weekend until eventually plans for two different meetings were scrapped after fears emerged that the mere idea could be considered a crack in the WGA’s solidarity.

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Multiple sources tell THR that the top showrunners are now indeed set to meet Friday with guild brass to, according to their camps, help and support the WGA in securing a new Minimum Basic Agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios and streamers.

“There’s a large sentiment among top showrunners who are saying this can’t be a zero-sum game,” says one source who has relationships with both studios and showrunners. “[People] are willing to get 70 percent to 80 percent of the way there and make a deal.”

Negotiations have been at a standstill as both the WGA and AMPTP believe it’s the other’s turn to make a counteroffer. The WGA told members Sept. 9 that the AMPTP had offered only one proposal to the guild, on Aug. 11, and its member companies have not moved from that proposal despite the fact that the union “presented our own counterproposal to the AMPTP on August 15th.” The AMPTP responded shortly afterward and said in a statement that the WGA “holds the power to move this negotiation forward by responding to the AMPTP’s most recent offers on key issues.” Since then, the WGA has remained steadfast that the proverbial ball is in the AMPTP’s court.

The WGA addressed the attempted showrunner gathering in a meeting with strike captains Monday night in which the union communicated that Barris and Hawley were seeking updates and information directly from the negotiating committee. The WGA, according to a strike captain, said it didn’t think it was a good idea initially but has now moved forward with plans to meet with Barris and company on Friday in L.A.

“I, like everybody, am frustrated with how long this has been dragging on, but there’s an enormous amount of solidarity here. That’s the important message to take from today is that while people are hurting and people are frustrated, they are united and they are strong in fighting for what we feel we deserve,” Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan told THR on Tuesday at Fox. “I don’t think anybody is really second guessing and looking for ways to cause some disruption in the leadership of the guild. We’re just always trying to see if there are any ways anybody can help.”

Added another showrunner who was among the hundreds to turn out at Fox on Tuesday: “There’s a deal to be made … [The AMPTP] is in disagreement internally about what they’re willing to compromise on. We know what we’re willing to compromise on but we haven’t gotten into that because they countered once in 130 days. That’s not an act of negotiation. Everybody on negotiating committee feels the weight of the entire business on them right now. It’s not just WGA, it’s SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, support staff, catering companies and restaurants … Most writers are having a hard time, not just financially. We all thought this would be over by Labor Day.”

The WGA did not immediately respond to THR’s request for comment on the Friday showrunner meeting.

Tiffany Taylor contributed to this report.

Updated Sept. 13 at 5:15 p.m.: This story has been updated to provide further clarity on where negotiations stand.

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