Source AP ©

Hollywood writers to go on strike because of little respect

Hollywood writers are not satisfied with the piece of television and movie industry action they have. Being underpaid and getting little respect they claimed they would go on strike for the first time in 20 years.

The strike will not immediately affect film or prime-time TV production. Most studios have stockpiled dozens of movie scripts, and TV shows have enough scripts or completed shows in hand to last until early next year.

Writers Guild of America President Patric Verrone made the strike announcement in a closed-door session Thursday, drawing loud cheers from the crowd, several writers told The Associated Press.

"Where the membership stands could not be more clear," said Carlton Cuse, an executive producer of the television drama "Lost" and a member of the guild negotiating committee. "There was not a single dissenting voice in the room."

Writers said the guild board would meet Friday to formally call a strike and decide when it would start. They said guild members would be told Friday afternoon.

Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said in a statement the alliance was not surprised by the action.

"We are ready to meet and are prepared to close this contract this weekend," he said.

After the meeting, Jeff Hermanson, assistant executive director of the WGA, West, was asked whether the delayed strike was a negotiating tactic.

Hermanson said he hoped the move would bring the alliance back to the table. "We hope they will come to their senses," he said.

Guild members recently authorized their negotiators to call the first strike since 1988. Officials had called a meeting of the union's 12,000 members Thursday night. About 3,000 attended.

Writers said the line of questioning inside the meeting was not whether the group was going to strike, but how it would be carried out. The mood was subdued as writers filed out of the building.

Janis Hirsch, a veteran TV writer, was among the 10 percent who voted against striking.

"It's sad, but I've got to support my union. At this point it makes sense," she said.

Many writers said that beyond royalties, respect was at stake. They said they had never commanded the same clout in the entertainment industry as actors and directors.

"I don't think it's something we can negotiate for," said Paul Guay, who co-wrote the movies "Liar, Liar" and "Heartbreakers." "What we can negotiate for is money. How we assess respect and worth in this town is money."

The first casualty of the strike will likely be late-night talk shows, which are dependent on current events to fuel monologues and other entertainment.

The key financial issue in the talks involves changing the formula for paying writers a share of DVD revenue, then applying the same equation to money made from material offered over the Internet and other digital platforms.

Studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, are dead set against increasing DVD royalties.

Writers and actors have been fighting for years to reverse what they see as a huge mistake made at the dawn of home video, when no one was sure if selling movies on VHS cassettes would ever make money.

The unions agreed to ignore the first 80 percent of revenue from the tapes and later DVDs, assuming most of the money represented the cost of manufacturing and distribution.

Writers settled for just 1.2 percent of the remaining 20 percent, a figure that amounts to about 3 cents on a DVD that retails for $20 ( EUR 14).

Writers are now asking for their share to be calculated on 40 percent of revenue and argue the same formula should be used for digital distribution because studios have almost no costs associated with that technology.

Studios argue that it is too early to know how much money they can make from offering entertainment on the Internet, cell phones, iPods and other devices.

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