Hollywood writers, producers talking again

Talks are informal
January 24, 2008 3:56:37 AM PST
For the first time in weeks, Hollywood writers and producers are back at the bargaining table. It's been months since writers put down their pens and hit the picket lines.

Eyewitness News reporter Joe Torres is following the developments.

After nearly three months of protests and rallies, writers and producers began informal talks Wednesday, with the hopes that full-scale negotiations will soon follow.

Producers offered the invitation and the writers accepted it, to sit down and talk - albeit informally - and to work hard on putting an end to a lengthy strike that's brought major television and motion picture production to a virtual halt.

"It's a good thing they are talking," writer Steven Share said. "I don't know how substantive the talks will be."

Demonstrating their desire to return to work, the writers removed from the bargaining table their union proposals for reality TV programming and animation. Also, guild leaders announced union members will not picket the upcoming Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. As for the Academy Awards, there is no word yet if the Oscars will be picket-free.

"If they are on strike and they do have a picket line, some folks will cross it, some folks won't," show producer Gil Cates said. "Regardless, the show will be the show."

"Going to the Oscars is fabulous, so we'd all really like that to happen," writer Paul Haggis said. "Now we'd just also would like it not to be the case where people are starting to lose their apartments and not being able to pay the rent. It's a tough time in Hollywood."

For their part, producers said the informal talks would dictate whether or not a return to formal negotiations should take place. Just last week, producers and the Directors' Guild hammered out a tentative deal after just several days of bargaining. Not everyone sees that as a good sign.

"A lot of writers over the weekend, they seem to feel that the directors struck up a deal that was not satisfactory," said Mike Cidoni, of AP Television. "And so that is the feeling going into these negotiations again this week. Lord knows how it's going to turn out."

One of the key sticking points remains the writers push for compensation for TV shows and movies distributed on the Internet. Lastly, as part of the deal to begin informal talks, both sides agreed to a news blackout, meaning no public comments, for now.