How the WGA’s tentative deal with AMPTP was accomplished – The Hollywood Reporter


On Saturday, September 23, Disney CEO Bob Iger was out in Beverly Hills, seemingly living his best life. He was at dinner with Paul McCartney and Eagles alumnus Joe Walsh at La Dolce Vita, an old-fashioned Italian restaurant with long white tablecloths and deep red leather booths. Some people were carefully taking photographs, as might be expected of a beetle at home.

But everyone’s attention wasn’t solely on McCartney. By the time the dinner ended, blurry images of Iger at the table with McCartney were posted to a WhatsApp group chat that included about 500 listeners. Then someone posted an image of a “Writer’s Tears” whiskey bottle (yes, a real brand), suggesting it be sent to Iger’s desk. No one did, but a round of shots came with a note on the table that read, “Hopefully, on behalf of the Hollywood audience.”

For several days, there were reports that the Writers Guild and the studio were very close to an agreement, which could end the strike that lasted for almost five months. But since Iger was enjoying his Saturday dinner, no deal was reached.

The situation finally changed the next evening when an alarmed city was informed of a tentative agreement that the guild leadership described as “extraordinary” with “meaningful benefits and protections for writers.” Although details had not been released as of press time, jubilant guild members packed the barrel-shaped Idle Hour Bar in North Hollywood to celebrate.

The deal was the fruit of days of negotiations between Guild and four studio heads: Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, NBCUniversal chief content officer Donna Langley and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos. A few weeks ago, on August 22, guild representatives met with those officials and finally lashed out at them in a late-night message to members. Instead of finally getting a chance to negotiate with officials, the guild negotiating committee said, “We were met with a lecture on how good their single and only counter-proposal was.”

After this there was a deadlock over who should make the counter proposal. By the end of August, negotiations stalled due to mutual accusations, several listeners – including Kenya Barris (black-ish), Noah Hawley (fargo) and Courtney Kemp (Power) – began to interrogate the guild leadership. “Clearly people like Kenya wanted information. There was no coup,” says one listener. “We were just asking the questions that were on everyone’s mind. The thing with showrunners is that they’re CEOs in their own right, running big corporations with big deals at studios. For example, Noah Hawley has two shows and employs a thousand people. We were all doing our part to get people off the brink of bankruptcy and back to work.” Another adds: ”The WGA dug in its heels and realized [the AMPTP] We had to call. Then Chris Keyser, [co-chair of the WGA’s negotiating committee], also started hearing from the Teamsters to do something. It wasn’t anger about being asked to strike or to back down; It was anger over the lack of effort to restart things.

The deep impasse between the studio and Guild finally began to melt on the evening of September 10, when Keyser called Iger and had a conversation that, according to knowledgeable sources, lasted more than an hour and was “very honest and straightforward”. ” That night he also talked to Zaslav, Sarandos, and Langley. They agreed that there was no point in arguing over which side had to make a counter-proposal to the other; Its purpose was to get the industry back to work, ending the misery that had spread beyond the guild membership and that some officials feared would cause permanent damage to the business. Iger committed to staying in the room as long as necessary to achieve the goal, as did the other three team executives. Everyone cleared their calendars.

Once negotiations resumed on September 20, it became clear that Iger was the elder statesman and the only leader who had come through on the previous writers’ strike. Zaslav, with the least experience in the scripted world, was still an experienced negotiator of many difficult deals. Langley brought a level head and the most practical creative experience, as well as strong relationships with talent. One source described him as the “diplomat” in the room. Sources say Sarandos spent more time communicating with SAG-AFTRA than the WGA, before the final marathon negotiations, but ultimately formed an alliance with the other three.

The executives’ pledge to remain in the room until the deal was completed was challenged on the afternoon of September 21, when the CEOs felt they were inches away from a deal. After a very slow initial run of negotiations, the studio group presented a package that they believed addressed the guild’s major concerns – a minimum for the writers’ room. Success-based residuals for staffing, AI security, and streaming. According to sources the guild came up with a late demand by the studio side, seeking a deal point that would protect members if they refused to cross other unions’ picket lines, although the WGA had been in talks for several weeks. Was indicating that he would demand such a provision. Like the other officers, Iger left the room in anger. According to sources, Zaslav said to the other party, “What are you guys doing? We’re at the 10-yard line… We’ve given you virtually everything you said you wanted.” Iger returned briefly to warn the guild negotiators that this was a serious moment for which they had to approach carefully. There was a need to think. Sources say Keyser eventually reached out to Iger and negotiations resumed.

WGA spokesman Bob Hopkinson disputed the above description, but declined to elaborate. Studio heads declined to comment.

Although the deal still needs to be approved by the guild membership, the hope is that the studios can reach an agreement with SAG-AFTRA relatively quickly and get the city back to work. Yet despite the prospect of potential peace, there are those in society who feel that their profession will continue to face challenges. They fear the industry will contract and squeeze out young and diverse writers as the content bubble shrinks from its peak of about 600 U.S. scripted originals. In other words, a golden age for writers may be over, at least for the foreseeable future.

“Everyone will call it before the strike and after the strike,” says one well-known showrunner, “but it’s really like before peak TV and after peak TV.”


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