Will Hollywood Collapse on Halloween? Translating Today's ‘Variety’ Story on the WGA Contract Deadline

This photo is a metaphor! Photo: Getty Images

With the October 31 expiration of the Writers Guild's contract looming, studio negotiators will rejoin the guild at the bargaining table this week to try to hammer out a contract. Will writers start walking the picket lines on Halloween, forcing desperate actors to ad-lib fart jokes in Paul Haggis dramas? Since the Directors Guild and the Screen Actors Guild have contracts expiring next summer, will this be just the first in a series of strikes that will cripple Hollywood, sending teeth-bleaching stocks into the toilet? We interpret today's Variety story on the coming labor unrest.

Variety says: There's little optimism that the town's scribes will reach a deal with studios and nets by the Oct. 31 expiration of the WGA contract. Most expect that the guild won't strike at that point but rather tell its members to keep working under terms of the expired deal in hopes of securing a better one once SAG negotiates next year prior to its June 30 expiration.

Translation: Studio heads wouldn't weep one single tear if every writer in Hollywood were washed into the sea, and therefore writers must team up with actual stars in order to have any leverage at all.

Variety says: Still, the WGA's not taking the strike option off the table. It's converted the members' lounge at its headquarters into a strike HQ.

Translation: Hundreds of pencils are being sharpened to lethally sharp points even as we speak.

Variety says: "The view of the companies is that the WGA has not responded to our proposal; they have not bargained in good faith," [Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers president Nick] Counter declared. "We're entitled to a point-by-point response, and they have not given us the courtesy of that."

Translation: "We're entitled to a point-by-point response to our bullshit proposal, and a bullshit proposal in return."

Variety says: "And we are surprised and chagrined. This is the first time in my experience that the other side has been nonresponsive." Asked about Counter's complaints, [WGA West President Patric] Verrone said they're nonsense and the companies need to move on.

Translation: "Your mom was unresponsive," replied Verrone, adding, "High-five!"

Variety says: Counter contends that fast-shifting showbiz economics have left the companies with no choice but to come in with their guns blazing. He cites soaring costs of film and TV, uncertainty over Internet revenues and flat DVD growth, rattling off MPAA stats showing an average deficit of $70 million per film.

Translation: Surely everyone can agree that the No. 1 problem causing showbiz companies to lose money is their reckless generosity with writers.

Variety says: "Hollywood accounting is a fantasy designed to pay talent as little as possible," [Verrone] added.

Translation: Hollywood accounting is a fantasy designed to pay talent as little as possible.

Variety says: Counter bristles at such accusations. "Our accounting is transparent," he insisted. "It's a fallacious argument to say that the revenues aren't transparent because of profit participations and audits. Because of shareholders and participants, the industry's books have to be transparent."

Translation: Hollywood accounting is a fantasy designed to pay writers as little as possible.

WGA Talks Hold Little Optimism [Variety]
Earlier: Burn, Tinseltown, Burn!: Translating Today's ‘Hollywood Reporter’ Story on the Coming Labor Unrest