Schwarzenegger seeks to end writers strike

LOS ANGELES Fri Nov 9, 2007 4:55pm EST

1 of 6. TV Series 'Grey's Anatomy' cast members Sandra Oh (L) and Ellen Pompeo join the picket line of the Writers Guild of America in front of the Prospect Studios in Los Angeles, November 7, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Hector Mata

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Reuters Showbiz Week

Fri, Nov 9 2007

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, best known in Hollywood for playing the "Terminator," said on Thursday he has assumed an unspecified backstage role to bring an end to the screenwriters strike.

"I'm talking to the parties that are involved because I think it's very important that we settle that as quickly as possible, because it has a tremendous economic impact on our state," Schwarzenegger said during a news conference at the state Capitol in Sacramento.

Schwarzenegger, who for many years was a member of the Screen Actors Guild but left show business to run for governor as a Republican in 2003, did not elaborate.

The Writers Guild of America went on strike against the major film and television studios on Monday as negotiations on a new contract for its 12,000 members collapsed, shattering nearly 20 years of Hollywood labor peace.

The talks, which began in July, foundered largely on the failure of the two sides to reach a deal on writers' demands for a greater share of revenues from the Internet, widely seen as a key future distribution channel for most entertainment.

While there has been no obvious immediate impact on the feature film industry, TV production was thrown into turmoil as work ground to a halt on several prime-time series and most late-night talk shows were forced into immediate reruns.

If the strike drags on, most scripted comedies and dramas in prime time were expected to shut down production by the end of November. Still, the networks say they have filmed enough advance episodes to keep many shows on the air without repeats until December, January or even February.

But the production halts have thrown many hundreds of crew members out of work, from hairstylists and makeup artists to camera operators and carpenters, with fallout rippling through the local economy.

EVERYONE LOSES

"That's the sad story, because the studio executives are not going to suffer, the union leaders are not going to suffer, the writers that are striking, they are not going to suffer. Those are all people that have money," Schwarzenegger said when asked about the strike.

The governor, whose former action-hero persona was largely defined by his role as a gun-toting cyborg who gets things done in the "Terminator" movies, still has many friends and connections in Hollywood.

Veterans of past show business labor confrontations have said the current strike could be a long one given what they see as an unusually high level of acrimony and public posturing on both sides.

"This negotiation has spent too much time in the public eye and not enough at the bargaining table in my view," said entertainment lawyer and former studio negotiator Howard Fabrick.

The last major Hollywood strike was a 1988 walkout by the Writers Guild that lasted for 22 weeks, delayed the start of the fall TV season that year and ultimately cost the industry an estimated $500 million.

Some studio executives, such as News Corp. chief operating officer Peter Chernin, have said the strike could actually have a short-term benefit because the companies save on production and development costs.

The News Corp.-owned Fox network revealed on Wednesday that it would postpone launching the seventh season of its hit spy thriller "24" for the duration of the strike.

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