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Striking Hollywood writers rally as pressure mounts
LOS ANGELES |
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Thousands of Hollywood screenwriters on strike against film and TV studios rallied outside 20th Century Fox on Friday in their biggest collective show of force yet as pressure mounted on both sides to resume contract talks.
With the walkout in its fifth day, the greatest impact continued to be on scores of prime-time television shows where production work has been thrown into disarray, especially after writer-producers in charge of those programs refused to cross picket lines.
The writer-producers, also called show runners, are themselves on strike as members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA). But management insists they are obligated as producers to continue performing non-writing duties.
After many show runners publicly rebuffed studio calls for them to return to work this week, the studios issued breach-of-contract notices informing them their producer salaries would be cut off and warning of possible legal action, industry sources said.
In a separate move widely seen as a hard-ball tactic by management, some studios also began suspending scores of long-term development deals with writer-producers.
While leaders of both sides in the dispute say they are willing to return to the bargaining table, no new talks have been scheduled.
Studio representatives have indicated the union would have to put its strike on hold in order to resume negotiations, a move the union has so far rejected.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who still has close ties with many in show business from his days as an actor, said on Thursday he was talking to both sides in an effort to help them move toward settlement.
In addition, the Los Angeles Times reported that executives from the five leading Hollywood talent agencies met behind closed doors with union leaders on Thursday offering to act as go-betweens to try to broker a deal.
RALLY AT FOX
The TV studios' confrontation with its show runners became a focus of attention at a rally of roughly 4,000 striking writers and their supporters, some from other Hollywood talent unions, outside the headquarters of Fox studios.
"We're shutting down production, and we're kicking corporate ass!" WGA West President Patric Verrone told a boisterous crowd.
"These companies can't survive without us for long," said Seth MacFarlane, creator and executive producer of the Fox animated comedy "Family Guy," whose outspoken defiance of Fox studio has made him a cause celebre for striking writers.
He then added in the malevolent, erudite voice of the show's precocious but evil baby character Stewie, "Victory will be ours," eliciting huge cheers from the crowd.
The hourlong rally, and a march down Avenue of the Stars in Los Angeles' Century City area, followed several days in which smaller groups of strikers fanned out all over town to form picket lines outside numerous production sites.
The Writers Guild launched its strike on Monday as last-ditch negotiations with studios on a new contract for its 12,000 members collapsed.
The talks deadlocked mostly on differences over the writers' demands for a greater share of revenues from the Internet and other new media, widely seen as future distribution channels of choice for most entertainment.
While there has been no obvious impact yet on the feature film industry, work ground to an immediate 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 are expected to shut down production by the end of November, though networks say they have enough advance episodes filmed to keep many shows on the air without repeats until December, January or even February.
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