Hollywood writers indicate support for proposed deal that could end strike - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Hollywood writers indicate support for proposed deal that could end strike

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Hollywood writers on Saturday gave resounding support to a tentative agreement with studios that could end a strike that has crippled the entertainment industry. However, it appeared the approval process might briefly delay their return to work.

About 3,500 writers packed the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles to hear from union leaders about the proposed deal that was finalized just hours before meetings were held on both coasts by the Writers Guild of America.

A person familiar with the guild's plan, who requested anonymity because of a media blackout, said the WGA board would meet Sunday and decide on whether to authorize a quick, two-day vote of its members to determine if a strike order should be lifted.

Giving writers a 48-hour window to vote on lifting the strike order would help alleviate concerns that the agreement was being pushed too rapidly by the guild's board.

If guild members support lifting the strike order, they could return to work as early as Wednesday.

"The feeling in the room was really positive," said screenwriter Mike Galvin, adding that no one at the Los Angeles gathering said the deal "was crummy."

Compensation for projects delivered via digital media was the central issue in the 3-month-old walkout, which idled thousands of workers, disrupted the TV season and moviemaking and took the shine off Hollywood's awards season.

"I believe it is a good deal. I am going to be recommending this deal to our membership," Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, told reporters before the New York meeting at a Times Square hotel.

Winship said afterward that he was encouraged by the membership's response.

"We had a very lively discussion. I'm happy with what happened. ... At the moment, I feel strongly it (the proposed deal) has a strong chance of going through," he said.

Writers leaving the two-hour-plus New York meeting characterized the reaction as generally positive and said there was cautious optimism that the end of the strike - the guild's first in 20 years - could be near.

Carmen Culver, a film and TV writer, lauded the guild "for hanging tough."

"It's a great day for the labor movement. We have suffered a lot of privation in order to achieve what we've achieved," Culver said.

Michael Moore, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker ("Bowling for Columbine") and a nominee this year for his health-care film "Sicko," attended the New York meeting.

"It's a historic moment for labor in this country," Moore told The Associated Press.

Winship cautioned that it was not a "done deal" until the contract is ratified by members who need to be polled by mail in a process that usually takes two weeks.

An outline of the three-year deal was reached in recent talks between media executives and the guild, with lawyers then drafting the contract language that was concluded Friday.

According to the guild's summary, the deal provides union jurisdiction over projects created for the Internet based on certain guidelines, sets compensation for streamed, ad-supported programs and increases residuals for downloaded movies and TV programs.

The writers deal is similar to one reached last month by the Directors Guild of America, including a provision that compensation for ad-supported streaming doesn't kick in until after a window of between 17 to 24 days deemed "promotional" by the studios.

Writers would get a maximum $1,200 flat fee for streamed programs in the deal's first two years and then get a percentage of a distributor's gross in year three - the last point an improvement on the directors deal, which remains at the flat payment rate.

"Much has been achieved, and while this agreement is neither perfect nor perhaps all that we deserve for the countless hours of hard work and sacrifice, our strike has been a success," guild leaders Winship and Patric Verrone, head of the Writers Guild of America, West, said in an e-mailed message to members.

Together, the guilds represent 12,000 writers, with about 10,000 of those involved in the strike that began Nov. 5 and has cost the Los Angeles area economy alone an estimated $1 billion or more. Studios are represented by Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

One observer said the guild gained ground in the deal but not as much as it wanted.

"It's a mixed deal but far better than the writers would have been able to get three months ago. The strike was a qualified success," said Jonathan Handel, an entertainment attorney with the TroyGould firm and a former associate counsel for the writers guild.

The walkout "paved the way for the directors to get a better deal than they would otherwise have gotten. That in turn became the foundation for further improvements the writers achieved," Handel said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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