Friday, February 08, 2008

Michael Eisner speaks on strike

Former Disney CEO (and current CNBC host) Michael Eisner opined today that the WGA strike was essentially over (link), meaning that the remaining steps to ending the strike were a mere formality. He said: "It's over. They made the deal, they shook hands on the deal. It's going, on Saturday, to the writers. A deal has been made. They'll be back to work very soon... I know it's over."

To clarify, the strike isn't over until it's over. This means the scheduled Saturday general membership meeting for WGA East and WGA West will still happen-- this will be a townhall-style event to explain the draft contract to the members in order to gauge their opinion during a live meeting. The vote won't occur then-- if all goes well on Saturday, all of the members then will then need to formally vote. I'm not sure how it works, but I'm guessing it will be a relatively time-consuming process conducted through the postal mail.

So what Eisner is saying is that in his opinion, the WGA negotiators are very happy with the terms of the draft deal, and that by extension, the membership are almost certain take the deal with open arms. Eisner is likely to have some inside word on the deal, but the entire world will have a better idea if he was right after the WGA's live meetings Saturday. If these go well, the WGA leadership is likely to email all of their members encouraging them to vote for the deal when ballots come in the mail, a recommendation that will carry much weight. Therefore Saturday's result, if positive, will be interpreted as a de facto done-deal.

Then, the studios might begin re-assembling their various film crews in anticipation of the formal vote result. Yesterday, EW noted that this process might take until early March (link), and in the cases of many series will force story arc rewrites to accommodate a shorter season. An Ugly Betty writer commented, "We would definitely need to change storylines... I know where we're going to end up, but there's going to have to be some major readjustment to get there."

The same may be very well true for Lost, and as we commented last weekend (link), the number of recovered episodes will also depend on whether ABC extends the television season-- something almost unheard of, but possible in a season marred by a strike. We can predict the fan outcry over anything less than the full 8 remaining episodes, but that eventuality appears to be almost certainly unlikely.

And to play doomsayer, don't count on the Season 5 just yet, because the WGA deal may not be good enough for the actor's union SAG, which may have loftier goals for New Media residuals than the WGA. And SAG, unlike the writers, could immediately halt Hollywood on the first day of any strike after this coming June. See Daily Variety's article for more on this.
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