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Voices of conflict

November 2, 2007 |  1:25 pm


As the writers union moves one step closer to a strike, members concede they have conflicting feelings about what a strike will mean, although all ultimately voiced support for the WGA. Here's what several high-profile Hollywood writers had to say about the prospect of a work stoppage:

Screenwriter Dale Launer ("My Cousin Vinny," "Blind Date" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"): "I think that if the Writers Guild wants to get serious, they have to hire a team of lawyers to take the studios into court and sue them for collusion, restraint of trade [and] unfair competition. ... I think there are precedents for all of those and grounds for all of those. ... How they get anything done is really more a matter of the studios creating the illusion of throwing the writers a bone, and that’s the way it’s been going for 30 years. ... If you look at the UAW, they don’t allow Ford and Chevy and Chrysler ... to get together in one room. They do it one at a time. I think the writers should attempt to do that. I’m not angry at the Writers Guild per se. I just wish they’d be more aggressive. Instead of a really wimpy group, this group is a little less wimpy. ... I’m angry with the studios. The studios just refuse to share profits with the writers. In any other medium, they would."

Launer said he doesn’t plan to picket should a strike be called, however. "If they wanted to do something with torches involving scaring around some studio executives, I couldn’t pass up that one," he said with a laugh.

--Robert W. Welkos

Director and screenwriter Robin Swicord (“The Jane Austen Book Club,” “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Practical Magic”): “I don’t think anyone is happy at the prospect of a strike. It means an unwelcome interruption in work for all of us. I have been a WGA member since 1980 and have weathered two strikes in which I was called to picket lines. I feel I must support the guild in their efforts on behalf of writers, in no small part because our contract sets a pattern for the DGA and SAG negotiations as well. But I hope every day that we will not have to strike.”

— Gina Piccalo

Screenwriter Bill Marslii (“Déjà Vu,” with Terry Rossio): "Toward the end of the year, I sold a project to Disney on a pitch. And now, since the expiration of the WGA contract, they’ve superheated my deadline. I turned a first draft in at the beginning of October and I’m being pressed to deliver my second — and the movie is nowhere near production. The development process has definitely been accelerated. On an emotional level, I was surprised at how deeply upset I became when I saw the talks had ended in acrimony. ... It’s a real shame to end a creative meeting that’s going well with, ‘If there’s a strike, are you going to stop talking to us?’ ‘Are you going to pay me faster?’ ... People involved on the creative end find it distasteful to talk about. ... We’re afraid of losing creative momentum. It’s not good for anybody. Even if a deal ends up getting hammered out, if bad blood lasts, it’s poisonous. ... We’re fond of referring to show business as The Biz. But for those of us on the creative side, there’s a great deal of passion involved. That’s something that’s difficult to protect when there’s so much contract negotiation and strikes and guns being fired across water in the media on both sides. It’s tough to talk characters and story if you’re wondering whether someone’s going to blow a whistle and I won’t be able to talk to you next week. I’m not mad at people in the studio even if business affairs is giving me a hard time about cashing a check. It’s something everyone around town is facing.”

— Chris Lee

TV writer Daniel Cerone ("Dexter"): Showtime rushed its post-production of "Dexter" to get ahead of the strike and has wrapped Season 2. But Cerone won't be taking it easy if there's a strike.

"Part of the Writers Guild requirement is four hours a day in picket lines," he said. Like others, he said he would spend his creative time developing ideas. "They say that writers write. It’s a good time to do that."

Looking ahead to the end of any potential strike, he is already anticipating a downside. "After the strike, the market will be flooded with spec scripts. Writers will have a lot of time to write."

--Lynn Smith