Strike May Come to Fast End!
Post by: Sal
Hollywood could be back on its feet as early as Monday.
The major studios and the Writers Guild of America are putting the finishing touches on a deal that could bring an end to the costly walkout. Today the two sides are expected to finalize a three-year contract that guild leaders plan to present to thousands of writers in Los Angeles and New York on Saturday. The guild board could approve the contract Sunday and encourage writers to return to work the next day, according to people close to the negotiations.
Studio executives and TV producers have been preparing for that day for the last two weeks, hoping to salvage the remainder of the television season by quickly revving up production to bring back some popular TV shows that have been languishing in repeats or were taken off the air.
"Everyone is motivated to get back to work as quickly as possible," said Jonathan Littman, president of Jerry Bruckheimer Television, which produces "CSI" and "The Amazing Race," among other shows, for CBS. "They want to begin producing as many original episodes as they can."
Movies that were derailed by the strike also could lurch back, including high-profile projects such as Columbia Pictures' "Da Vinci Code" prequel "Angels & Demons" and Warner Bros.' "Shantaram," starring Johnny Depp.
Films are blessed with long lead times, and last summer studio executives accelerated development and production schedules in anticipation of a strike. As a result, the movie industry was not as hard hit by the Nov. 5 work stoppage as broadcast TV.
Production shut down in December and January, after the supply of TV scripts had been depleted. That compromised the season, which officially ends May 21.
It will take four to six weeks and tens of millions of dollars to ramp up TV production, and not every prime-time series will immediately return to the air.
"It's not just flipping a switch and having everything come right back on," said Barry Jossen, executive vice president of production for ABC Studios. "There are a lot of factors and considerations that go into these decisions. We are trying to determine the amount of material that was finished before the strike started, the creative status of the show and the broadcast schedule needs."
Only about 10 to 20 prime-time network programs are likely to return this spring with fresh episodes, including some of TV's biggest hits, such as "Grey's Anatomy" on ABC and "CSI" on CBS. Some viewers might not see new episodes of their favorites until fall -- at the earliest. Shows with complex plots, large casts and complicated production elements, such as NBC's "Heroes" and Fox's "24," are expected to roll over to next season.
Studio executives say they can't justify the increased costs of ramping up production for every program halted by the strike. It would cost the studios millions of dollars extra -- an average $200,000 more an episode, according to one estimate -- to produce an abbreviated run for each series. Crews must be rehired, sets need to be rebuilt, and the costs of production would be spread over a smaller number of episodes.
Some struggling shows might not be worth saving. Shelling out millions more for marketing campaigns to try to relaunch an iffy drama could spell sudden death for such programs as NBC's "Bionic Woman" and CBS' "Cane," industry executives predicted.
Television executives are vowing to use the disrupted TV season as an opportunity to do what they have talked about for years: change their decades-old rituals in an effort to contain costs in an era when audiences have declined and technologies such as the Internet and digital video recorders have changed the way people consume media.
"TV executives haven't been sitting around thumbing their fingers during the strike; they have been giving a lot of thought to how they run their business," Littman said. "We're seeing some industrial Darwinism as the business changes."
TV comedies would be the first to go back into production. Multi-camera shows such as "Two and a Half Men" on CBS and are likely to resume production within the next two weeks. Single-camera comedies, such as NBC's "The Office," also are expected to quickly shift back into gear.
The creator of NBC's "My Name Is Earl," Greg Garcia, said he would like to get his writing staff back together Monday. Production should begin within two weeks after the strike ends, Garcia said, because the writers had left two completed scripts that were not shot and had outlined several other episodes.
"We're kind of ahead of the game, so we can mobilize quickly," Garcia said. "But it all remains to be seen."