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Monday, 16 April, 2001, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Top TV writers back union
Buffy The Vampire Slayer, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar
Buffy: Writer says he would support a strike
Some of America's top television scriptwriters have spoken out in support of their union in the row with producers that could lead to strike action.

But most have said they hope a solution can be found before a strike is necessary, and last-ditch talks with producers will start on Tuesday.

The Writers Guild of America's (WGA) 11,500 members will go on strike from 1 May if the talks over payments for programmes and films shown as repeats and issued on video and DVD do not yield an agreement.


Sometimes you have to go on strike. I wish it weren't that way.

Joss Whedon
Buffy writer
The last set of talks between the two groups collapsed at the start of March. The actors' union is also threatening strike action.

Bruce Helford, creator of sitcom The Drew Carey Show, summed up the sentiments of many writers surveyed by trade newspaper Variety.

"If my guild goes on strike, I have no choice but to support it," he said. "But I don't want a strike. And I don't think there should be a strike. This can be resolved."

Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator and writer Joss Whedon said: "I wish we could reach an amicable agreement beforehand. But sometimes you have to go on strike. I wish it weren't that way."

Hollywood hills
A strike could cost Los Angeles $450m a week
NYPD Blue writer Stephen Bochco said he believes a deal will be reached at the last minute.

"It's a high-wire act," he said. "From a negotiating standpoint, everybody takes positions now they're prepared to come off from later.

"Somewhere between the two extremes, there's a reality that will accommodate a deal."

He also warned that the dispute could take on a life of its own.

He said: "People get backed in. People get angry. They lose sight of the issues, and it becomes about testicles. At that point, there's no telling what could happen."

Conclusion

Some writers expressed dismay that the two sides suspended talks until just two weeks before the writers' contracts are due to run out on 1 May.

Creator and writer of CBS comedy Yes Dear Alan Kirschenbaum said: "I can't understand why they're not out there negotiating every day.

"It's hard to understand why no one seems to be concerned with concluding this beforehand. These people are all businessmen."

The last-ditch talks between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) will try to avoid a strike that could cost Los Angeles $450m (311m) a week in lost business.

Stockpiling

A spokesman for the producers earlier said the two sides remained "extremely far apart on financial issues".

A second strike involving 135,000 actors could take place two months later if a separate dispute between the Screen Actors' Guild and the producers is not resolved.

In an effort to reduce the impact of any strike action, producers have been stockpiling scripts and pressing ahead with production on as many movies as possible.

Reality TV programmes, such as Survivor and Big Brother, could fill the void left by any strike action.

The last strike by the writers' guild, in 1988, lasted five months and delayed the start of the autumn TV season.

Along with higher payments for repeats, the writers want a larger hand in the creative process, including more access to film sets and greater involvement in film-making overall.

See also:

30 Mar 01 | Newsnight
Hollywood strike transcript - 26/3/01
06 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Hollywood strike could hit UK
02 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Hollywood strike talks collapse
08 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Fox reveals Hollywood strike plan
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