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The BBC's David Willis in Los Angeles
"The scriptwriters have agreed to extend the deadline with the big studios"
 real 56k

Steve Gaydos, Editor of Variety Magazine
"The impact on Hollywood right now is devastating"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
What next for writers' dispute?
Writers will be balloted before strike action
Writers will be balloted before strike action
If talks between Hollywood writers and producers break down, strike action is expected - but it would not begin immediately.

Although the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) are still deep in discussion, any final contract offer will have to be discussed by the WGA's board and council.

The council will then decide whether to put the offer to a membership ballot.

Chronology of a dispute
Sept 1999: John Wells elected president of WGA West on a "get-tough" platform
July 2000: WGA tells members to start saving for a strike
Sept 2000: WGA asks members not to write extra scripts
13 Oct 2000: WGA endorses 42 demands over fees, residuals and creative rights
2 Jan 2001: WGA and companies agree two weeks of talks
22 Jan 2001: Talks start with news blackout
3 Feb 2001: Negotiations extend past two-week deadline
15 Feb 2001: New proposals exchanged
If the WGA leadership decides to recommend rejection, they will almost certainly ask for a strike to be authorised by a majority vote of members.

Once a strike has been authorised by the membership, it usually is left to the WGA's board and council to decide when the strike should begin.

Though both writers and actors have gone on strike before, this summer's threat of a simultaneous strike by both unions takes Hollywood into uncharted waters.

It could, according to the Los Angeles mayor, cost the city $6.9bn (4.7bn) and put 100,000 jobs at risk.

The 11,500 writer members of the WGA will also face a lean time.

Few of the WGA's members earn salaries comparable with big-name actors - but in 1988 they proved that they could endure a five-month strike.

Many studios will have busy post-production schedules for some time, having rushed the shooting of new films to beat the strike deadlines.

Strike looms closer
1 March 2001: Talks collapse
6 March 2001: WGA starts meetings with members
3 April 2001: News of a 45% increase in film production
9 April 2001: WGA agrees to restart talks
17 April 2001: Talks resume with news blackout
27 April 2001: WGA asks members if they are available for picketing
29 April 2001: Negotiators meet through the weekend
2 May 2001: Negotiators announce talks are continuing as contract expires at 0800 BST PDT
Independent studios which are not members of the AMPTP may also be eligible for union wavers and continue to shoot.

But if there is a strike, the longer it goes on, the more serious the long-term implications for the studios.

They may also face the prospect of striking actors refusing to publicise their new films.

Writers' and actors' agents, totally dependent on a flow of new work for their commissions, are already feeling the pinch and laying off staff.

A strike may be good for editorial copy - but anything which impacts on releases has a knock-on effect on publicity and advertising.

An embargo on publicity appearances and interviews by actors could also hit magazines which use Hollywood names to attract readers.

There are already reports that skilled film workers are turning to the Californian pornography industry for work.

There are also countless caterers, cleaners, make-up artists and the like who stand to lose income if either or both of the strikes goes ahead.

actors' strike
Actors marched during last year's strike
And there are predictions that any strike could hit the British film production industry very badly.

Most British productions that cost more than 10m are backed by American money and are often owned by an American company.

"There is nobody outside of Hollywood who can afford a 100m movie," Pinewood studios chairman Michael Grade has said.

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See also:

30 Apr 01 | Film
Reality TV in the wings
16 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Top TV writers back union
06 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Hollywood strike could hit UK
08 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Fox reveals Hollywood strike plan
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