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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 February 2008, 04:33 GMT
Hopes raised for Hollywood strike deal
By Rajesh Mirchandani
BBC News, Los Angeles

After nearly three-and-a-half months and a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to the entertainment industry and the local economy, could America's 12,000 screenwriters be about to reach a deal?

Lost job sign in Los Angeles
Writers want to work, but not at any price

Two big meetings are taking place over the weekend, one in New York, one in Los Angeles, where leaders of the striking union, the Writers Guild of America, will outline to members a tentative agreement hammered out with studio bosses.

If writers react favourably, union leaders may call for a vote on the deal and may ask members to return to work as soon as Monday.

The strike has been over the share of profits writers earn from DVD sales and programmes screened online. The latter is a market that may be of limited value at the moment, but that looks set to mushroom in the future.

There has been a news blackout on the negotiations but reports suggest the union may have secured for its members a percentage of profits from downloads of shows and films, rather than a fixed residual payment. This should mean, as online profits rise, so will writers' incomes.

Industry insiders say a deal is close. Off the record one union leader said: "If the language of the contract is locked down, it's the kind of deal I think our members will be proud of".

'Fair contract'

However writers picketing NBC studios in Los Angeles on Friday still wanted to be convinced.

Strikers in Los Angeles
The strike has been long and highly disruptive

Lee Bridges said: "Ninety per cent of us voted to strike but only for a fair contract...we are not going to end it now until we get that."

Another writer Jim Kouf said "I don't think anybody is anxious to get back to work with a bad contract. That's not going to help anyone, especially not younger writers just coming. A lot of what we are fighting for is the future of writing as a career."

The strike has hit the showbiz world hard.

Without writers to produce or make last-minute changes to scripts, production on many hit TV shows, including Desperate Housewives, Heroes and Lost, has ground to a halt.

Entire production teams have had to be laid off, and TV ratings have dipped as repeats replace new episodes.

Oscars optimism

Hollywood's film industry is concerned too. If movies greenlit for production don't start filming soon studios may not be able to fulfil their release plans for next year.

Already, shooting has been delayed on Angels and Demons, based on the book by Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, and Transformers 2.

The Golden Globe Awards show was a high-profile casualty of the strike, when it was cancelled.

There is still concern over the Oscars, due to take place on 24 February, after stars said they would stay away in sympathy with writers.

However executives at the Motion Picture Academy say they are very hopeful the dispute will be resolved by then.



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