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An end in sight? Striking writers and Hollywood studios resume negotiations for a second day

Present at the meeting were a group of top entertainment CEOs including Disney’s Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav, Universal’s Donna Langley and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos

Hollywood strikes
Strike signs await striking SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) outside Disney Studios in Burbank, California, U.S., July 25, 2023.MIKE BLAKE (REUTERS)

Hollywood studios and striking screenwriters were resuming talks Thursday that could potentially put an end to the nearly five-month dispute that has brought many film and television productions to a halt.

In a rare joint statement issued Wednesday night, the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the industry’s studios, streaming services and production companies in union negotiations, said they had met for bargaining Wednesday and would continue Thursday.

Present at the meeting were a group of top entertainment CEOs including Disney’s Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav, Universal’s Donna Langley and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos. The four were likely to be present at the talks Thursday as well.

On Wednesday, CNBC reporter David Faber wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the writers and AMPTP were “near” an agreement and “hope to finalize the deal,” according to his anonymous sources. He also said his sources warned that should the deal not close, the strike is likely to continue until the end of the year.

No other outlet has been able to corroborate Faber’s report. Deadline reported, however, that Wednesday’s negotiations were “very encouraging.” The Associated Press sent emails seeking comment to representatives for the AMPTP, the WGA and other entertainment companies.

The two sides have been divided on issues of pay, the size of writing staffs on shows and the use of artificial intelligence in the creation of scripts. Actors, who joined the writers on strike in July, have their own issues but there have been no discussions about resuming negotiations with their union yet.

The mood outside Netflix’s Hollywood headquarters was upbeat Thursday, with music blaring and drivers honking in support of the picketers.

Actor-writer-producer Justine Bateman, who starred in the ‘80s series Family Ties, said the key to making a deal was that the guild’s basic agreement offered the right terms to the new generation of writers.

“The point is not to have a resolution as much as to make sure that we have made a deal that protects us … writers in the minimum basic agreement,” Bateman said, noting that she and other writers-producers had benefited from the terms of earlier contracts.

“It has to be a deal that makes this worth it,” she said.

A previous attempt to restart talks with the writers fell flat. The two sides had a handful of meetings in mid-August, including one that included the heads of Disney, Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery.

But writers said that after exchanging contract proposals, “they were met with a lecture about how good their single and only counteroffer was,” and the talks trailed off.

The WGA strike is nearing record length. Should it continue through Sept. 30, it will be the longest in the union’s history and the longest Hollywood strike since 1945.

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