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Writers go out on strike

Union is battling for bigger share of DVD, Internet sales and other revenue, but producers are unwilling to budge.

November 07, 2007|By Jeremy Oberstein

MEDIA DISTRICT — Jim Cooper is like many of the thousands of writers who began their strike Monday at 14 Los Angeles area studios: The father of 5-year-old triplets did not want to strike but felt there was no other option.

“Yeah, it will affect us, but we had to do this,” said Cooper, a Disney screenwriter.

Cooper was joined by dozens of other Writers Guild of America members Monday at the Walt Disney Studios on Riverside Drive, wearing red shirts and waving signs.

Similar demonstrations were held at NBC and Warner Bros., where many protesters wore red writers guild shirts and held signs that said, “Writers Guild of America On Strike!” and “Write a Wrong.”

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The economic impact on Burbank and the surrounding area is already apparent, said Jack Keyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

“The loss for motion picture and television production is about $80 million a day,” he said.

“There will be a ripple impact in terms of consumer retail and industry in areas of high concentration, like Burbank and Glendale. We’ve already heard some reports on restaurant sales softening.”

Writers took to the streets at 9 a.m. Monday after the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers failed to reach a last-minute deal Sunday regarding the major roadblocks that have left the two sides miles apart, writers guild member Jeffrey Berman said.

At issue is the amount writers receive from DVD sales and the pay structure from new media outlets, such as shows on the Internet and on cellphones.

Writers are seeking an increase from 4 cents to 8 cents paid to them for each DVD sold, but they tabled the issue Sunday in an attempt to find common ground, Berman said.

“We took it off the table and they refused to negotiate,” he said. “We keep looking at the middle of the road and we can’t find it. They won’t budge.”

Producers say the increase is unreasonable.

“It makes absolutely no sense to increase the burden of this additional compensation,” Nick Counter, president of the producers alliance, said in a statement. “Their DVD proposal would more than double the cost to producers.”

Outside the NBC studios on Olive Avenue and Bob Hope Drive, Anna Sander took to the picket lines even though her television movie was in the works before the work stoppage.

“There was not a moment’s hesitation,” she said.

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