- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2000

LOS ANGELES Hollywood studios have hastened production on movies and TV shows in anticipation of walkouts by actors and screenwriters next year over what many believe will be lengthy contract negotiations.

Contracts with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) are set to expire in May and July in 2001, respectively, and moves by the industry underscore fears about the resolution of long-debated issues.

Key issues include pay for work appearing on cable television and in overseas markets; and how to compensate for work distributed on the Internet.

Writers also are demanding studios abandon the practice of giving directors credit by saying: "a film by," which writers feel diminish their contributions.

In preparation of a potential 2001 walkout, studios are beginning to stockpile material by storing scripts and increasing the number of movies being made.

Networks also have pressured producers to speed up production and are preparing to fill time slots with game shows, sports and reality-based shows.

Entertainment lawyers and agents began advising clients to do as much work as possible in the next months. Unions also told members to increase saving money.

"Now is not the time to be buying the biggest house or the nicest car you can possibly afford," WGA warns in its July newsletter. "If you have a TV staff writing job, begin putting money away now. If you make a feature deal, bank every penny you can."

In past years, such warnings would have been seen as what normally occurs during difficult labor negotiations. But with a current actors strike ongoing against advertisers over residuals paid on commercials, fears are that talks will become lengthy and take a much more adversarial tone than in past years.

"The storm feels like it's moving closer, not away from you," said Nina Jacobson, president of Walt Disney Co.'s movie group.

WGA and SAG went on strike against studios in 1988. The WGA strike lasted 22 weeks and the SAG strike three weeks, costing the industry an estimated $500 million.


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