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Strike ripples persist.


As the biz marked the somber one-year anniversary of the end of the Writers Guild of America strike on Feb. 12, industryites were more inclined to look forward than back on that painful period.

The ramifications of the 100-day walkout are still very visible throughout the creative community--nowhere more so than in the slimmer paychecks that writers and other above-the-line talent are now collecting.

The jolt of the strike, coupled with the nation's broader economic devastation, has dramatically shrunk the pay scale for writers, actors and directors in a matter of months.

Actors who once commanded $125,000 for a drama pilot in recent years are now lucky to pull in $80,000-$90,000. Feature writers who might've drawn $600,000-$700,000 for a studio-commissioned script may now see half of that.

Some of this salary slashing is opportunistic on the part of the handful of congloms that rule the business. CEOs have long lamented the big hike in above-the-line costs that began in the 1980s and accelerated in the go-go '90s.

But some of it is also likely motivated by an abundance of caution that more labor strife could be on the horizon. Certainly, the SAG saga of the past year has confirmed that anything's possible, at least where actors unions are concerned.

The WGA, on the other hand, defied all the dire predictions and hung together with admirable solidarity among its members, from the mega-millionaire screenwriters and showrunners to the entry-level story editors.

The experience of waging a 100-day war on the streets of L.A. and Gotham has invigorated the younger generation of WGA members, many of whom barely paid any attention to the guild (beyond its role as the distributor of residual checks) before the strike rallied writers 'round a common cause and the leadership of WGA West prexy Patric Verrone.

This new breed of guild activist was evident in the WGAW board elections last fall, when virtually all of the open seats went to members who were very involved in the strike, as strike captains or as stalwarts of picket duty.

WGAW leaders have already initiated arbitration claims against the majors for what they claim is a failure to live up to some of the new-media compensation terms of the hard-fought contract.

In this nerve-racking environment, anticipation is already growing at the prospect of fireworks igniting anew when the WGA and studios meet again at the contract table.

The three-year contract that settled the strike runs through May 1, 2011, which means the rematch is not far off. Maybe that's why there wasn't much celebrating on Feb. 12.

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Title Annotation:Writers Guild of America strike
Author:Littleton, Cynthia
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 16, 2009
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