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September 2007
Director/ Screenwriter Terry George
talks about impending strike

Director/ Screenwriter Terry George talks about impending strike
By Wilson Morales

October 7, 2007

If you haven't followed what's been happening in Hollywood as of late, studios are scrambling to get a lot of films done before the WGA (Writers Guild of America) strike goes into effect. While interviewing Director/ Screenwriter Terry George on his latest directing film, "Reservation Road", he happened to mention that he's on the negotiating team for the WGA and gave his take on the situation.

What's your opinion on the strike that may happen months from now?

Terry George: I'm at the heart of it. I'm on the negotiating committee for the WGA. I don't know. If you look at the circumstances, here's basically what the studios are saying at the moment. This is an antiquated system here and we want to revisit the residual situation. The residual is what most actors and writers live off. It's that little bit of money you get back when a film shows. They say they want to go back to a profit base distribution thing. I still get statements on "Hotel Rwanda" which basically says we are $20 million dollars in the red and with "In The Name of the Father", we are $16 million dollars in the red. Hollywood bookkeeping is beyond mafia bookkeeping. So the notion that writers and actors work until they declare a profit is ridiculous. It’s a smoke screen to get away from what this all about, which is that the whole industry is moving over to the internet and the new media. All we are saying is to give us a little piece of that and we would be very happy with it. I don’t know if they think they can bust the WGA or the whole industry or make a change here, but we’re not going for it. We’re not asking for a lot. We’re asking for a portion of this; and they have been trying over the last few years with reality TV shows and non-union writers just to chip away at that. My mood and the mood of some of the Guild is ‘Let’s not wait til June 30th’. They all think we are going to wait til June 30th and wait for the actors to come out and by that time they would have stock piled 200 films and it will be a defacto strike anyway. I’m all for going as soon as we can. Let’s get it out there and see. Given the level of profit that’s been made now and the “Frank Purdue-ization” of the whole product, to turn around and say the writers and eventually the actors shouldn’t have a piece of that is ludicrous.

What is the likelihood of an early strike?

TG: It depends. There’s been nothing offered. There’s been no ability to talk at the minute. They haven’t come up with anything on a discussion where you can sit down and actually have a conversation about. We are going to vote on an authorization to strike, the Guild; the whole membership will give the committee the authorization to call a strike. I think it will be almost unanimous.

Are we looking at the end of October?

TG: That’s when the contract ends. The media at the minute talks about dates like it will be November 1st or October 30th. We’re not stupid enough to call a date that everyone else decides for us. We are going to look at the most strategic time if they are not willing to negotiate and then make that move then or go the membership and say, “Look, this is basically an attempt to destroy this union which I think it is or to weaken everyone to the point of where, the future of the whole industry, being a virgin again or something.

What would be the reason you wouldn’t go on strike now?

TG: Well, you have to see where they are going. The sense I get from the membership is total solidarity and from the actors as well. I’m not sure about the directors. There’s definitely a solidarity about this. But the other side isn’t stupid either. They obviously have tactics that they are lining up to deal with us. They’ve already bagged a lot of stuff. But it seems enormous greedy of them of what they are doing at the minute. We had this situation when the DVDs first came in, when they went to the union and said, “In the wake of a strike before that was very acrimonious, here’s the DVDs and it cost $80 and it’s new technology and so it evolves into something else and we’re going to do this, let me deal with it until we investigate, which is like .500 percent. “Hotel Rwanda” made some $23 million at the box office and $48 million on DVD, and writers and actors were excluded from that profit. So I supposed it’s easy for me because I made some money from it but there are a lot of writers who on smaller budgets and if we go out early, then we may have to wait the six months til the actors come along. Who knows? It just depends.


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