Chris Keyser, co-chair of the WGA negotiating committee, on the breakdown of negotiations with the “split” AMPTP

Outside Fox’s Century City property, WGA Negotiating Committee Co-Chairman Chris Keyser joined the more than 150 members on site this afternoon to address the failure of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion and Television Producers and the expiration of their contract speak. .

WGA Award nominee, known for his work on series such as The community And party of fivelead this year’s negotiations with David Goodman, the former guild president who held the position between 2011 and 2015.

He spoke with Deadline last night and discussed the atmosphere in the room with AMPTP members, the stakes in those negotiations and how the current strike compares to that of 2008, his concerns about the studios’ reluctance to address the issue. for a long time he is the last to see the strike as it affects work on his own series Julia for HBO Max and more.

Reporter: What caused negotiations to break down around 8pm PT last night? What were the biggest bottlenecks of the AMPTP?

CHRIS KEYSER: The companies continued to refuse to move forward or even discuss a long list of our core proposals. They finally said, “Listen, we’ll give you a little more on some things if you’re okay with giving up everything else.” And we told them: No, we can’t. And they said, “Well, then we’re out of trains.” And so it ended a few hours early.

Reporter: Were there areas where you were willing to make reasonable concessions?

EMPEROR: We’ve made some progress with some minimum specs and a bit of an overabundance for greenlight rooms and some comedy variation, but with enough conditions it’s been much less useful. By the way, they had solutions for a lot of what they offered. But they didn’t want to discuss all the structural stuff, which really gets to the heart of our problem — that in a world where writers write minimally, even showrunners write minimally, we need a guaranteed score. weeks of work, and that writers are hired at all, and that the writing goes on during production, and that at least the post is paid, and that screenwriters actually have some relief from the endless abuse of free work, and that they ‘ a few have protection , if they write the exact same film for streaming as theater and comedy variety writers, the MBA prerequisites apply… Everyone listed in Appendix A has the prerequisites that apply, minus the exceptions that make them wild . No per diems for comedy variety writers, nothing.

And AI by the way. They didn’t want to talk about AI. I think companies get a really good idea of ​​where they see the future based on what they say they won’t talk about. Because the things they say yes to are the things they think they can easily pick up or may not be able to afford in the long run. So we see a real risk of an attack on writers’ weekly pay, fixed-term contracts. It means they’re trying to turn us into a guild of freelancers… and treat the screenwriters terribly.

Reporter: How do you see the situation with this round of negotiations compared to the situation at the time of the last strike in 2008?

EMPEROR: The corporate landscape is clearly a bit different. Each of these is slightly different from the previous one. It’s more complicated, which can affect us in some ways, and maybe we have some advantages in other ways. This space is perhaps, I mean the AMPTP, more divided than ever because their interests are so much more diverse. I’m not sure how much Netflix has in common with Paramount+ or NBCUniversal. Disney is also different and Amazon and Apple, so they have to go through all that and I think it’s going to be interesting.

Reporter: Do you see it as a benefit to the guild that the studios and streamers came to the table from such different places, with different priorities and available resources?

EMPEROR: I think it goes both ways. I think it’s harder to make a deal in the short term if they’re in each other’s way. At some point, the pain can be so different for some than for others that they decide there is no way they can possibly stay together. I don’t want to be among those broadcast networks waiting for Netflix to decide when it will stop profiting.

Reporter: How has the strike affected the series you’re currently a part of? Julia?

EMPEROR: I do not know. We are done with production and post [on Season 2]. I want nothing to do with the promotion. But I have something in development that I’m making a deal with at Peacock. Of course I’m not talking about that.

Reporter: How long do you think this strike will last?

EMPEROR: You never know. But I will say that this morning we have only struck once in 35 years, and we only do so when we see an existential threat to the writing profession, as we did when we considered that streaming would not pay us enough where we had no projections. So I think writers understand that they have to stick together and we will stick together until we solve this problem.

Reporter: Any idea when you can get back to the table with the AMPTP?

EMPEROR: It depends on you.

Reporter: How did you personally experience the problems that led to the strike? How have they affected you or those around you?

EMPEROR: The younger writers who work for me talk about how hard it is to make a living year after year because the work is so short and the pay so low, few and far between. I know myself that I work as a showrunner for a year and a half or two for very small episode fees until my fees are written off. No one needs to cry for me. But there are young showrunners who when they’re told it’s the best thing ever… You get your own show. At least once you reach the top, you can work endless hours on your own without the writers helping you… you know, enjoy. So it’s just very difficult.

One of the reasons we got 9,000 votes in favor of our strike authorization is that it affects everyone in every area of ​​the company. So I was talking about episodic television, but this also applies to feature films and comedy. There is no one who is not affected by it, or no one knows who is close to their heart and who is affected by it. And that is just as important to us.

Reporter: The WGA is often caught in a quandary of figuring out how to negotiate on issues like AI, where our understanding of the business implications is still evolving. How did you design this challenge for yourself? How do you handle it?

EMPEROR: Right now I think we have a pretty simple philosophy, which is that AI can’t be literary material. This should not be a concept we need to rewrite. That doesn’t mean companies won’t use it in some way. It can be research material, but must not be literary material. I will say that no one knows exactly what AI will be, but the fact that companies don’t want to talk about it is the best indicator that we have reason to fear it.

Reporter: What are your thoughts on how the strike could play out at best and worst?

EMPEROR: I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t give you a worst-case scenario, because that worst-case scenario won’t happen in our minds. We can’t resist. Our best case scenario is that we get a decent deal – not everything we asked for, but enough to protect writers and ensure it becomes a viable profession across all aspects of the business.

Reporter: It seems to me that success in these negotiations will mean a major paradigm shift in the industry. How do you see a win changing that?

EMPEROR: That’s the point, the things we ask for are things we had before. It’s just an attempt by writers to have a viable career, a working career, and that’s it. So I don’t think we’ve argued, and I think it’s true, that these costs can be factored into film and film budgets in general. They are small compared to these general budgets. I think we are arguing for keeping a system going that has worked very well for decades. I don’t mean to go back to the old broadcasting model. I mean where we write the things that make them millions and we make our living that allows us to stay in this industry.

Source: Deadline

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