The studios walked on negotiations after issuing an ultimatum to the WGA.   (Thanks, Nikki Finke for the amazing strike coverage.)  In my opinion, they have virtually guaranteed a very long and painful strike.  One of the heads of IATSE, who’s employees are likely to suffer the most, came out bitterly against the writers, saying:

“[T]hey are destroying a lot of lives…. [T]he number of IA members who have lost work is fast approaching 40,000 people representing members all over the US and Canada. Unless and until the WGA leadership starts behaving responsibly, which is unlikely, not only wages, health insurance coverage and pension benefits will be lost. Homes and businesses will be lost, too.”

(As reported in the pro-AMPTP Variety.)  IATSE has a history of siding with the studios over the writers.
My analysis:  The writers have no choice but to hang tough.  The studios understand the damage a long strike will cause everyone, but prefer to let the pressure on the writers build.  The studios are orchestrating this strike, deciding how long it will last, and they are prolonging it in the hopes of breaking the WGA completely.  The damage and bitterness this strike will leave behind (on all sides) will last for many, many years, perhaps reshaping the industry.  If the writers thought this would be anything less than a dogfight, they were mistaken.  Nevertheless, go writers.  It is going to be very, very tough, but you really have no choice.


The Thinking Writer received these two questions…

Simon from Chicago asks:

can wga writers write for independent features while the strike is on (as long as indie co is not signatory)?

David from Carlsbad asks:

I recently attended the Screenwriting Expo in L.A. and pitched several of my scripts successfully with positive feedback and requests to have my contact information – WGA Strike – Silence!

I, of course, support the strike and the WGA and would like to think that my barren e-mail is due to the freeze. How useless was pitching right before the strike and can I now assume that my face and loglines will be forever forgotten?

To answer your questions, I have consulted with a senior agent at a major agency (who prefers to remain anonymous) and the WGA Strike Rules. Before I answer, the usual disclaimer.

Nothing contained on this blog should be considered legal advice. These are just thoughts on a blog.

As for Simon’s question, whether a WGA member can write on a non-WGA production during the strike, the WGA Strike Rules preamble states:

The basic principle behind these Rules is very simple: you (and your agent or other representative on your behalf) may not pitch to or negotiate with a struck company, and you may not provide writing services, sell or option literary material to a struck company.

The important phrase is “struck company.” Presumably, small independent companies that are not WGA signatories are not “struck companies” and, therefore, the WGA Strike Rules do not prohibit you from providing services to these companies. Two caveats: (i) make sure the company is not a “struck company”, and (ii) the WGA may have other rules that limit what services a member can provide to non-signatories regardless of any strike. You do not want to violate those rules. You should check with the guild to find out. For WGA West, you can contact:

Erika Zucker
Writers Guild of America, West, Inc.
7000 West Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Telephone: (323) 782-4521

UPDATE: The WGAw has a list of “struck companies” here.
As for the second question, whether a non-WGA writer can pitch material to a WGA signatory during the strike and whether the company will follow up on previous pitches, WGA Strike Rule 13 provides as follows:
Rules Pertaining To Non Members

The Guild does not have the authority to discipline non members for strike breaking and/or scab writing. However, the Guild can and will bar that writer from future Guild membership.

This policy has been strictly enforced in the past and has resulted in convincing many would be strike breakers to refrain from seriously harming the Guild and its members during a strike. Therefore, it is important for you to report to the Guild the name of any non member whom you believe has performed any writing services for a struck company and as much information as possible about the non member’s services.
According to the agent I consulted, struck companies are not likely to follow up on pitches during the strike.  More importantly, you do not want to jeopardize your own future by pursuing writing assignments during the strike.  The best you can do is to drop your company contact a note indicating that you hope to follow up on your pitch when the strike is over.
I hope these answers are helpful.