Writers Guild Sets Nov. 5 as Strike Deadline

No Talks Scheduled Between Scribes and Producers

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Welcome to "The Lost Weekend" -- the sequel.

The Writers Guild of America announced at 1:35 p.m. today it had unanimously moved to call a strike effective 12:01 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Nov. 5, setting the stage for what could be a frenetic and tense weekend of bargaining.

But while the fuse has been lit, it's still an open question as to whether anyone is willing to blow it out.

'We're sorry'
"We're sorry," said an unapologetic WGA West President Patric Verrone, "that the studios have put us where we are. We are committed to seeing this through, and are willing to engage in any further discussions if the studios so desire. We really want to negotiate."

That said, no new talks are scheduled with producers. As Neal Sacharow, director of communications for the WGA put it, "They have to get back to us."

On Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa offered to make a last-ditch effort to bring the two parties together, but so far, without success.

Speaking at the WGA's headquarters in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, Mr. Verrone noted that "although the industry's pie is continually growing, our share continues to shrink" and that "the middle class [of writers] would be fairly decimated" if the studio's got their wish: to apply a decades-old home video formula -- one that's lop-sided in favor of the studios -- to internet downloads.

4-cent increase
Writers currently make about 4 cents per DVD sold, based on a formula fashioned in the 1980s; they are seeking an increase to 8 cents.

The studios want to hold the line on payments to writers, and their intractability on this point cannot be overstated: On Oct. 25, Carol Lombardini, senior VP-legal and business affairs for the AMPTP, told the WGA that in exchange for not calling for an end to all residuals, "we will not accept increases in the DVD residual formula." The producers have not changed their tune since then.

Nick Counter, the AMPTP's president, in a statement said he was "very disappointed with their press conference" calling it "full of falsehoods, misstatements and inaccuracies" and promising to respond "at an appropriate time."
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