Hollywood Battens Hatches

28th June 2007 by Maura McHugh

The New York Times has an interesting article on the knock-on effects of the upcoming industry contract negotiations in Hollywood.

Not only are the writers’ contracts up for renewal in October, but the actors’ and directors’ contracts are up for negotiation the following June. Considering the long lead-in prep time needed to make a film, most studios are currently scrambling to lock their actors and directors into filming schedules that will complete by the beginning of next summer.

Since studios are banking scripts (especially on TV shows) in advance of October, this means that the push for work will expire at the end of the year and herald lean times. It will be followed by a quiet summer in Hollywood.

“What we’re seeing is a stockpiling” of dramatic episodes and an increase in strike-resistant reality programming, said Steven Katleman, a lawyer with the Greenberg Traurig firm, which represents a number of television actors, writers and producers. Mr. Katleman pointed, for instance, to a recent outsize order for 30 episodes of the NBC series “Heroes.”

The studios’ eagerness to book films that will be seen in late 2008 or the summer of 2009 has been particularly intense, given the unusual alignment of contract expirations and a broad expectation that writers and actors are bent on playing hardball on issues related to compensation for new forms of digital distribution.

“It’s a pretty lethal combination,” said Jack Kyser, senior vice president and chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. Whether or not a real walkout occurs, Mr. Kyser said, the insistence that no film or television show be scheduled to shoot after next June will almost certainly cause a “de facto” strike.

Another side-effect of this situation is the prediction by a Hollywood pundit that next year there will be little action from Hollywood financiers at Cannes.

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