Sides bicker over profit claims

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Representatives of the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers held a brief negotiating session Wednesday that was marked by seemingly by-the-numbers exchanges, literally and figuratively.

The session at AMPTP headquarters in Encino — the eighth in a series of oft-fractious sessions the parties have held since July 16 — began at 1:30 p.m. and wrapped by 4. A short break mid-proceedings limited actual negotiating to about two hours.

Most of that time was taken up by the WGA team detailing its claim that studio parents are raking in profits sufficient to meet the writers' compensation demands. The AMPTP had asked the guild negotiators to elaborate on that point when it was first raised in a previous session and questioned the accuracy of some of the guild information.

Management claims that their entertainment businesses are undergoing dramatic shifts in economic models, calling into question even existing compensation structures, let alone any notion that pay can be greatly broadened. The WGA is especially keen on securing expanded compensation for work distributed over the Internet and other new-media platforms.

Separately, WGA West president Patric Verrone has been staging something of a road show recently, explaining the guild's contract demands to members and others.

On Tuesday night, he and others met with a group of WGA members in one of several caususes planned in connection with an ongoing strike-authorization vote.

The guild has asked members to give it the power to call a strike at any point it might decide to once the current film and TV pact with the AMPTP expires Oct. 31. There's varying opinions on when, or even if, an actual strike would be called, but the WGA first must ask its members to authorize such a move.

In another recent presentation, Verrone met Wednesday with several literary and talent agents at ICM. It's believed the guild president hopes to meet with agents at several local talent agencies, explaining the WGA's contract posture to agents representing WGA members in their personal contract negotiations with studios.
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