Verrone wins second term as WGA West president

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TV animation writer Patric Verrone has faced off a challenge from a radio newswriter to secure his reelection to a second two-year term as WGA West president.

Verrone drew 1,081 votes – or 90% of the 1,199 cast in the race – to challenger Kathy Kiernan's 118 votes. The balloting was announced Tuesday, one day prior to the scheduled resumption of all-important talks on a new contract for guild movie writers and primetime scribes.

Reps from the WGAW and WGA East will meet Wednesday for only the third bargaining session with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers since the film and TV negotiations began July 16. Scheduling conflicts and the onset of WGA campaigning brought a halt to the fledgling talks on July 18.

With the current film and TV pact set to expire Oct. 31, some at the guild have suggested negotiating brinkmanship gives the guild greater clout at the bargaining table. On Tuesday, Verrone expressed gratitude for membership support and a determination to deliver them a lucrative new contract.

"The campaign was marked by an extraordinary level of civility and decorum," Verrone said. "There was near total agreement among all candidates about the issues that writers currently face."

The newly reelected president said he remains optimistic on a successful conclusion to the talks with the AMPTP.

"I remain optimistic, and why shouldn't I, based on what seems to be the overwhelming vote of confidence from the members in the direction we are taking?" Verrone said. "The proposals from the other side are untenable (but) our continued alliance with the other unions makes us believe that cooler heads in management should prevail, and we will be able to make a reasonable deal."

Elsewhere around town, there's concern over what appear to be dim prospects for hammering out a new pact prior to the expiration of the current three-year contract. But few believe the guild will walk on Nov. 1, nor that studios will institute an immediate lockout.

Still, there is widespread concern over the seeming inability of the parties to engage in productive talks.

DreamWorks Animation chief exec Jeffrey Katzenberg, speaking at a Merrill Lynch-sponsored media conference in Los Angeles, said Tuesday he's never seen Hollywood writers and management further apart on contract issues than in the current talks.

"I'm fearful that the gap is too great," Katzenberg said. "Everybody would be impacted by a strike, us included."

The biggest demand for the WGA involves a push for expanded Internet residuals, while the AMPTP has underscored its call for a revision of current compensation formulas to allow studios to recoup costs on projects before having to pay any residuals.

With the parties in such separate corners on those issues, even the most pedestrian details of basic pay and benefit provisions could produce bloody sparring, some believe. Others say much of the positions articulated to date involve mere preliminary posturing and may be followed by more productive dialog.

Meanwhile, for all the drama surrounding the negotiations with the AMPTP, Verrone will have no shortage of other matters to address in his second term. High among of those other issues is a WGAW push to organize reality programming and game shows.

Earlier Tuesday, Verrone took part in an informational picket line the WGAW staged outside Tribune production facilities in Hollywood, where Fremantle Media's "Temptation" game show is shot.

Writers Aaron Solomon and Rosemarie DiSalvo, who also picketed, walked off the production "after being refused WGA recognition," officials said.

"Temptation" airs on Fox's "MyNetwork" stations.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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