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There was little visible disruption of TV production on Day 1 of the writers strike, though the absence of writers surely was felt on the sets of the scripted shows. Film production proceeded without interruption.
The few shows impacted Monday included NBC’s “The Office,” the syndicated “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and CBS’ “Cane.”
Meanwhile, writers are beginning to feel the financial impact from the walkout.
Most studios Monday sent out suspension letters to scribes with overall deals. Some writers were seen packing up their stuff.
In another strike-related development, ABC has pushed the premiere date of its midseason drama “Cashmere Mafia.”
The show, originally scheduled to debut at 10 p.m. Nov. 27, following the one-hour finale of “Dancing With the Stars,” will now be launched after Jan. 1. Sources said that with the uncertainty surrounding the strike, the network opted to hold onto the show until next year and give it a proper launch then.
“Dancing” will be extended to two hours on Nov. 27. Beginning Dec. 4, ABC will air specials Tuesdays at 9 p.m. where “Cashmere” was scheduled to air.
Several “Office” cast members, led by star Steve Carell, didn’t show up for work Monday on the hit NBC comedy.
Reps for Carell, who also has a background as a writer, declined comment on whether Carell’s action was in support of the strike. It wasn’t clear Monday night if Carell would report to work today.
Co-star Rainn Wilson called in sick, while B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling, who also are writers on the show, were on strike, as was “Office” showrunner Greg Daniels, who was spotted on the picket lines.
Without Carell and Wilson, only two scenes of “Office” were shot Monday, sources said.
Ellen DeGeneres also did not show up Monday to shoot her daytime talker.
“Ellen did not go to work today in support of her writers,” publicist Kelly Bush said.
New episodes of “Ellen” that had been filmed last week were set to air Monday and today. However, Bush added that it was unclear Monday what would happen with the show later in the week.
“Cane” had to readjust its filming schedule Monday when a group of about 20 writers from the picket line in front of the CBS lot in Studio City disrupted a location shoot for the show at the nearby Java Cafe by chanting, screaming and using a bullhorn.
“Cane” was supposed to film a scene at the cafe before returning to the lot for additional shooting. When the picketers descended on the cafe, the crew packed up and moved to the lot, where they continued working. It is not clear when the cafe scene will be reshot.
Meanwhile, the writers who interfered with the shoot cheered and rejoined picketers around the corner at the studio.
As expected, all late-night shows and most multi-camera sitcoms went dark Monday (HR 11/5)
Showrunners by and large didn’t show up for work Monday. A lot has been made of what multihyphenates can do during the strike, but showrunners predominantly honored the picket lines Monday, including “Shark’s” Ian Biederman and “Family Guy’s” David Goodman. There were isolated reports of one or two showrunners actually making it to work Monday, and there have been reports of some performing their duties from home.
On the film side, execs in recent weeks have worked overtime both to secure scripts because of the threat of a writers strike and also to move projects into production so that they will be completed should either the directors or actors go on strike in the summer. A survey of the major studios did not turn up any current film productions that were affected by the strike’s first day — even though writers will no longer be available to assist in any hastily needed rewrites either during shooting or editing. For example, DreamWorks’ thriller “Eagle Eye,” directed by D.J. Caruso, was scheduled to begin filming today, and the studio will begin filming another project, “Hotel for Dogs,” next week.
Instead, the onset of the strike forced many in the film trenches to shift gears.
One studio exec said he was catching up on his workload by reading scripts that already had been submitted, reading writing samples and also watching directors’ reels.
One lit agent, admitting that “there’s not a lot we can do — you can’t even set up general meetings,” said he was concentrating instead on getting assignments for his directing clients.
“The list of things I do hasn’t necessarily changed. It’s how I allocate my time that has,” one manager said. “I’m still busy, just not as overloaded.”
Both the agent and manager agreed, however, that in the event of a long strike, agents — with more time on their hands — will end up trying to find new clients to sign and then could turn to that perennial agency sport: poaching one another’s clients.
The impact of the strike, depending on its length, will take some time before it trickles down to the visual effects and postproduction community.
Still, “everyone’s concerned,” said Stephen Buchsbaum, CEO of Hollywood-based post house the Post Group. “At this point, there is enough product to keep us busy until the end of the year. Not all of our business is in episodic television and feature films. We are still very busy with indie projects and also studio mastering, commercials, reality shows and game shows. We are hoping the strike will be settled quickly.”
Since production already is well under way on the studios’ effects-heavy summer tentpoles, the impact on the effects industry could take even longer to hit home.
“For visual effects, we would really be feeling the pain toward the end of ’08 going into ’09,” said Jules Roman, president of VFX company Tippett Studio. “Right now, things are still going into production, so for the rest of ’08 everything’s OK.”
Kimberly Nordyke, Carolyn Giardina and Carly Mayberry and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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