With a waive, Spirit Awards go forward

WGA: No pickets through Jan. 7


UPDATED 6:24 p.m. PT Dec. 20, 2007

Thanks to a waiver from the WGA, Film Independent's Spirit Awards show will go on as planned. The indie-oriented ceremony is set to be broadcast live by the Independent Film Channel on Feb. 23.

Film Independent acknowledged the waiver Thursday as part of an announcement that Rainn Wilson, who plays salesman Dwight Schrute on "The Office," will host this year's show and contribute as a writer on the program. Wilson, making his first appearance at the awards, is a WGA member.

The waiver raises the possibility that the informal Spirit ceremony, which takes place in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, could upstage the 80th annual Academy Awards, scheduled for the following day at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland, if the strike is not resolved by late February.

The WGA has signaled that it does not plan to grant a similar waiver to allow the Oscar show to use WGA writers, which means that some stars would be free to attend the Spirit Awards, then bypass the Oscars.

"The Spirit Awards and Film Independent have a long-standing, positive relationship with the Writers Guild," Film Independent exec director Dawn Hudson said. "We've worked over many, many years to have parity for writers as they're represented on our show."

Confirming the waiver, the WGA said, "Film Independent came to us before the strike, and the WGAW Board decided to grant an interim agreement allowing for writing services for the Spirit Awards. The best way to get the awards season back on track is for the AMPTP to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair deal with the Writers Guild to get this town back to work."

In addition to being broadcast live and unedited on IFC, the often bawdy Spirit event will be rebroadcast the same day in an edited version on AMC. If the strike is still on, the broadcasts would provide a platform for WGA supporters to state their case.

The move could also be read as an attempt to put further pressure on the studios and a network like ABC, which have a much larger investment in the success of the Oscar broadcast.

Separately Thursday, officials confirmed that the WGA has dispensed with most studio pickets until Jan. 7.

WGA East members plan to leaflet various Manhattan sites over the next couple weeks, WGAE spokeswoman Sherry Goldman said.

"On Saturday, we'll be leafleting outside Virgin Megastore and Apple Store," Goldman said.

Prospective buyers of DVDs and iPods will be informed about the guild's fight for greater new-media compensation, she said.

"Our strike captains are meeting this week to decide what type of actions ... we'll have for the week of Jan. 1," the WGAE spokeswoman added. "But no determination has been made."

It's likely the strike captain will set additional leafleting events for next week, though some picketing is possible, she said.

WGAW spokesman Gregg Mitchell said some selected activities might be staged through the holiday period, but he declined to elaborate.

On Tuesday, the WGA West and WGA East staged rallies at sites in Los Angeles and New York. The WGAW staged a protest at the headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers in suburban Encino, while the WGAE massed in Foley Square in downtown Manhattan.

The last day for WGAW's picketing of studio sites throughout Los Angeles was Monday.