Globes in waiver high-wire act

WGA cool to HFPA overtures to reach agreement


UPDATED 7:43 p.m. PT Jan. 2, 2007

NEW YORK -- With the Golden Globes just 10 days away, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. said Wednesday it had entered into talks with the WGA for an interim strike-waiver agreement.

But the guilds sounded a pessimistic, even surprised, note about the possibility, and late Wednesday the chances for an 11th-hour reprieve seemed like a serious long shot.

HFPA president Jorge Camara issued a letter stating that reps for the group "began discussions" last Saturday for an interim agreement that would allow the Globes, which are produced by Dick Clark Prods., to go forward with writers and without a picket line.

The writers guilds, though, seemed taken aback by the announcement. Asked on the picket line outside "The Late Show with Conan O'Brien" about the HFPA missive, WGA East president Michael Winship seemed almost surprised about the contents of the letter. "There have been some informal conversations but really nothing more than that," he told The Hollywood Reporter.

The WGA West followed soon after with a statement that also sought to put distance between itself and the HFPA letter. "Dick Clark Productions is a struck company. As previously announced, the Writers Guild will be picketing the Golden Globe Awards," it said.

SAG followed with a similar statement, with president Alan Rosenberg saying that it had scheduled a meeting with members who are Globe nominees.

Sources said that after overtures from Dick Clark Prods. didn't gain traction -- resulting in the WGA saying it would not grant a waiver (HR 12/18) -- HFPA attorney George Braunstein stepped in to kickstart the talks. As of Wednesday evening, the HFPA and Dick Clark Prods. were said to be waiting for an official answer, though there were few encouraging signs from the guilds.

It's in the interest of the HFPA -- and NBC, which broadcasts the Globes -- to emphasize any negotiating progress, no matter how small, in the hope of inducing stars to make plans to attend the show.

Sources said Dick Clark Prods. had offered a deal that would have given the writers on all of its shows -- including the American Music Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards and, several days late or one year early, "Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve" -- what they had been asking for before talks at the bargaining table broke down two months ago.

In that respect the deal would be similar to the pact the WGA struck last week with David Letterman production banner Worldwide Pants, which allowed writers on "The Late Show with David Letterman" and "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" to return to the air Wednesday evening.

"We feel that the 'Late Show With David Letterman' agreement is very reasonable and hope and expect the WGA will agree to the same terms and ultimately permit the Golden Globe Awards to be broadcast as scheduled, without picket lines, on Sunday, Jan. 13," Camara said.

Like CBS' late-night shows, owned by Worldwide Pants, the Golden Globes are produced by an independent company, which could make an interim agreement easier to negotiate.

But observers said a deal would be a difficult one to pull off because Dick Clark Prods. didn't fit into the WGA's divide-and-conquer strategy. While the guild in part allowed the return of the Worldwide Pants shows to the airwaves to put pressure on rival nets, the Globes is a one-time event whose telecast would likely not have the same effect.

On Wednesday, Winship said the planned picketing of the Globes would proceed and that he believed many nominees would choose to honor the picket line and stay home.

Reps for Dick Clark and Braunstein declined comment.

While the Globes rely little on writers, a waiver would allow talent to attend without crossing picket lines. As of now, few stars have committed to attending the Globes, and it's believed a deal would need to happen by this weekend.

Said one Hollywood insider: "We're beyond the point of booking tables; we've moved on to the question of what gowns people would wear." PR officials coordinating talent publicity for the Globes have said the red carpet will continue even if the show is picketed.

Meanwhile, on the broader negotiating front, there appears little prospect that the WGA will reengage with studio reps at the bargaining table anytime soon. That's largely because the DGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television producers have begun informal discussions of their own.

Though there is no guarantee the directors will follow up those preliminary contacts with actual negotiations -- their current contract runs through June 30 -- the DGA has indicated it hopes to do so.

"At this time, we do not know whether the AMPTP will be receptive to the conditions necessary for an early negotiation," DGA president Michael Apted cautioned in a recent message to membership. Roughly translated, that means the DGA will be looking for a specific reward for engaging early contract talks with the AMPTP.

Carl DiOrio in Los Angeles contributed to this report.