Strike battle's bubbling over

Soap stars back WGA as studios cite postprod'n toll

In Monday's episode of As the Strike Turns, soap opera stars joined WGA members on the picket lines.

Meanwhile, the producers' main trade group railed against the economic impact of the writers strike action, which entered its seventh week.

"The below-the-line workers whose families depend entirely on our industry have already lost more than $200 million in the Los Angeles area alone, and the health-care benefits for many of these families are now in real jeopardy because of the WGA strike," the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers said on its Web site.

"The working writers themselves have now lost more than $115 million, and these writers are no closer today to getting their fair share of new-media revenues than they were when the strike began," the AMPTP said. "The economic impact to our regional economy is also growing. By January, the economic losses to the region will exceed $200 million a month, with as many as a third of the entertainment industry's 250,000 jobs jeopardized."

Separately, the Hollywood Post Alliance — a trade association of post house and equipment vendors — released a statement imploring the studios and the WGA to "resume talks and diligently negotiate until a settlement is reached."

The HPA noted that post houses and their employees often are hired on a project-by-project basis, so when production ceases, so does post revenue and salaries.

"With a prolonged work stoppage and the associated economic hardship on this project-based work force, the Hollywood entertainment industry stands to lose thousands of talented postproduction workers as they seek alternative sources of income by changing careers or move to other locales where they can apply their craft," the HPA said.

Elsewhere on the strike front, SAG president Alan Rosenberg issued a statement distributed to WGA members and posted to the WGA's Web site underscoring his guild's commitment to the striking writers' cause by declaring, "Your fight is our fight."

SAG members have regularly joined the WGA's picket lines in New York and Los Angeles.

"As most television shows and motion pictures have shut down, actors are not working," Rosenberg said in a message e-mailed to WGA members and posted on the WGA West's Web site. "But we know that this fight is for the rights of all creative artists, and our collective future is at stake.

"We share your sound and reasonable goals for fair compensation for new-media formats, and we believe you are doing the right thing by taking a stand," he said. "As 2007 comes to an end, please be assured (that) SAG will stand with you for as long as it takes."

The soap stars taking part in picketing Monday are members of AFTRA, which has stressed its support for the WGA but also has endorsed early contract talks by the DGA. The DGA intends to begin meeting with the AMPTP in early January if the WGA hasn't resumed its talks with the studio group by then.

In a possible prelude to launching its talks, the DGA on Monday issued a brief statement jointly with the WGA, saying the guilds would "meet shortly to discuss new media, including what the DGA has developed from its research and studies." New-media compensation has been at the heart of the WGA's fractious negotiations with the AMPTP, but the DGA and WGA reps declined to elaborate on the intent of their meeting.

SAG officials have declined comment on the prospect of DGA negotiations, which has been applauded by officials of AFTRA and IATSE (HR 12/17). SAG and the DGA have film and TV pacts with AMPTP that run through June 30, but the directors have been much more inclined to launch early contract talks.

WGA East spokeswoman Sherry Goldman said the support of the soap actors helped lift the spirits of some very cold picketers in New York.

"It seems the temperatures keep getting colder but the number of striking writers coming out to the picket lines keep getting larger and larger," Goldman said. "The writers formed an inner and outer circle of picketers in front of Time Warner Center today, and stars from all four New York-based daytime dramas — 'All My Children,' 'As the World Turns,' 'Guiding Light' and 'One Life to Live' — braved the cold and wind to join the picket and show their support."

WGAE president Michael Winship and AFTRA president Roberta Reardon addressed the Manhattan crowd, which included fans of those sudsers.

In Los Angeles, stars from "The Bold and the Beautiful," "The Young & the Restless," "General Hospital," "Days of Our Lives" and "Passions" joined picketers at CBS on Fairfax. The WGA West also continued to mount picket lines at other studio and network sites throughout the city.

In its statement Monday, the AMPTP chided WGA leadership for bragging about its own star power.

"In the face of these crippling losses and the real hardships that average working families are now facing during the holidays, we wonder whether the people in charge at the WGA now regret openly bragging in the media that 'we are winning this strike' or appearing before the cameras like 'a rock star,' to use the description offered by the WGA's chief negotiator David Young," the studio group said.

Carolyn Giardina in New York contributed to this report.