Writers Guild and Studios Set Talks on New Basic Deal

Writers Guild of America Building - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of WGA West

Bargaining is expected to be difficult, and the coronavirus adds to the uncertainty.

The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will begin talks March 23 on a new three-year theatrical and television agreement ahead of a May 1 contract expiration, the WGA disclosed Friday.

Negotiators are expected to grapple with issues that include basic wage increases, residuals, and compensation, holds and exclusivity related to short seasons such as are common on streaming platforms. The WGA disclosure comes a day after the Directors Guild of America announced it had reached a deal with the AMPTP on its own three-year renewal in advance of a June 30 expiration.

If history is a guide, the residuals terms of the DGA deal will ultimately serve as a template for the WGA pact as well as SAG-AFTRA’s. The performers contract expires June 30, and no date has yet been set for talks. But whether the WGA is satisfied with the DGA residuals deal is unknown. Details of the directors deal are to be disclosed Saturday, upon submission to the DGA board of directors.

The issue of short seasons promises to be knotty for both the writers and actors, and has led to concern about a possible strike. Adding to the uncertainty is the coronavirus-fueled COVID-19 epidemic, which could deter mass gatherings such as protests and picket lines, and might shut down work or even preclude bargaining sessions, which usually involve meetings of 50 to 100 people.