Writers voice optimism at West Coast guild meeting


UPDATED 9:40 p.m. PT Saturday, Feb. 9, 2008

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Members of the WGA West attending an informational meeting on terms of the tentative contract Saturday night showed the same sense of prevailing optimism apparent at a similar meeting in New York earlier in the day, with all those surveyed expressing hope for an imminent end to the writers strike.

There appeared to be near-unanimous sentiment from those arriving for the meeting at the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles that the tentative agreement should be accepted. Reports dribbling out after members began exiting the meeting seemed to point toward a possible return to work by the writers by at least midweek.

But notably, many of those arriving at the Shrine expressed their interest in hearing details of the deal terms at the meeting.

"I'm definitely ready to take it," said Jossann McGibbon, a showrunner on the USA Network miniseries "Starter Wife."

"I have a feeling (the strike) is going to get settled this week," said Ian Gurvitz, a writer on "Becker" and other sitcoms.

"Everybody I talked to today is very optimistic," said television writer Bobby Gaylord, who also worked on "Becker" and "Roseanne."

Screenwriter Dwayne Johnson Cochran, said he believes terms of the proposed deal -- which grants first-time jurisdiction over Internet content and slightly better compensation than a recent DGA deal for some streamed content -- demonstrates solid achievement by WGA negotiators.

Daytime writer Bruce Neckels said he had "all the faith in the world" in WGA president Patric Verrone and the WGA negotiating team. "I'm in a mood of cautious optimism," Neckels said. "There are always sticking points. But are they worth continuing to strike? That's the question."

Verrone, who arrived at the Shrine accompanied by his young son Patric Jr., declined comment for a phalanx of journalists lining the sidewalk outside the auditorium. The guild had beefy security guards escort back to the sidewalk any media representative who tread toward the Shrine or even an adjacent parking lot.

The camera crews that also lined the sidewalk were on hand primarily to record color shots of the assembling writers. Nothing will actually be decided at the Shrine, where members simply are being briefed on details of the proposed three-year agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

On Sunday, several important pieces of activity are expected.

Once the AMPTP itself signs off on the recently-drafted agreement -- something that hadn't yet happened by 7 p.m. Saturday -- the WGA negotiating committee is expected to vote on recommending the contract to the WGA West board and WGA East council, which then both will meet Sunday afternoon or evening.

Once the matter is bounced into their court, the board and council have three options:

-- Recommend the contract to the membership and end the strike.

-- Recommend the pact but let members vote on whether to end the strike.

-- Reject the tentative agreement.

There was a spreading sense Saturday that the board and council might choose the second option. If so, the process for members voting on whether to lift the strike could take from two to 10 days.

Members leaving the membership meeting after Verrone's opening presentation noted he made mention of a 48-hour process for getting writers back to work once the board and council votes occur.

Member ratification of the contract itself could take up to a month.