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The Hollywood workday is poised to change dramatically, should the writers strike carry on — but for now, creative executives insist they’ve got plenty to read.
“Agents are like, ‘Are you going to Cabo?!’ and we’re like, ‘Um, nope,’” relays one executive, who adds: “We no joke got 2,348,283,479 scripts dumped on us [Monday] night.”
A polling of other industry execs yields a series of similar responses, the result of writers feverishly finishing scripts for new and ongoing projects to submit before the strike formally began Monday at midnight. “I have a backlog of scripts that everyone dumped,” echoes another executive, with a third noting, “I just got a million scripts.”
How those scripts are being handled, however, seems to vary from company to company, and in certain cases, executive to executive. Some, for instance, are prepared to send notes back via email, if they haven’t already; others are saving their notes for whenever the strike concludes. What’s universal, thanks to clear strike rules on the subject, is that nobody is doing notes calls with writers the way they had only 36 hours earlier.
The guild rules state in no uncertain terms: “You may not attend pitch meetings or communicate with a company representative to receive notes on literary material even if you intend to wait until the strike ends to make any requested changes.” The writers guild didn’t respond to a request to elaborate on the practice.
At at least one company, executives have been provided a template that has specific language to include should they choose to send notes to writers and reps. “We don’t expect you to respond to these notes during a WGA strike,” it reads, “so we look forward to discussing these with you after the strike concludes and we can move forward with development of the project.” Still, multiple execs at the company acknowledge that they’re likely to get pushback from certain writers, which is among the reasons one exec there questions whether it’s worth sending them in the first place. “Also, like they are even going to read them?” this exec wonders.
But in a sign of just how nonuniform these companies are, execs at two more companies that comprise the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are said to be discouraging execs from sending notes during the strike, and a third is taking a wait-and-see approach to the subject. Still another company, according to two of its executives, is believed to be all over the map. In fact, one of the execs there suggested he didn’t want to “add fuel to the fire” by firing off notes to striking writers, while others at the company liked the idea of being able to get a jump on things when the strike ultimately concluded.
Other execs say they’ll try to get a feel for which writers would be amenable to receiving an email with notes in the coming days. “Like, I’d never send them to one of the hard-liners,” offers one, who, like every other exec interviewed for this piece, would speak only on the condition of anonymity.
The now-daunting pile of scripts will dissipate over time, of course, and already many execs find themselves wondering how they’ll fill their days should a strike stretch to the summer or beyond. Some have animated shows that can keep going, while others talked about the opportunity this could be to rethink business models, mine new literary material and familiarize oneself with emerging filmmakers and foreign names. Still, a fair number of execs also admit they’ll likely have time to work on their golf or tennis game as well. Jokes one, “If it goes on a long time, I’m going to lose 15 pounds somehow.”
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