As the WGA overwhelmingly voted to approve its pattern of demands in advance of a possible writers’ strike, Warner Bros. is committed to not putting films into production until they are truly ready — even if the industry careens to a halt.
On March 7, the WGA announced that 98.4% of its members voted in favor of the “pattern of demands” ahead of the March 20 bargaining date. On March 3, Michael De Luca, co-chair and CEO along with Pamela Abdy of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, spoke at the Texas Film Awards press conference about how the studio will respond if strikes follow the expiration of WGA, DGA, and SAG-AFTRA’s current contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
Warner Bros.’ strategy? Not to scramble.
“It’s talked about [by others] like, ‘Gee, we need to stockpile material and prepare,’” De Luca said. “Pam and I, our attitude is it should be what’s best for the movies first. We don’t agree on rushing things to prepare for a strike and ending up with a subpar screenplay or subpar movies. You’re racing to meet a start date or beat the strike. We just try to certainly start what we can, if it fits in before an alleged strike, but I think it’s wrong to put what could produce the best movie or put quality control behind an effort to just ramp up and have just stuff to release.”
WGA’s current contract is up May 1; the current DGA and SAG-AFTRA contracts end June 30. Normally, the DGA enters negotiations with AMPTP first, but this time it’s opting for a later negotiation window, with the guild saying that AMPTP was not yet ready to address its concerns.
The last time WGA went first was in 2007; a 100-day strike followed. The Writers Guild is thought to be a bit more combative, as indicated by Charlie Kaufman’s speech at the WGA Awards Sunday night.
Famously, some productions, such as the Bond movie “Quantum of Solace,” did rush to get in under the 2007 WGA strike that shut down the industry. Since then, director Mark Forster and star Daniel Craig have said that they tried to make up the story on the fly without writers and an incoherent movie followed.
Warner Bros.’ strategy for the strike is in line with the approach the studio has taken in general since De Luca and Abdy assumed the reins in June 2022: Quality first, even if that takes time. WBD’s newly minted DC portfolio manager with Peter Safran, James Gunn, has said as much regarding his own management of the DC portfolio.
“People have become beholden to dates, to getting movies made no matter what,” said Gunn in January. “I am a writer at my heart, and we are not going to be making movies before the screenplay is finished, and if that means our plan is going to shift a little bit, it’s going to happen. We’re not going to be making movies and putting hundreds of millions of dollars into a film where a screenplay is only two-thirds of the way done and we have to finish it while we’re making the movie. I’ve seen it happen again and again, and it’s a mess. And I think it’s the primary reason in the deterioration of the quality of films today versus 20-30 years ago.”
The approach makes sense when you consider that De Luca and Abdy came up on the producing side. Abdy’s produced movies for over 20 years including “Garden State” and “Queen & Slim.” De Luca has three Best Picture Oscar nominations as the producer of “The Social Network,” “Moneyball,” and “Captain Phillips.”
“Marketing people will always want to sell what’s come before,” De Luca said earlier at the press conference. “It’s easier. As a result, innovation dies and it’s very hard for new filmmakers to find their voice and get their voice seen on a large level.”
According to the WGA, 5,643 members cast ballots and 5,553 voting yes, with 90 voting no. Here is the complete “Pattern of Demands.
Compensation and Residuals:
Increased minimum compensation significantly to address the devaluation of writing in all areas of television, new media and features.
Standardized compensation and residual terms for features whether released theatrically or on streaming.
Address the abuses of mini-rooms.
Ensure appropriate television series writing compensation throughout entire process of preproduction, production and post production.
Expand span protections to cover all television writers.
Apply MBA minimums to comedy variety programs made for new media.
Increased residuals for under compensated reuse markets.
Restrict uncompensated use of excerpts.
Pension Plan and Health Fund:
Increase contributions to pension plan and health fund.
Professional Standards and Protection in the Employment of Writers:
For feature contracts in which compensation falls below a specified threshold, require weekly payment of compensation and a minimum of two steps.
Strengthen regulation of options and exclusivity in television writer employment contracts.
Regulate use of material produced using artificial intelligence or similar technologies.
Enact measures to combat discrimination and harassment and to promote pay equity
Revise and expand all arbitrator lists.