December 10, 2023

EXCLUSIVE, UPDATED with joint statement: The roller coaster ride of the Writers Guild and the Hollywood studios trying to seal a deal to end the writers’ nearly 5-month-long strike isn’t over yet.

After a day many thought would see an agreement between the WGA and the AMPTP finalized, it looks like things are on pause — at least until Sunday morning. “The WGA and the AMPTP met for bargaining on Saturday and will meet again on Sunday,” the two sides said late Saturday in their second joint statement in a week.

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With claims of a “best and final offer” from the studios and streamers on the table and lawyers from both sides still poring over the fine print, the WGA strike is going to go at least one more day.

One more day that looks likely to see another so-called “best and final offer,” a fairly standard legal term that is nowhere as dramatic as some made it out to be today. Still, quickly burrowing under the skin of a number of scribes Saturday, the “best and final offer” term was bluntly characterized as “an unfortunate choice of words,” by one studio exec who worried it might have set the deal process back several steps.

After the two sides left for the day, discussions are being held Saturday night as to whether there will be another face-to-face meeting Sunday between the WGA negotiating committee and the Carol Lombardini-led Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. It is unclear if the CEO Gang of Four — Netlfix’s Ted Sarandos, Disney’s Bob Iger, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley and Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav — will be in attendance at that gathering, either in person and or virtually.

In the fog of four consecutive days of intense negotiations at the AMPTP’s Sherman Oaks headquarters, the CEO quartet had been in-person Wednesday Thursday and Friday. Sarandos, Iger, Langley and Zaslav were not in attendance Saturday in person, but did participate either remotely or through studio subordinates.

The WGA negotiating committee, many of whom were in attendance over the past four days, is led by Ellen Stutzman, David Goodman and Chris Keyser.

With an array of issues sought by the WGA, which is using a comprehensive bundle strategy in its demands this year, it appears the final sticking points are surrounding AI and staffing levels in writers room. Throughout Friday and today, the search for a mechanism to untangle those issues became frenzied at points, as both side attempt to wrap up negotiations ahead of the Yom Kippur holiday Monday.

Known as the Day of Atonement in the Jewish faith, Yom Kippur this year runs from sundown Sunday to sundown Monday.

Thousands of members of the WGA has been on strike since May 2 (today is the 145th day) seeking a new three-year film and TV contract. SAG-AFTRA, which has about 160,000 members joined their fellow guild on the picket lines in mid-July and has been out 72 days. The twin strikes have effectively shut down production in the industry ever since.