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WGA Strike Covered at Cinema Forum

Writers display their signs at a recent rally.

Photo/Dexter Kim

While the Writers Guild of America strike is having an immediate impact on television and film scribes, USC School of Cinema students and recent alumni learned during a special forum hosted by the writing division that it can have long-term consequences on them as well.

Noting that production companies hungry for scripted content might soon approach students and alumni who are non-WGA signatories, former division chair John Furia advised the roughly 50 men and women gathered in Taper Hall on Nov. 14 to resist tempting offers.

“Taking those offers will undercut the strike,” said Furia, who also served as the WGA West president from 1973-75. “I’ve seen a number of people who’ve succumbed to that and had their reputations sullied and they deeply regretted it.”

If such an offer does come, Furia urged the audience members to thank the people making the proposal “and contact them the day after the strike is over.”

The two-hour event, moderated by associate professor Jack Epps Jr., chair of the writing division, included professor Howard A. Rodman, who serves on the WGA West Board of Directors and is founder and co-chair of the guild’s independent screenwriters’ caucus.

An invitation to take part in the forum was extended to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, but the organization declined to send a representative.

Furia said that he fully expects signatory companies � those that are part of the guild’s 400-plus page contract � to call the school’s students regarding work.

He noted that even though students may seemingly work for an independent company, “it’s totally a matter of your conscience on what you produce. I would encourage and urge you to think of the importance of your career. Once the strike is over, people who have violated the rules will not be thought of kindly. We are out there making the sacrifice for the future � a future that most of us will not see the benefits (of), but your generation will.”

Rodman suggested that if writing students are collaborating with their counterparts from the Peter Stark Producing Program on projects while the strike continues, the authors should put in writing that “no material of mine may be sold, optioned or in any way end up with a signatory company.”

The strike, which began on Nov. 5, involves several issues. Among them are: extending guild coverage to writing for the Internet, cell phones and other new media; residuals for reuse on new media; and the home video residuals formula.

When the panel was asked how long they saw the picket lines lasting, Furia said, “It will be over when the economic pressures as well as the enlightened self-interests on both sides recognize that the price of the strike is too great.”

WGA Strike Covered at Cinema Forum

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