Exclusive: Amid growing speculation about internal divisions within executive wings and no clear path forward to end writers’ and actors’ strikes, the heads of Hollywood’s biggest studios are set to meet today.
Disney’s Dana Walden and Alan Bergman, Amazon Studios’ Mike Hopkins and Jennifer Salk, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Universal’s Donna Langley and Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav are among those scheduled to attend the virtual meeting later Wednesday. we hear.
Mouse House CEO Bob Iger will not participate in this meeting, reverting to his previous position that Walden and Bergman were primarily involved in labor proceedings. We understand that part of that for Iger was the CEO’s overall approach to maintaining some distance to be ready in time to engage more directly.
It is unclear if AMPTP Chair Carole Lombardini will attend this afternoon’s meeting.
With the backlash intensifying from the disastrous Aug. 22 meeting with Iger, Sarandos, Langley and Zaslav, the Lombardini and WGA negotiators from AMPTP, and the subsequent release of the studios’ latest proposal, no new talks with the union have taken place. Add to that the WGA’s dismissal of the deal on August 24 as “nothing, not nearly enough,” and we hear mistrust between the two parties is at an all-time high. This translates to the WGA and AMPTP not being close to reaching an agreement to end the 121-day clerks’ strike — let alone the SAG-AFRTA strike, which is on Day 48.
Related: The WGA Slams The Show And The Studios’ Final Meeting As An Attempt To Create A “Cave” For The Union; “Not to compromise, but to confuse us.”
AMPTP said it is awaiting an official response from the WGA to the Aug. 11 bid. The union says it counteractioned on Aug. 15 and that the ball is in the studios’ and streamers’ court.
All of which means that newly hired crisis PR firm Levinson Group may find its main task right off the bat is dealing with tension among studio executives as the writers’ strike enters its fourth month.
“Before, some wanted to blame Carroll, accusing her of being stuck with preconceived playbook,” a person familiar with the divisions between studio and broadcast heads. “Now, they only have themselves to blame for how bad things look. That’s why they brought in Levinson’s group, and that’s why they fight.”
According to several sources, for example, it was streaming king Sarandos who lectured the WGA leaders at that gathering last week about why they had to accept AMPTP’s latest offer. Others say that although Sarandos was certainly not obedient, Egger was “the loudest voice in the room” with the other CEOs and WGA presidents on Aug. 22. “The approach caught fire amazingly, and then they made it worse by taking their show public that same night,” an industry expert said of the outcome of the troubling meeting between studio heads and union leaders and trying to get around the WGA negotiating committee directly to the members.
In particular, the “thin-skinned” Egger and Zaslav were “stunned,” according to an insider, because they had been heavily slandered by the union and its members over the past few months. “Almost everyone is looking for someone to blame,” says one insider of the backbiting of key CEOs. “They’re crippled, even with time, and it’s Ted’s fault, Iger’s fault, even Tony Vinciqueira’s fault, depending on who you ask,” the source added, naming the co-CEO of Netflix, CEO of Disney and Chair of Sony Pictures and CEO . “It doesn’t help the situation or anyone.”
Today’s meeting is partly about ensuring that CEOs don’t get stuck in a situation where they’re negotiating against themselves. While there have been reports that Netflix is willing to bow to the WGA at every point, others say that Hollywood’s top brass are on the same page when it comes to their approach to unions.
Related: The movie’s 2023 release date calendar
Additionally, the fear among some top studio executives is that even if there is a deal in the coming weeks and film production resumes in the new year, there will be a dry spell in the theatrical release calendar, the way it has often continued. The year is between August and October due to the post production jam caused by covid. Some films on the near horizon of the fourth quarter and first quarter need an ADR, and if the strikes continue, they may be pushed out. For Hollywood’s top leaders, the longer the strikes last, the less production is likely to be made in both film and television in the following calendar year. Less product means fewer jobs.
“These guys are worried about what comes after the strike,” says another well-informed source. “Remember they are competitors, and they are always thinking of how to outdo each other. Blows don’t change that.”
“Freelance entrepreneur. Communicator. Gamer. Explorer. Pop culture practitioner.”