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WGA, Producers Open Pact Talks

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After months of internal meetings and jousting in the press, the Writers Guild of America sat down with producers Monday to bargain a new feature-film and television contract.

The scheduled two weeks of negotiations between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have been placed under the microscope by America's entertainment community.

Most observers feel the talks will impact the future of film and TV network production in 2001. If the talks go well and the two sides agree on a new major contract, it could smooth the path set for AMPTP's contract negotiations with the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The two unions cooperatively negotiate their film-TV pacts with the producers. Those agreements expire at the end of June. The WGA pact ends May 1.

At press time Tuesday evening, a press spokesman for the WGA said by phone from Los Angeles that the second day of talks had just ended, with the bargaining progressing "about as expected."

"I think we're off to a good start," John Wells, WGA west's president told the media after Monday's opening session. "We had a very constructive opening round of conversations. I think we're all very encouraged."

Among studio execs attending the session was DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg, who told The Hollywood Reporter after the first session that the issue was simply "about money and respect." Barry Meyer, Warner Bros. chairman and chief executive officer, nearly echoed that, saying, "They want more respect and compensation. We're ready to address both."

Meanwhile, SAG announced Tuesday that its national board had appointed members to the TV/theatrical negotiating team which will bargain in June.

There are 13 members on the team: nine from Los Angeles, three from New York and one representing the regional branches. The Los Angeles members are: SAG President Bill Daniels, Tom LaGrua, Karen Austin, George Coe, Anne-Marie Johnson, Armin Shimerman, Rick Barker, Wil Wheaton and Tess Harper. The New York members are: Jim Murtaugh, Larry Keith and Avis Boone. The regional branch member is Mary Seibel from Chicago.

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