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Yep, They're Still on Strike

BILL WOLFF, host:

As the Writers Guild of America strike stretches into day 67, some of the late-night shows are getting desperate. Last night, ABC's Jimmy Kimmel visited the set of NBC's "Tonight Show."

(Soundbite of TV show "The Tonight Show")

Mr. JAY LENO (Host, "The Tonight Show"): It is very hard. I miss my writers tremendously.

Mr. JIMMY KIMMEL (Host, "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"): It's terrible.

Mr. LENO: Yeah.

Mr. KIMMEL: Will you write some jokes for me? Because it seems like you've got plenty.

Mr. LENO: I can't. That's illegal.

Mr. KIMMEL: Oh, that's illegal. I got it. Yeah, it's very confusing how it works.

Mr. LENO: Yeah, yeah.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Wah(ph), wah, wah.

WOLFF: Yeah, poor guys.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: With their airplane hangars full of cars. There has been some progress in the strike, though. The Weinstein Company and the Writers Guild of America have agreed to a deal which will allow writers to return to work for that major independent filmmaking outfit. The deal was similar to those the WGA achieved both with United Artists and with David Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants. Now, the question is, will these deals with smaller independent production companies make a difference in the big picture?

To get the latest on the strike, we check in with Dade Hayes, the assistant managing editor of Variety.

Good morning, sir.

Mr. DADE HAYES (Assistant Managing Director, Variety): Yes.

WOLFE: How are you?

Mr. HAYES: I'm doing okay. Muddling through, I guess.

WOLFE: Yeah. I was in Los Angeles not long ago. I was - I had the good or bad fortune to be in Beverly Hills around lunch. And it - there was like, tumbleweed flying through.

Mr. HAYES: It's an ominous time.

WOLFE: It really is.

Mr. HAYES: Very strange.

WOLFE: Very, very weird. Could you tell us quickly, is anyone - is either side, the writers or the producers, winning the strike at this point?

Mr. HAYES: It really seems like a stalemate. It truly does. I mean, every little incremental move that one side makes, every, you know, beating of the chest on one side is kind of matched by something on the other end. You know, they're not on - they're not at the table. They're not, you know, really dedicated to solving this in the very near term. So…

WOLFE: Why do you think that is? Do you think that's because the major studios are saving so much money that they - that it's in their interest to keep this going? I don't quite understand why no one wants to solve it.

Mr. HAYES: Well, they tell you that they just feel like, you know, they don't want to end up for posterity, you know, making the wrong deal. You know, writers have been burned a couple of times in the past, certainly on video deals. In 1988, the last time they went out on strike, the resolution ended up not being satisfactory. And in fact, when DVD came along, they really wish they had held out, you know, and…

WOLFE: Fought harder for that cash. Right. Now, these small deals. United Artists, Worldwide Pants, and now, the Weinstein's. First of all, on whose terms were those contracts reached? Did the writers, quote, "win" those deals?

Mr. HAYES: Yes. You could say that the writers did win those rounds. But then, you've got to look out, you know, zoom out and look at the big picture. And it's hard to say that those little incremental deals are going to be all that consequential.

It's important again, to look back in '88. They did 150 of those deals and it didn't really end up giving the writers' guild all that much leverage. That said, it plays extremely well in the picket line. It does help with morale. And independent life in 2008 is different than it was 20 years ago. There's a lot of clout, you know, for a lot of these companies.

United Artists is run by Tom Cruise. So, you know, it's not nothing to sneeze at, but it's just hard to really see it, you know, building up into a solution. I think they've got to settle it with the negotiators at the table.

WOLFE: Excuse me, would you say there's a date looming that may motivate more negotiation? Is there something coming?

Mr. HAYES: Well, the date thing that's coming is the Oscars. And privately, I think we'll tell you that that's the thing people are freaking out about. You know, the Golden Globes hysteria is going to seem like, you know, child's play compared to, you know, I mean, I know this - it sounds melodramatic to say, but it is a pretty dire thing if you're talking about unplugging the Oscars. So I think people are going to start getting serious when they look at the toll for all of this.

STEWART: I'm also wondering about some of the young up-and-coming actors or writers. You know, this would be the time when you get to - hear, and the winner is, Ellen Page in "Juno," and that would be beamed around the world.

Mr. HAYES: Yeah. Absolutely, very right off. I mean, it's amazing to think of being Ellen Page. And you know, she's a cool customer, so you'd probably never get her to say this, but you know, she - it's probably, you know, a bit of a, you know, a bit dispiriting to think about the absence of that. Because we all know that, you know once you get on that faster track and you're getting big offers and big movies, you know, you can't ever go back in time and capture when you were the, you know, the toast of the town, the nominee.

I mean, you know, last year, Jennifer Hudson, you know, had her moment. I mean, every Oscar season brings somebody new to the fore. And that's the idea that being absent is definitely going to crimp a lot of people's plans.

WOLFE: Well, Dade Hayes, thank you very kindly. And if there's anything you can do to bring us new "Ugly Betty" or "30 Rock…"

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFE: …I'd be most grateful. Thanks very much.

Mr. HAYES: I'll slip you some stuff.

WOLFE: I appreciate that.

Mr. HAYES: All right.

WOLFE: Thanks for coming on. We appreciate it.

Mr. HAYES: Take care, you guys.

(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.