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Mister D:Somebody please resolve this strike. I won’t be able to bare it or bear it (and I like doing both). I want my Bruce Vilanch, I want to see the stars, I want to be able to shoot darts at the winners I don’t like (which I do…suction darts), I want to dress up and have my party…so please, please, for one person’s selfish reasons, give the writers their due and let’s just move forward….
Writers’ strike could radically alter show
By Joanna Weiss, Globe Staff | January 23, 2008
The nominees were announced to the usual fanfare. The posh pre-Oscars luncheons are expected to go on. But if the Hollywood writers’ strike persists, next month’s Academy Awards telecast will look very different from the glamour-fests of the past.
Without writers on hand to pen monologues and presenters’ spiels – and with the threat of angry pickets around Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre – A-list actors would likely shun the ceremony. And without the glitz, the Oscars could turn into a strange affair. Producer Gil Cates has hinted about an assemblage of film clips, punctuated by song-and-dance numbers. This month’s Golden Globes was something much smaller: a bare-bones, half-hour-long press conference.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put forth a brave face yesterday, expressing hope that the strike would be resolved by Feb. 24, allowing the Oscar telecast, with Jon Stewart as host, to air on ABC as planned.
“We’re moving forward with all of the plans to do the show as we normally do,” Academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger said in an interview. “It’s our fervent hope that we’re going to be able to do that.”
But if negotiations don’t yield fruit, then big changes are in store for one of TV’s biggest annual events. Last year’s Academy Awards drew 40.2 million American viewers, earning ratings second only to the Super Bowl. The recent Golden Globes, meanwhile, drew a fraction of its usual 20 million viewers. NBC, which was scheduled to air the show, produced an hourlong special instead, in which the hosts of “Extra” read the results at a leisurely pace, dressed in eveningwear.
That’s not something the Oscars would want to replicate, said Toby Miller, a professor of cultural studies at the University of California-Riverside and the author of “Global Hollywood.” Hollywood studios rely on the Oscars for free worldwide publicity, he said, and writers have been winning the global public relations wars.
Without a resolution, Miller said, the Academy would be better off postponing.
“The Golden Globes looked ridiculous,” he said. “It just was pitiful. And the Oscars can’t afford to be pitiful. The pressure on them will be enormous.”
Talks between writers and studios, on hold since early December, are set to resume this week. The writers have made recent side deals with individual production companies. And last week, the Directors Guild of America announced a tentative three-year agreement with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the studios’ bargaining arm. It includes a plan for residual payments for work that appears online, a chief sticking point in the writers’ negotiations.
Some nominees yesterday expressed hope that the issues would soon be resolved. “I have a feeling they’ll solve it. I hope they do,” said “Eastern Promises” star Viggo Mortensen, who was nominated for best actor. “I’m sure my mom would like to see me on TV and so forth, but if there’s a strike I’m not crossing the line.”
And some nominees said they’d go to the ceremony, whether or not the writers picketed. “I don’t think you can postpone it, it’s not like a wedding,” said Lianne Halfon, a producer of “Juno,” a best-picture nominee. “If they throw the party, if they open the door, I’m going to go.”
But in the absence of stars, the party probably won’t be thrown, said writer and comedian Bruce Vilanch, who has written for the Oscar telecast and dressed in drag in “Hairspray” on Broadway.
“My guess is that an Oscars without writers will also mean an Oscars without actors, which will probably mean it will be an Oscars postponed till when it used to occur, at the end of March,” Vilanch wrote in an e-mail to the Globe. “This upsets me to no end . . . as I’ve had several high-end designers vying for who gets to give me my gown.”
Producers and ABC executives have been relatively mum about contingency plans; Unger would only say that producer Cates has been “working on some alternatives” for a show without writers.
The writers’ guild has announced that it will not picket the Grammy Awards, due to air Feb. 10 on CBS. But the Guild has not yet granted a waiver to the Grammys, allowing its members to work on scripts for the show. The guild has granted waivers to the Screen Actors Guild Awards, airing Sunday on TNT and TBS; the NAACP Image Awards, due to air Feb. 14 on Fox; and the Film Independent’s Spirit Awards, airing Feb. 23 on IFC.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Oscars 2008 Q&A
Bruce Vilanch Ponders the Oscars’ Fate
Will the strike claim another casualty? The longtime awards-night writer gives EW.com some inside scoop on whether he thinks the show will go on come Feb. 24
By Adam B. Vary
With all the speculation about whether this year’s Academy Awards ceremony will actually happen, we turned to funnyman Bruce Vilanch â€” who’s written for the big night since the first Bush administration â€” to find out what a writer-less Oscars might actually look like. Not surprisingly, he had a lot to say.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s talk about the Oscars. BRUCE VILANCH: Sure. [Pause] Oscars? What Oscars?
Yeah, that’s the question at hand. Is it even possible to do that ceremony without writers?
I don’t see how. [Laughs] It’s going to be an interesting experiment if they do. I mean, they can come out and read the list of the nominees, but all the other stuff certainly can’t be done, and certain awards can’t be presented without something being written about them. Unless somebody’s going to come out and do something extemporaneous. It’s weird. I don’t know how they’re going to do it. I’m certainly fascinated. I’m hoping they can come to some sort of resolution before then. Maybe they can get an interim agreement with the Academy, which owns the show, just the way that Letterman owns his show.
Is there a point of no return? Like, after a certain date there’s just no way that a show in the way we’ve come to expect it would be able to be put on?
Uh, no. I think, actually, if it came down to it, we could do it in a matter of days if it had to be done that way. But certainly I think that January 22, which is the day the nominations are announced, would be a point, kind of, of no return. I have a feeling that Gil Cates, who’s the chairman of the DGA negotiating committee and the producer of the [Oscars] show, would like to have a deal in place by then, because a lot of this stuff can’t be written until the nominations are announced. If it was necessary, [the telecast] could be written very, very fast. [Laughs] I don’t know how it would be done. You’d have to assemble a whole team of people, like monkeys [laughing] on typewriters in a room, hoping they come up with Hamlet. But it could be done. I mean, we rewrite the show as we go along for the host, so a lot of the stuff that would have to be done in a hurry would be the presenter material.
Wasn’t part of the issue that the Academy couldn’t show clips of the films during the show?
It was a routine [request]. They get a waiver for paying royalties on the clips for the films, and all of the guilds give them a waiver. Otherwise, it would cost them a couple hundred grand to pay royalties for showing the clips on the show. So they can still show the clips, they’re just going to have to pay for them for the first time, which is ironic. The writers are actually going to get paid while being on strike. That’s just entertaining to me, I suppose…. But that was before the Writers Guild invited independent production companies [like David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants] to sign an interim agreement. And the Academy, which owns its show 100 percent, can sit down as an independent and say, ‘’Look, we want to sign this agreement, we’ll sign the same thing Letterman signed.’’ I would think that would be one way to go.
If the Oscars do go on without writers, would you watch?
Of course! I’d watch the show without sound. It’s the Oscars. [Giggles]
What do you predict will end up happening?
I’m hoping that the directors will hammer out an agreement fairly swiftly, and that the alliance will use that as a template for a writers agreement, and all of that can been affected by the time the nominations are announced for the Oscars. That’s my best case scenario.
What’s your most realistic case?
Who knows what’s realistic at this point. You’ve got them in a pissing match with Jay Leno over his monologue, so who knows what’s realistic anymore.
Writers’ Strike Still Going
From: The O’Reilly Factor (Fox News Network)
Date: December 18, 2007
Author: Bill O’Reilly
O’REILLY: “Factor Follow-up” segment tonight, it’s now been six weeks since entertainment writers have gone on strike. Many programs are off the air, as you know. Ellen DeGeneres went back to work, but few other talk show people did until now. Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien have announced they will cross the picket lines and go back to work January 2. David Letterman is trying to negotiate a deal with the writers, but with Leno coming back, most expect Letterman to return, as well.
Joining us now from Los Angeles, one of the most successful writers in show biz, Bruce Vilanch.
All right. So you’re—you write the Academy Awards and a whole bunch of other shows. And now you’ve got to see…
BRUCE VILANCH, WRITER: Sorry I didn’t dress well.
O’REILLY: And—well, that’s all right, Mr. Vilanch. You’re a Hollywood pinhead. You can dress any way you want to dress.
VILANCH: It’s hidden under there.
O’REILLY: You know, that’s why you guys go out and do this stuff. I wish I could be with you.
Now, Leno and O’Brien, they’re the first crack in the dam. They’re going back. What say you?
VILANCH: Well, you know, they’re between a rock and a hard place. I mean, they’ve got Sophie Tucker’s choice. What are they going to do?
They’re either put hundreds of people out of work who are non-writing staff, or they’re going to honor their position as members of the Writers’ Guild and not cross the picket line.
Clearly, the network wants them back to work, and they’ve got all these people who depend on them for livelihoods. So I think they’ve made the choice they’d rather see them continue to survive than take a moral high ground and so, “OK, I’m not going to go back.” O’REILLY: How do the writers see that, though? Do they think that’s OK, or is there betrayal involved?
VILANCH: I think that it’s evenly divided. The people who don’t like Jay and don’t like Conan probably see them as horrible individuals who are betraying the goals of the guild. And I think everybody else will probably understand that, when you’re the papa and you have to feed the family, you have a very tough choice to make.
O’REILLY: OK, but here’s my question for you. And you seem to be sympathetic to Leno and O’Brien.
O’REILLY: If all of the stars of all of the shows did the same thing and said, you know, we’ve got a big staff. And listen. I mean, I’m not taking one side or the other here. I sympathize with the writers. I’m a writer myself. And I want them to make a good living.
But you’re right, there are other people suffering and these guys, Leno and Letterman, particularly, have carried their—have paid their salaries out of their own pocket, and we admire that.
O’REILLY: But if all the entertainment people go back, the writers really lose power. They really lose it.
VILANCH: Well, there’s a little gray area here, because we’re talking about the kinds of shows that are partially scripted. Leno does a monologue, but a lot of his show is just sitting and talking to idiotic starlets.
O’REILLY: Like me.
VILANCH: So he doesn’t—like me. So he doesn’t need a writer to actually come up with that kind of stuff. What will be curious to see is what happens when the Jay Leno show turns into the Charlie Rose show, when they’re just kind of sitting around a table trading quips.
O’REILLY: Whatever he does…
VILANCH: There are no bits.
O’REILLY: Yes, but Leno is pretty clever.
VILANCH: It’s different. I mean, obviously, “Desperate Housewives” is a scripted show.
O’REILLY: Right, but that’s what I mean. If all of them decide to come back, and they get scab labor, whereas people are—you know how it works.
VILANCH: There is no scab labor involved here. They’re not going to be doing any written segments. Instead of the scripted, they’ll do interviews.
O’REILLY: Here’s how it’s going to go down. And I’m looking out for you and the guys on the picket line. Here’s how it’s going to go down.
They’re going to get stuff. They’re going to get it through the fax machine, though e-mail, and they’re going to get it from people that you don’t know anything about. That’s where they’re getting it. And it’s going to happen, and it will happen in the drama shows, as well. There are tons of writers out there who will do this on the sly.
VILANCH: I think it’s more and more difficult for that. I think that happened years ago. I think it’s almost impossible to do that now without leaving some kind of a viral footprint.
Every place you go there’s somebody with a cell phone taking your picture. I think it’s going to be very hard for these guys to harvest material without other people know about it.
And certainly, if they can’t get it from their guild-writing staff, the guild-writing staff is going to wonder where they’re getting it from, and they’re going to find out. I don’t think it’s going to work that way.
I think it’s going to be ad lib kind of chat fest.
O’REILLY: All right.
VILANCH: It’s really all they can do. I don’t know anybody who’s going to be supplying Jay jokes on the side. I mean, he’s been working with the same guys for years and years.
O’REILLY: I understand that. But he knows people, and he himself is a good writer. And so is Letterman. They can—they can generate some of their own stuff. Not the amount of stuff they need, but they can generate it.
O’REILLY: We’ve got to run. I hope—I hope the strike is settled, particularly around this time of year.
VILANCH: It’s just begun.
O’REILLY: Yes. I hope so.
VILANCH: I’m hoping in time for the Oscars, but I doubt it.
O’REILLY: All right.
When we come right back, “Is it Legal?” with Kelly and Wiehl.
Tonight, will Debra LaFave, who had sex with a 14-year-old boy, stay out of prison on a parole violence? She was in court today. Also an update on the legal battle between a sex club in a small Texas town that wants that club out of there. Moments away.
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