Writers Strike Takes Toll on Movie Production Members of the Writers Guild of America are walking the picket lines for the second day. John Davis, who produced Norbit, Garfield, Dr. Doolittle and Alien Versus Predator, discusses the impact on film production.
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Writers Strike Takes Toll on Movie Production

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Writers Strike Takes Toll on Movie Production

Writers Strike Takes Toll on Movie Production

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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


And I'm Alex Cohen.

Just ahead, get a whiff of the latest in interior design. It's scratch and sniff wallpaper.

BRAND: First though, the whiff of donuts on the picket lines yesterday in Los Angeles. Jay Leno was handing them out to writers. He really didn't have much else to do. His late night talk show is in repeats thanks to the writers strike. TV is feeling the strike's impact right now, but it will take a lot longer for it to have an effect at the movie theaters.

COHEN: Producer John Davis has been making movies for decades. He is chairman of Davis Entertainment, and that's the company behind the movies "Norbit," "I, Robot," and the "Garfield" series, among others. He says there are about 50 Hollywood films ready to go into production right now, but a strike makes for an uncertain future.

Mr. JOHN DAVIS (Chairman and Producer, Davis Entertainment): A time like this, it's very hard to plan; movies don't come together well in this kind of environment, when you have to rush. There's always a rhythm to the business, and you always need screenwriters to do revisions up until the time you shoot a movie. There's an actors strike possibly coming sometime at the end of June also. It's a very hard time to plan and execute movies.

COHEN: And what about the rewriting of movies? You know, these writers now who are a part of the guild have been asked not to do any work at all, so what happens to a script if the script isn't in final form, but writers are on strike?

Mr. DAVIS: Theoretically, if you're ready to make that movie and you can't get the writers to rewrite it, I guess the director could do work to the script. It's possible that the studio executives could do work to the script. It's possible the producer could do work to the script. But writers are writers. They get paid a lot of money for a reason. They're expert at what they do and it just isn't the same. You really need a great writer to come in and finish off a project.

COHEN: Are any of your projects going to feel the effects of that?

Mr. DAVIS: We got our rewrites in. We're still waiting to see if everything that we hoped to make is going to get a green light. We've got this narrow window between now and the actors' strikes. We really have to start by February, March 1st at the latest. So it's a really strange time to figure out if your movies are actually going to go or not and if you are going to be ready to go or not. The ones that we want to make, they have finished scripts, they're really good, but they can always be better.

COHEN: Are you worried at all about the quality of those scripts? I mean, it seems like the creative process, you kind of need to take time with it, sometimes writers get writers block, and if you're all of a sudden scrambling to get a script together on a deadline, how can you be sure that it's really the best script you can get?

Mr. DAVIS: Every three years, we seem to have a negotiation and a question whether one of the guilds is going to go out, and there's always movies that get pushed quicker because of that, and I contended the movies are never as good when you rush them.

COHEN: You've been in this business for quite some time now and you were in it during the last major strike, which was in 1988. Is there anything, based on your experience back then, that you think you might apply, you know, advice to yourself this time around based on what you learned during that time?

Mr. DAVIS: It really hurt the entire community. There are a lot of people that depend on this business in Los Angeles. A lot of people in tertiary positions get hurt, you know? We don't need our messenger service, for instance, that deliver scripts right now, and there's other people we depend on when we're fully functioning that are going to be out of work for this next period of time. It goes through the entire business, and so it's tough on the economy of the city and it's tough on the people we do business with. The people I worry about are the writers that I know who live from paycheck to paycheck, single mothers with a couple of kids who need that income coming in and who can get hurt in the middle.

COHEN: Some people who are outside of the realm of entertainment look at this story right now and think here are these writers and they're grumbling about how much money they make and some of them are making $200,000 a year. For some of us outside the world it seems as if, hey, $200,000 a year isn't that bad of a deal. What is it that maybe people outside of Hollywood don't understand about these wages and salaries that might help us shed some light as to why they're asking for more?

Mr. DAVIS: Oh, writers are really well paid. A lot of people are well paid in this industry. I have 14 employees in my company and every single writer we work with out-earns every single employee in this company, so there are certain - writers are certainly paid really, really well. But I guess at the end of the day everybody wants to feel like they got paid fairly for the value they've created. Writers indeed do create the movies that we make. They are the backbone of the business. You can't make a movie without a writer. They're unheralded and unappreciated a lot of times. I guess they feel that this new media has a potential to be as big or bigger than DVD and they want to get it on that earlier rather than later so they get their fair share.

COHEN: John Davis is chairman of Davis Entertainment. Thank you so much.

Mr. DAVIS: Thank you.

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