While both John August and Craig Mazin, the screenwriters who commentate on the popular podcast Scriptnotes, did say that they would be voting yes during the Writers Guild of America strike authorization process, they both point out that it isn’t that straight forward and that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they wish for the WGA to go on strike. In a special mini episode of their podcast, the two screenwriters focused on many of the unknowns for their listeners that are surrounding the WGA renegotiation talks, especially with the deadline quickly approaching. While both state that they are voting yes and recommend that other members of the WGA vote yes, it is with reluctance. Mazin talks on this reluctance stating that he feels that the WGA is somewhat undermining both their bargaining position with the strike authorization against studios, as well as the democratic system of the WGA. Mazin has a solid argument to support this as he claims that the WGA pushes for its members to vote yes and says that if they don’t they won’t have the bargaining power to threaten the WGA with, but he goes on to say that not only does this make many in the WGA feel that they can’t give a no vote, but it also sets up the studios with the expectation that this is going to happen; therefore, they are prepared and will not be flustered during negotiations when the WGA threatens to walk out. His last major point in regards to the strike authorization is that even though the WGA tells its members that a yes vote is just for bargaining power and that they will not go on strike, everytime they have received the majority yes vote from its membership they have gone on strike since the 1970s. The hosts of the podcast bring forth a lot of good information that many listeners likely did not know, but also paint a picture where it seems that a WGA strike is inevitable. Thankfully, one of the last comments of the podcast address the fact that it would be extremely difficult for the current deal to just disappear when it expires, which means that no one’s life in the WGA will drastically change until a new deal is put in place.
The Hollywood Reporter recently posted an article on the rapidly approaching deadline for a deal between the Writers Guild of American and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Talks apparently broke down between the two groups on Monday yet again and many believed talks would resume again the next day; however, the groups put out statements saying that they would not meet again to discuss a renegotiation until the following Tuesday, which is one week away from the expiration of the current contract. Another issue that comes with the week long delay in negotiations is that by next Tuesday the WGA will have likely obtained the strike authorization that it requires from its members and will let the union walk out once the contract that they have yet to renegotiate expires. The other major point from The Hollywood Reporter article is the staggering gap between the two parties in regard to the contract they seek. The WGA is seeking a $535 million package, while The Hollywood Reporter estimates that they AMPTP is attempting to make a $180 million deal. This means that the two groups are roughly $350 million dollars apart in their current talks and makes the quickly approaching deadline and former failed attempts to renegotiate the contract seem to suggest that a WGA walk out is imminent.
On KCRW’s The Business podcast, Kim Masters talks with Matt Belloni, the editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter, about the struggles that Paramount’s new CEO Jim Gianopulos faces. After the ousting of the previous leadership, Gianopulos is stepping into an interesting situation with one of his first tasks being the quelling of the backlash against their recent blockbuster film Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansen. The film has been criticized for casting an white actor in a role that was previously depicted as Japanese in the original source material; moreover, Paramount has acknowledged that this backlash has hurt both the critics reviews, as well as its box office performance, which is unfortunate as Masters points out that the film cost over $100 million to make. This Ghost in the Shell backlash is just one of the issues that Gianopulos is facing with other important issues like the financing of future films by Chinese companies being in jeopardy that could amount to nearly a billion dollars. Belloni touches on this issue claiming that the uncertainty of Paramount’s leadership have made some of these companies second guess their investments and Gianopulous will have a difficult time dealing with this uncertainty because of Ghost in the Shell and a lack of major franchises going forward.
Hollywood whitewashing is by no means a new thing, just look back to the 1956 film The Conquerer, which stars John Wayne the star known for his westerns as Genghis Khan, and it even extends farther back in time from there to the earliest days of film; however, Hollywood whitewashing has received a lot of negative press over the last few years, between the oscars-so-white movement and recent films like Ghost in the Shell, which is led by Scarlett Johansen, despite the source material’s main character being Japanese. Indiewire reported that the film opened to just $19 million over its opening weekend, which was less than half of Dreamworks, The Boss Baby. Paramount executive Kyle Davies stepped forward after these results and stated that the casting of Scarlett Johansen in this role impacted the audiences reception and impacted the reviews for the film; moreover, he said, “you’re always trying to thread the needle between honoring the source material and making a movie for a mass audience.” This statement shows that studios continue to whitewash films as they cannot just make a film for those who love the source material for Ghost in the Shell, but need to appeal to a wider audience so they throw in an actor like Scarlett Johansen, who will have major box office draw; however, as this weekend shows, this isn’t always enough and that the increasing backlash against whitewashing films could lead to changes in how these films are cast in the future.