Strike Watch: WGA, Jackson Bites, Deal

Continuing along on the theme of divide-and-conquer, the Writers Guild of America has entered an agreement with independent film director Doug Liman’s new production company ”Jackson Bites,” effectively peeling off another small production company from under the aegis of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

”’If the last strike is best remembered for the studios attempting to show they could create programming without writers, this could be the strike where the writers show they can do it without the studios,’ said Liman.

”’This agreement reflects precisely what we have held from the start: for writers, the Internet and new media are the future. Doug Liman’s company makes that vision reality, with high-end, TV-quality programming created for alternative distribution,’ said Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East.”

Thus far, ratings for prime time television have dropped, but Lyle Schwartz, managing partner and director of broadcast research and marketplace analysis for media holding company Group M, told Mediapost’s Wayne Friedman, ”It’s not due to the strike … We haven’t had any more repeats than in previous years. It is that viewers are finding other things to watch.”

The stalemate continues.

Full WGA memo after the jump …


Director and producer Doug Liman announced today the formation of a new media company, ”Jackson Bites,” which will create television-style programming for alternative distribution. He will serve as co-owner of the venture with the support of a wide range of new media and business investors. Liman also announced that the new company has entered into an agreement with the Writers Guild of America (WGA), effective immediately.

As a result of the agreement, WGA members will be able to write, develop, and create programming for Jackson Bites for distribution on a wide range of new media outlets, including the Internet, set-top boxes, cell phones, and other wireless devices, and via direct deals with satellite networks and cable companies.

”If the last strike is best remembered for the studios attempting to show they could create programming without writers, this could be the strike where the writers show they can do it without the studios,” said Liman. ”We are at a moment of opportunity in television where we have gone from three networks to six, and from a handful of channels to a thousand and YouTube. In that environment, what matters is compelling programming — and compelling programming starts with the writer. Jackson Bites will afford writers the opportunity to create content that will be seen and enjoyed by audiences with or without the involvement of the television networks.”

”This agreement reflects precisely what we have held from the start: for writers, the Internet and new media are the future. Doug Liman’s company makes that vision reality, with high-end, TV-quality programming created for alternative distribution,” said Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East.

”We are happy to reach an agreement with Doug Liman that is perfectly suited to the needs of a new generation of content providers,” said Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West.

The deal between Jackson Bites and WGA, which was negotiated by Liman and his lawyer Alan Grodin with the WGA and is similar to the deals the WGA recently announced with United Artists, Worldwide Pants, the Weinstein Company, MRC, and Spyglass Entertainment, and addresses an important issue to writers — new media.

Liman, whose career was launched with the independent film Swingers, continued on to executive produce the television series The O.C., as well as to direct The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and the upcoming film Jumper, sees this as the moment for new media. Jackson Bites is financed completely outside the studio system. Liman will not direct or produce any of the content in the new company. Jackson is Liman’s eleven-year-old sheep dog.