Writers, Studios Break Off Talks

LOS ANGELES — Negotiations between Hollywood screenwriters and the major film and TV studios to reach a new contract have broken off, a person close to the talks said, leading to the possib ility of a full walkout by screenwriters when their current contract expires on May 31.

Press conferences to announce the breakdown in talks are scheduled for later Thursday afternoon.

Representatives from the Writers Guild of America, which represents about 11,500 film and TV writers, and negotiators on behalf of the major Hollywood studios have been meeting in daily talks since Jan. 22, hoping to reach an early resolution in order to avert a possible strike. The writers last struck for more than five months in 1988, which hampered the start of the new TV season.

The writers have been seeking higher residual payments for their work when it appears on cable TV, in overseas markets and on home video/DVD.

In addition, the writers have been seeking certain “creative rights” such as access to movie and TV sets during production and the right to the “film by” movie credit, traditionally given only to directors. The studios, represented by the Alliance for Motion Picture and TV Producers, contend that the economics of the business don’t justify the increase in residuals to the writers.