Lengthy writer’s strike may pull plug on B.C.’s thriving industry



rafe arnott/metro vancouver


TV viewers Ginger Pottin, left, Patrick Aubé, centre, and Cindy May are running out of time to enjoy U.S.-penned shows as the Writers Guild of America went on strike yesterday. Talk shows are expected to be silenced first, followed by soap operas and then sitcoms as they run out of scripts.

Vancouver’s ubiquitous film sets could be shut down if a writer’s strike that began yesterday drags on.

The Writers Guild of America voted to strike over royalties from the sales of DVDs and digital downloads.

Late-night talk shows such as the David Letterman Show and The Tonight Show are expected to be among the first casualties as they rely on topical humour that networks cannot film in advance.

"Television shows will suffer the most," said Shawn Williamson of Brightlight Pictures. "A lot of the series that film here only have two or three episodes already written, meaning production could be shut down in three weeks."

Don Ramsden of the B.C. Council of Film Unions said the dispute could last into summer.

Viewers can expect reruns to become a staple of U.S. networks.

"The same issues are at stake when the union contracts for actors and directors expire in June (2008)," said Ramsden, adding an industry-wide shutdown is possible.

While Canadian-scripted shows will not be affected, the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) issued a statement promising its members will not write for American shows.

"The issues the Writers Guild of America is addressing will affect every professional artist seeking compensation in the digital age. Their fight is our fight," WGC president Rebecca Schechter said in a release.

The last screenwriter’s strike lasted five and a half months in 1988, costing the industry more than $500 million.

economic impact

  • Vancouver-shot series affected by the strike include: Bionic Woman, Men In Trees, Supernatural, Smallville, Battlestar Galactica.

  • More than 20,000 British Columbians work in the film and television industry, which contributed more than $1.2 billion to the B.C. economy last year — 80 per cent from U.S. productions.