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Listen to the Ziff

Strikewatch_blog_2 I spent a good portion of yesterday at the HRTS panel discussion Andrew blogged about earlier today. Though the heavy hitter panelists--including Fox President Kevin Reilly and The Office showrunner Greg Daniels--proffered some interesting ideas about the radically changing TV business, the possibility of a SAG strike didn't come up much.

When moderator, producer Jordan Levin, asked if anyone was worried about a possible SAG strike, the panelists kept their mouths shut and squirmed in their seats a bit. But attorney Ken Ziffren, who represented the DGA in their last negotiation AND is currently representing AFTRA, spoke up.

“If the parties involved in the negotiations stay in the room instead of going to the press, we'll get it done and we'll get it done well," he said to a great big round of applause from the audience comprised mostly of important-looking execs.

Obviously, press blackouts make for slower (and less fun) news days for reporters like me, but Ziffren had a good point. As their talks got more heated, then broke off, the WGA and AMPTP traded barbs every day in the press -- I'm still archiving daily press releases from both sides in my Inbox. Perhaps if both sides had kept it inside the boardroom and focused on solutions, the strike wouldn't have lasted as long -- or could have been averted altogether.

Ziffren's brethren on the panel may have kept mum about SAG and AFTRA on the stage, but at least two of them were pretty chatty about it backstage. Sandra Stern, COO of Lionsgate (producers of Mad Men, the new Crash pilot, and the untitled Ted L. Nancy pilot created by Jerry Seinfeld), said they're "praying" there won't be an actors' strike and are doing their best to prepare. But unlike a writers' strike, there's not much you can do to prepare for an actors' walk-out.

Stern said, "There’s just so much you can do.... You can’t bankroll on actors. We are getting started early on our production… but the truth is if there’s a strike July 1st, we will not finish our season. There’s not much we can do about that.”

Power agent and Endeavor partner Richard Weitz said his company is cutting expenses in anticipation. But, like the studios, there's not much agencies can do. “We’re on a wait and see basis. There’s very little that we can do unlike in the writers strike [when] writers had material," he said.

I'm in wait-and-see mode, too -- waiting to see what comes out of the big SAG-AFTRA joint board meeting on Saturday. I hope it's a date to begin negotiations with the AMPTP and a resolve to stick together in order to get the best possible deal for actors. If not, well, I hope they announce plans to buy me a pony. That'd be good, too.

--Lauren Horwitch

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