After strike, Hollywood scribes lack write stuff

Fri Feb 22, 2008 12:46am EST
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By Steven Zeitchik and Borys Kit

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - At the end of the first full post-strike week, development deals and script sales have been slower than many in the film world have anticipated.

But is it the calm before the storm, or the calm before more calm?

Writers who had three months to work unfettered, the thinking went, would have spent part of that time polishing their old ideas and starting new ones -- pure spec scripts were allowed under WGA rules -- and agents would in turn be looking to capitalize on studios' hunger for post-strike projects.

But a significant number of writers, it turns out, were not working on specs during the strike. And agents and studio execs who were expecting a feverish return to work found that, while meetings are back in gear, deals and scripts have been thin on the ground.

Pronouncements of quiet have a way of yielding to a flurry, however, and there were reports late Thursday that at least one high-profile writer, William Monahan, would be turning in a spec shortly. The Oscar-winning writer of "The Departed" has a number of projects in development or production, including director Ridley Scott's terrorism thriller "Body of Lies."

It's also possible that in a number of cases writers did pen scripts but that agents are holding them back -- either because they don't want to create the perception that their clients worked during the strike, or because they want to assess the financial health of the post-strike market for scripts without turning their clients into guinea pigs. "No one wants to be the first," said one agent. "It may all start to happen after the Oscars, when we've celebrated writers, to get this going again."

Still, the prevailing feeling among agents and studio execs this week was one of surprise.

"I've been shocked by how quiet it's been," said one high-profile agent, echoing the thought of many who were interviewed. "I knew we wouldn't see every A-list writer with a script, but I thought there'd be a lot more than this."   Continued...

<p>Striking writers wear hats in the rain during at a Writers Guild of America rally at FreeemantleMedia in Burbank, California, December 7, 2007. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>