Expressing optimism and emphasizing that their negotiations are not only about videocassette revenue-sharing, opposing sides in the writers' strike against the film and television industry reopened contract talks Thursday with a federal mediator on hand to help.
The meeting between negotiators for the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers marked the first substantive talks since guild members rejected the alliance's proposed contract and began their walkout on Tuesday.
"We've always been ready to sit down and talk," alliance spokeswoman Barbara Brogliatti said shortly before the negotiators and federal mediator Leonard Farrell met at 2 p.m. at the alliance's office in Sherman Oaks. "Nobody wins in a strike. . . . We're rarin' to go."
"We are optimistic and hopeful that something good will come out of this," said Allan Manings, a guild negotiator. "We are ready to stay until it (an acceptable contract) is worked out."
The negotiators recessed for dinner shortly after 6 p.m. and resumed the talks at about 8:30 p.m. Spokesmen for both sides said the session was expected to last into the night, but no major announcements were expected.
The two sides, whose last formal negotiations ended at midnight on Feb. 28 when the guild's old contract expired, were brought together by Farrell of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Negotiators briefly met with him on Wednesday, when they agreed to start bargaining again Thursday. He had asked the two sides to meet with him in the hope of avoiding a long, costly strike. The guild struck the film and television industry for 13 weeks in 1981.
Could Delay Programs
The producers' alliance represents the three television networks, the major studios and film and TV producers. A protracted strike could possibly delay the start of the networks' new prime-time season next fall.
One of the major issues in the current walkout is the percentage of profits the guild wants from sales of prerecorded videocassettes, a $1-billion industry. The alliance wants the 1.2% of profits sought by the writers to come from the producers' revenues. The guild wants it from the far larger profits of videocassette distributors.
However, both Brogliatti and Manings emphasized that the much-publicized videocassette dispute was not the only item under discussion Thursday.
"One of the great misconceptions about this negotiation is that it's a one-issue negotiation about videocassettes," Manings said. He said the guild also is interested in "bringing back good values" in its health programs, including supplemental health benefits for free-lance television writers, more work for guild members and more creative rights for writers in feature films.
He added: "There are well over 100 (or) 200 items in the (contract) package which have to be thrashed out."
'So Many Issues'
"This is not a one-issue problem," Brogliatti said. "There are so many issues and so many different nuances to them."
The upbeat tone preceding Thursday's talks was in sharp contrast to the charges and counter-charges each side made earlier in the week.