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Writers Guild Reelects Incumbents Months Before Contract Negotiations

Health-care costs and growing DVD proceeds are likely to be the focus of talks with studios.

September 20, 2003|James Bates | Times Staff Writer

Hollywood writers reelected their incumbent officers Friday, giving them the authority to wade into contract talks next year with studios that are likely to raise sticky issues from soaring health-care costs to sharing in lucrative DVD proceeds.

The mail-in balloting gave Victoria Riskin another two-year term to head the Writers Guild of America, West, which represents TV and film writers in Los Angeles. Riskin defeated screenwriter Eric Hughes.

The guild didn't release the vote count.

Also reelected to top posts were Vice President Charles Holland and Secretary-Treasurer Patric M. Verrone.

The election comes as writers are preparing to form contract demands over the next few months in anticipation of negotiations on a new three-year contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents major studios.

No date has been set to start bargaining. The current contract expires May 1.

In 2000, bargaining was often tense and ended with an agreement shortly after the old contract expired.

In an interview, Riskin said writers were increasingly concerned not only about health-care issues, but also about the fact that they weren't sharing enough in the spoils of DVD sales, which have fattened studio coffers.

"I'm hearing from members that they are concerned because DVD growth has been so dramatic for the companies," Riskin said. "And since the companies are doing extremely well, we think it's reasonable for us to do well equally."

First elected to the post in 2001, Riskin succeeded writer and producer John Wells, who oversaw the last round of negotiations.

She has been an especially outspoken opponent of relaxing federal rules to allow more media consolidation.

Riskin is the daughter of legendary Hollywood actress Fay Wray, who starred in the 1933 film "King Kong," and the late Oscar-winning writer Robert Riskin, known for films such as "It Happened One Night" and "You Can't Take It With You."

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