If you found yourself growing weary of reruns and unscripted reality shows this fall and winter, then you can thank Alan Wertheimer ’72 (BA ’69) for ending your pain. Wertheimer, a veteran Hollywood attorney whose clients include Nicole Kidman, Sigourney Weaver (BA ’72), and scores of screenwriters, played a key behind-the-scenes role in brokering the deal that ended the writers’ strike.
Wertheimer, a partner at Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein, came to the table on January 21 at the behest of David Young, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, West (WGA). The basic issue at stake—how writers should be compensated if their work is distributed on the Internet—had fueled a three-month standoff between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP).
But things took a turn in early January when a pact forged by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and AMPTP provided a template for the WGA. Wertheimer, a seasoned dealmaker who last year hammered out a historic agreement to allow certain screenwriters to receive a percentage of movies’ gross receipts, was brought in to demystify the revenue provisions in the DGA agreement.
He was also enlisted to help because of his relationships with all the relevant players: studio CEOs—who broke precedent and became directly involved in the negotiations; WGA leaders—who got to know him better when his firm negotiated an interim agreement on behalf of David Letterman and Worldwide Pants; and finally, the screenwriters themselves.
“I was pleasantly surprised by everyone’s commitment to making a deal and by the courtesy and good will exhibited by all the participants,” he says. “I believe the final result was a win-win.”
As for the deal’s impact on how future labor talks will be handled, Wertheimer predicts more direct communication between studios and guilds.
“Hopefully, the manner in which the WGA strike was resolved will become a pattern for future bargaining, and similar labor disputes can be avoided,” he says.