Still, some writers -- including die-hard strike supporters -- are angry at Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West, and chief negotiator David Young, saying they allowed the talks to drift into less important issues, according to several guild members, some of whom asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals from the union.


Writer Craig Mazin, a former board member and frequent critic of union leaders, called some of the additional demands, such as jurisdiction over feature animation and reality TV, misguided and not achievable.

"New media is the only thing that matters," Mazin said, who also has been sharply critical of the studios' proposals. "It's what the leadership went on strike for."

Those sentiments are shared by a number of writers, including some on the picket lines, who have complained directly to their union leaders about taking the focus off new media.

"There is a growing group of writers who are burning up over this," said one top writer and strong supporter of the strike who asked not to be identified.

That impression was further fueled by the guild's decision to go ahead with a previously scheduled rally in Burbank on Friday -- the same day the talks broke down -- to call attention to working conditions of writers working on reality TV and game shows.

At the rally, Verrone reminded the crowd that jurisdiction over reality shows was always part of the union's demands. "It will be in our next contract," he said.

On Monday, members of the guild's negotiating committee debated intensely about the timing of the rally and how to respond to the criticism -- and assure members that their focus remained on new-media pay, people who attended the meeting said.

How to get paid for their work that appears on the Internet also is important to the directors, who have been discussing that issue for months with the studios. In contrast to the writers, directors and studios have historically enjoyed a more cordial relationship and far less contentious labor negotiations.

But the directors won't be pushovers when it comes to issues of new-media pay. They have many of the same concerns on that front as writers do.

Nonetheless, they are expected to be more flexible on terms and more sympathetic to studio arguments that Internet-related businesses are still in the formative stages and that there are many uncertainties about where and how soon those future revenues will pour in.

The Directors Guild has spent more than $1 million to study those very questions, hiring two outside firms to prepare a detailed report on new media. The findings will be presented at tonight's meeting.

"Oddly, we've been preparing for this negotiation for well over a year," said Gilbert Cates, chief negotiator for the directors. The alliance is "tough, rough and nervous because they don't know what the future holds. We all want a piece of the Internet; the difference is the tactics that we use to get it."

richard.verrier@latimes.com

claudia.eller@latimes.com