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Governor meets with guild officials

Times Staff Writers

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, responding to calls that he get involved in the Hollywood writers’ strike, which had reached its eighth day, held a private meeting with union officials Monday, a spokesman said.

The governor was scheduled to have a similar, informal sit-down with unidentified studio executives today, said his press secretary, Aaron McLear. Several studio representatives said they were unaware of any such meeting.

“The purpose is so he can talk to both sides and see what they are after and try to see how the state can be helpful,” McLear said of Schwarzenegger’s peacemaking initiative.

A person close to the union said the meeting in Los Angeles was attended by chief negotiator David Young and Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West.

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“Anything that puts additional pressure on companies to come back to the bargaining table and negotiate a reasonable deal is a good thing,” said the guild official, who asked not to be identified because of the delicate nature of the talks.

A spokeswoman for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said she had no knowledge of any planned meeting.

The former bodybuilder faces a herculean task. The sides are deeply divided on how much writers should be paid when their work is distributed via the Internet, cellphones and other new media. Efforts to enlist the help of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a former union negotiator, have proved unfruitful.

The governor’s push comes four days after leaders from the top five talent agencies met in secret with guild leaders at the Writers Guild’s West Coast office to trade ideas about how they could help jump-start negotiations that broke off last week.

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Despite the long odds, Schwarzenegger’s intervention could be a plus. He can call on his formidable personality and his ties to both camps. The former action-movie actor remains a member of the Screen Actors Guild and has served as a producer on some of his own films.

The governor said last week that he was waiting to be asked by either of the two sides before getting involved.

He said he was concerned that a prolonged dispute could be rough on the state’s economy at a time when it was dealing with a steep drop in home values.

A protracted strike could have a broad ripple effect on Los Angeles’ economy, throwing thousands of carpenters, electricians, caterers and others out of work. Entertainment is Los Angeles’ signature industry, contributing an estimated $30 billion to the local economy.

At least nine TV shows, including “Desperate Housewives” and “The Office,” have stopped shooting. Several studios have suspended production deals, laying off hundreds.

Schwarzenegger has been a strong advocate for the film industry and has made efforts, albeit unsuccessfully, to provide tax breaks for movie, television and music video producers to help stem so-called runaway production outside California.

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marc.lifsher@latimes.com

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richard verrier@latimes.com


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