Writers strike ramps up for long and ugly battle but Chicago production remains unscathed—so far

For a while there, it looked like Chicago could turn into a thriving TV town. Two promising TV pilots wrapped and a new one will arrive the end of the month, all with the expectation of their respective series shooting here.

But with the Writers Guild of America strike of film and TV writers a reality after three months of intense negotiation, all bets are off.

Despite the aid of a federal mediator and back-channel talks between top writers and studio executives, the rift between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) was too wide to avert the first writers strike in 14 years.

One of the basic disagreements is over payment to writers for internet sales.

Both sides are preparing for long and ugly strike, one that will be potentially more disruptive than the five-month strike of 1988 that cost the entertainment industry an estimated $500 million.

Chicago will remain relatively unscathed by the work stoppage. Although, says Chicago Film Office director Rich Moskal, “If the strike persists and negotiating partners remain far apart in settling, then I see it negatively impacting the shows we do get, such as ?ER.'”

Not only that, but the strike leaves hanging the future of recent and present Chicago-shot pilots?when or if “Family Practice” “Leverage” and “The Beast” — a new pilot for A&E starring Patrick Swayze — will return as 13-week series. This trio represents the biggest series potential in 20 years and their loss to local production would be significant.

Having all three series shoot here would revive Chicago as “a TV town,” says IFO director Betsy Steinberg.

Despite the agita of uncertainty, Steinberg is optimistic about a quick strike settlement. “It’s certainly a game of maybes,” she says.

Local show production is relatively strike-proof