Schwarzenegger moves backstage in writers strike

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LOS ANGELES, Nov 14 (Reuters) After weeks of overseeing efforts to fight raging fires and an oil spill, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is weighing in on another potential disaster -- the screenwriters strike against film and TV studios.

The action movie star turned politician met with leaders of the Writers Guild of America and was reaching out by telephone to a number of studio executives, Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the governor, told Reuters.

''The governor is very interested in getting this strike ended as quickly as possible,'' McLear said as the labor action entered its ninth day with little discernible progress in getting the two sides back to the bargaining table.

McLear declined to specify who the governor was speaking with or the substance of the discussions, but the Los Angeles Times reported that WGA West president Patric Verrone and chief negotiator David Young were in Monday's meeting.

Even as the governor sought to nudge the two sides together, the finger-pointing and posturing continued as the lead negotiator for the studios, Nick Counter, issued a statement accusing the WGA of using ''fear and intimidation to control its membership'' and of creating its own ''blacklist.'' Counter seized on reports of a Writers Guild executive having issued a notice reminding union members of strike rules requiring them to inform the guild of anyone they suspect of ''strike-breaking activity or other scab writing.'' There was no immediate response to Counter's statement from the guild.

The strike began on November 5 after three months of contentious talks on a new contract for 12,000 WGA members collapsed, shattering 20 years of Hollywood labor peace.

The talks faltered mainly over the failure to reach a deal on writers' demands for a greater share of film and TV revenues from the Internet, widely seen as the future distribution channel of choice for most entertainment.

'TERMINATOR' GETS INVOLVED While there has been no obvious immediate impact on the movie industry, TV production was thrown into turmoil as work ground to a halt on numerous prime-time series and highly profitable late-night talk shows were forced into reruns.

Most weekly sitcoms and drama series are expected to be forced out of production by the end of the month.

The last major Hollywood strike was a 1988 walkout by the Writers Guild that lasted for 22 weeks, delayed the start of the fall TV season and ultimately cost the industry an estimated 0 million.

Schwarzenegger, still a member of the Screen Actors Guild, voiced concern last week about the strike's economic impact and workers caught in the middle of the dispute.

The former ''Terminator'' star, who has been busy in recent weeks marshaling state resources to combat devastating wildfires in Southern California and a major oil spill in San Francisco Bay, is drawing on close relationships he forged with many in Hollywood during his years as an actor.

His back-to-back discussions with union leaders and studio executives signaled his interest in resolving the dispute.

''It's a week into the strike, and he just felt that this would be a point where it would be appropriate for him to reach out and see if he could be helpful,'' McLear said. ''He has a lot of old friends in the business.'' REUTERS SV KP1049

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