Variety is reporting that Hollywood is having a bad case of the winter blues, now that the strike is over. There are significantly fewer TV pilots and budgets for current series are being cut back. Feature films are being put on hold in fear of a Screen Actor’s Guild walkout. And the shifts in the TV and film schedules have meant either heavy workloads or prolonged unemployment. “The studios are punishing writers for going out,” one partner at a major talent agency argued. “They want to take their pound of flesh, so they’re pushing back deals and not making new ones.” A looming recession is also keeping producers, actors and writers on edge. Thunder Road producer Basil Iwanyk told Variety that the overall level of anxiety and stress around town is “very high,” and that anyone who claims otherwise “is lying.”
Observers cite everything from Time Warner’s downsizing of New Line to CBS supremo Leslie Moonves’ decision to ax the Eye’s annual Tavern on the Green upfront bash as evidence of the sort feeding Hollywood’s current anxiety.
“There’s a huge amount of crankiness right now, and everybody — particularly agents — feels like they’re getting screwed,” one top lawyer said.
A studio chief laments what’s been “a very upsetting year. The pressure and the anxiety are getting to people.”
A network chief, meanwhile, said Hollywood’s mood simply echoes what’s going on in the real world.
“It’s a reflection of the national psyche,” he said. “We’re in a very tenuous place in this country right now, and Hollywood is no different.”
In such a toxic environment, it’s easy for some to start ascribing the worst of intentions to various parties’ actions. In the same way that some execs were convinced that WGA leaders were hell-bent on striking, some writers’ reps believe the cost-cutting and downsizing taking place in Hollywood isn’t a mere matter of economics.