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David Zabel on the Writers Strike

Published November 14, 2007 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of NBC.

Fans of ER may be in for an unintentional cliffhanger. When the Writer's Guild of America went on strike, the staff of the medical drama had only completed 13 scripts. If the conflict is not resolved soon, show runner David Zabel says production will simply stop after the last scripts are exhausted.

WGA to Close the ER

"We stayed on our regular schedule," explained Zabel. "We did our jobs as previously agreed so we had two unshot scripts as of Monday when the strike began. As far as I know, they'll shoot those scripts without the writers around. They won't get the rewrites that they'd normally get. We would normally keep writing all the way through production on a script and making it better and revising it. That just won't happen this time. They'll shoot the script as is. I hope that they don't put out a shoddy product because of that but it clearly will be affected by the fact that it won't be taken care of the way it normally would. There's two unshot scripts that I imagine they'll keep doing. They'll run out of stuff to shoot late November or maybe early December."

With the strike anticipated beforehand, Zabel resisted pressure to tack artificial closure on episode 13. "It's just episode 13, baby. It's just episode 13. There was pressure to try to do that in case we were going to be off the air for a long time but that ran counter to my feelings. That's not in solidarity with what we're doing and it also violates sort of the creative flow of the season. We design our season in advance. I wasn't going to change the design based on something I was hoping was not going to happen."

Zabel joins other high profile show runners picketing outside the Warner Brothers lot, where ER is produced. "I'm a writer first and foremost and everything I do comes out of being a writer. So as a show runner, I'm here with my staff and I don't think I could present myself in any other way than absolutely 100% behind them. Especially as long as there's not a real negotiation going on. If the AMPTP companies decide they want to really talk, then a lot of us showrunners have agreed we would continue to do our jobs if there was a real negotiation going on but that hasn't happened."

So far, Zabel has felt great support from passersby on the street and folks going in and out of the lot. "Generally there's a huge amount of support because if you understand the issues and you look at what the situation is, it's pretty obvious that the AMPTP position is not a tangible, is not a viable position where they're saying, 'We're going to give you zero on the internet forever.' That's just not a viable position and anybody who understands that realizes that it would turn writers into paupers in 15 or 20 years."
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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of NBC.

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