McCanlies, Austin Benefit From Writers' Strike

Secondhand Lions director to shoot new film The Two Bobs in Austin

Look for Tim McCanlies to shoot his long-awaited low-budget film The Two Bobs, in Austin next month, thanks in large part to the Writers Guild strike.

The strike gave him time to concentrate on the long-gestating film, which he described as in the tone of The Big Lebowski and Trainspotting. It follows two guys who are in legends in the gaming business whose new, much-anticipated game is stolen right as they finish it.

McCanlies is less enthusiastic about what network television did to his last directoral effort, Secondhand Lions, which was aired minus major plot points.

He, fellow screenwriter (and Variety editor) Mike Jones joined Kay Schaber-Wolf of the WGA in explaining the angst and rewards of the recent strike. Jones called it a necessary event in order to assure writers get their fair share of newer technology. "The Internet is the next source of television and the Guild didn't have any jurisdiction there," he said.

Schaber-Wolf confirmed that unsuccessful efforts in the Eighties aimed at securing writers a decent take of video/DVD sales likely prompted the union to dig in its heels this time. "We learned from the past that if you wait too long, you miss out."

Jones said studios tried to push the notion of millionaire screenwriters. "If you make a six-figure salary off of one script and don't work for two years, it becomes a five-figure salary," he said. "That's most writers."

The Internet will also give writers more control because actual usage can be monitored easily, a boon given producers' reputations for hiding profits, the panelists said. McCanlies said he get no residuals from The Iron Giant because it is animated.

The two areas writers lost out on in negotiations? Animation and reality programming. But the strike did encourage writers to work together.

"Writers are lonely, said people," Jones said, only half-joking. "When they are out of work and on picket lines they make friends."

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