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LOS ANGELES � A monthlong writers’ strike in Hollywood has slowed work for attorneys who draft television and film production deals but has rekindled previously shelved nonunion projects, such as reality television programming and Internet content. Since Nov. 5, members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have picketed throughout Los Angeles, demanding, among other things, that studios give them fair compensation for shows and other content distributed on the Internet, cellphones or other forms of new media. Because of the strike, studios have canceled television shows or postponed the production of several movies in recent weeks. For many entertainment lawyers, that means less work. “This is the first week where things have slowed down,” said Laurence Marks, a partner in the transactional entertainment practice of Los Angeles-based Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. “We’re still doing a fair amount, but not doing any writers’ deals is starting to factor in.” In contrast, lawyers involved in nonunion work, such as reality television and Internet content, are busier than ever. “Projects that have been lying around are getting a second look,” said Jody Simon, a partner at Los Angeles-based Raskin Peter Rubin & Simon. “They’re dusting those off and pitching them again.” This strike is the longest since 1988, when a similar strike lasted 22 weeks. Representatives for the writers and studios resumed negotiation talks on Nov. 26. In recent weeks, several studios have canceled television shows or postponed the production of some movies, such as United Artists’ Pinkville, Columbia Pictures’ Angels & Demons and Warner Bros.’ Shantaram. Lawrence Ulman, co-chairman of the media and entertainment practice group at Los Angeles-based Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, said he represents Universal Studios, whose production of “State of Play” hit a snag this month after actor Brad Pitt pulled out because of script concerns. But the strike, he said, has derailed far more television shows, which require daily or weekly script writing. In contrast, studios have stockpiled enough movie scripts to move forward on production projects that don’t require rewrites or revisions. In the short term, that has generated some more legal work. “I’m more focused on production now definitely than I would be as a percentage of my practice,” said Marks, at Manatt. “A lot of movies got rushed into production before the writers’ guild strike started.” Other production projects are moving swiftly in case directors and actors decide to strike next year when their own contracts expire, he said. But once those productions are finished, the work flow could hit a standstill if writers remain on strike or, perhaps more significantly, directors and actors stop working early next year. Already, half of Marks’ legal work has dried up, he said. Development deals, which involve acquiring book rights or other types of scripts for new productions, have slowed considerably in the past month. To make up for the shortage, Marks said, he has focused on financing and production work that doesn’t involve unionized writers, such as book publishing or new media deals. New markets Demand for new media work, such as Internet content or video-on-demand, has been on the rise, said Simon, of Raskin Peter. But he couldn’t say whether the increase was due to the strike or an overall interest for those types of programs. To be sure, he said, the strike has boosted the demand for reality television programs. Many of those projects were unable to generate interest a year ago. In Louisiana, where tax credits have attracted several Hollywood producers in recent years, the strike has generated an influx of interest from producers who use nonunion scripts, said Mich�le LeBlanc, of the art and entertainment law group of LaBlanc & Associates, a boutique law firm in Baton Rouge, La. She said the firm normally represents producers from Canada and Europe. But in the past several weeks, the firm has experienced a tremendous uptick in calls from independent producers who don’t use WGA writers. “We don’t normally get this many calls,” she said. “It’s opening a new market that may or may not close when the strike ends.” While no lawsuits have been filed so far due to the strike, entertainment litigators are advising actors, producers and other talent about the potential grounds for a lawsuit, said Michael Plonsker, co-chairman of the entertainment and media department at Dreier, Stein & Kahan in Santa Monica, Calif. In most cases, they could file a lawsuit against a studio that terminated their employment agreement because a production got canceled, he said.

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