As you can probably tell from all the re-runs on network television these days, the writers have been on strike for the last several months. They are striking to collect residuals and revenue from new technology driven sources such as DVDs and the internet.
Now, such Hollywood lumineries as George Clooney and Tom Hanks want to
mediate this to a resolution. Clooney wants to set up a “mediation panel” to include himself, Hanks, Steven Spielberg, John Wells (ER’s producer) and a few others to force the sides to a solution. Clooney suggested its purpose should be to oversee the talks and tell the Writer’s Guild as each term is bargained “you have to live with this and get over it,” and tell the Producers “you have to live with that and get over it”, Weinstein quoted George as saying. It’s also Clooney’s idea that everybody would be locked in the room together and not leave until the deal is done.
I have long wondered why a mediator has not been called in to help these talks along. I could recommend several Los Angeles based colleagues who would do a very good job. However, Messrs. Clooney, Hanks, Spielberg and Wells would not be among my recommendations. First, they certainly have conflicts of interest (although they may certainly be doing this with good intent; the “Road to Perdition” is paved with good intention [pun intended]). Second, mediation is far more than ramming the mediator’s opinion down the throats of the participants, as Mr. Clooney’s comments seem to indicate. It is about working with the sides to identify interests, moving the parties away from pure positions, and guiding them towards a solution that can meet those interests. Third, like acting, it takes years of training and experience to be an effective mediator. None of the above folks have this training (they certainly have clout). An untrained mediator can do far more harm than good. A trained mediator will follow the Hippocratic creed of first doing no harm.
So, Mr. Clooney: nice idea, but find someone with the professional training, experience and clout to properly mediate this dispute. And, no, I am not volunteering.