Suddenly, the five-month pause in negotiations between the Writers Guild and the studios has ended, with a tentative agreement announced today.

For those who haven’t been following the situation, film and television writers have been working without a contract since June 2nd. The Writers Guild walked away from the studios “last, best offer” because it didn’t address the principal concerns:

  1. Health plan funding
  2. DVD residuals
  3. Late payments
  4. Other creative issues, such as reality television writing

The idea was to wait until the Directors Guild started their negotiations, and piggyback on any advances they were able to make. (This isn’t as unfair as it sounds; the DGA traditionally goes last in the cycle after WGA and SAG, and benefits from increases the first two guilds win.) However, the DGA made their deal really quickly, and didn’t make any progress on DVD residuals. So there wasn’t a lot for the WGA Negotiating Committee to build on.

What did the writers get in this tentative agreement? Well, the health plan is the biggest thing, with about $37 million more pumped in to keep the fund solvent. There are also increases in pension and minimum writing fees. DVD residuals stay where they are, but there’s at least some token attention to late payments and reality television, which uses writers but calls them producers.

Also on the television front, there will be a new training program for educating writers about the business side of running a TV show. And to encourage wider viewing, networks can repeat the intial episodes of a series during the first two months without paying residuals. Both make sense to me.

Is it a good deal? Well, it doesn’t address the awful state of DVD residuals, but I really didn’t expect it would. You know how when something bad happens, people always say, “At least you have your health?” In this case, at least we have our health plan, which is certainly something to be happy about.