URGENT! I just received this email from a top WGA source: “There’s a campaign of fear and lies being waged by several top agencies today, telling TV writing clients that if they’re co-producer or above, they are a hyphenate and have to report to work during a strike. This is false. Evidently, instead of pleading with the companies to make a reasonable deal, some agents have resorted to attempting to scare their clients out of complying with the strike rules. It’s really fucked. Bear in mind, that most TV writers who have producer titles often perform very little actual producing, if any. The titles are mostly in place to indicate the writing staff hierachy. We’re not talking about showrunners here — mid-level writers are getting this call. One top agency has told co-producers and above that their jobs may not be waiting for them after a strike if they don’t report to work. Another big agency has told clients they can do punch-up on screenplays during the strike if that screenplay has been submitted to the Producers prior. Writers need to know to call the Guild if they have questions about what services they can perform and NOT rely on self-serving agents for that information.”
I’m digging into this and I’m going to name agencies. (Most of the big tenpercenteries right now are scrambling to get back to me.) But a few agencies already have told me that Warner Bros TV and Fox TV and Touchstone TV (aka ABC TV Studio) have sent out memos to their producers, exec producers, showrunners “explaining” their responsibilities in the event of the WGA strike. Don’t get me wrong, this matter of the hyphenates is a remarkably messed-up issue right now, not to mention a heated WGA vs AMPTP issue. As I’ve reported previously, the WGA’s strike rules say hyphenates must stop writing, too:
Additional Strike Rules pertaining to writers also employed in additional capacities (“hyphenates”):
Hyphenates (i.e. members employed in dual capacities such as writer-director, writerproducer, etc.) may not perform any writing services, including “(a) through (h)” services, for a struck company. The MBA defines “(a) through (h)” as follows:
(a) Cutting for time
(b) Bridging material necessitated by cutting for time
(c) Changes in technical or stage directions
(d) Assignment of lines to other existing characters occasioned by cast changes
(e) Changes necessary to obtain continuity acceptance or legal clearance
(f) Casual minor adjustments in dialogue or narration made prior to or during the
period of principal photography
(g) Such changes in the course of production as are made necessary by
unforeseen contingencies (e.g., the elements, accidents to performers, etc.)
(h) Instructions, directions, or suggestions, whether oral or written, made to a writer regarding story or screenplay.
The Guild strongly believes that no member should cross a WGA picket line or enter the premises of a struck company for any purpose. Under applicable law, however, the Guild may not discipline a hyphenate for performing non-writing services. This legal restriction only extends to services that are clearly not writing services. If a hyphenate performs writing services, including “(a) through (h)”, for a struck company, or negotiates a new assignment for writing services, including (a) through (h), he/she will be subject to Guild discipline under the Strike Rules and the Guild’s Constitution and By-Laws.
To avoid possible disciplinary action, hyphenates are advised to consult with Guild staff in advance for guidance on the extent of functions prohibited. Although it is impossible to contemplate every situation, it should be clear that the most inclusive interpretation of “writing” is intended. When in doubt, don’t.
Hyphenates are subject to the following additional rules, though they are not enforceable through Guild discipline:
A. A hyphenate member performing non-writing services during a strike should provide the Guild with a list of the literary material, including the names of the writers of the material, utilized by him/her in the production of a television program or theatrical motion picture. Also, the hyphenate member should provide the Guild with copies of literary materials rewritten, polished or altered in any way during the strike and the names of any writers working on such materials.
B. A hyphenate member should determine and confirm that literary material on which he/she performs non-writing services is not material proscribed by the Strike Rules. In the event a hyphenate is asked to perform non-writing services on a “scab script”, he/she should refuse. In addition, the hyphenate member should report the request and deliver copies of such material to the Guild. For purposes of this Rule, a “scab script” is any literary material written or rewritten by anyone for a struck company during a strike or literary material optioned or purchased by a struck company during a strike.
But the producers claim on their website:
“As a showrunner you can perform all non-writing services, including ‘A to H’ duties. In a February 2007 decision, the National Labor Relations Board held that hyphenate showrunners are supervisors within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act and, accordingly, are aligned with management. The union cannot and should not attempt to prevent any hyphenate showrunners from performing non-writing duties.”
View the NLRB decision in its entirety here.