Howard Rodman is running for another term on the Board Of Directors of WGA, West, and asked DHD to post this statement. (All candidate statements welcome):
I would ask you now to remember what our Guild was like at the turn of the century.
Leadership urged us to lower our expectations, and lower them again, lest the conglomerates fail to “take us seriously.” We were discouraged at every turn from working forward from our needs — instead, we were encouraged to work backwards from what the conglomerates had in mind to give us. Negotiation was seen as using best intelligence to suss out the companies’ bottom line, then to meet them there. This is, we were told, what the DGA does. This is, we were told, what “serious” unions do.
If there were tensions, they could be blamed on the evil executive of the WGAE – even as they blamed their troubles on the evil WGAw. Screenwriters and TV writers could blame each other. And while we sniped at ourselves, the conglomerates were left to decide what we were worth. And we, again and again, we took what they offered.
In that era, an active and engaged membership was viewed as an irrelevancy at best, a threat at worst. The Guild’s President and E.D. could take care of business just fine, if we writers would only get out of the way.
If you were an active and engaged writer, this was crazymaking. If you were any kind of writer: it was deeply wrong.
Together with talented and spirited colleagues, I ran for the Board in 2005 and 2007 in hopes of setting things right. Our platform: that the Guild should organize those without; organize those within; organize those beyond.
I can comfortably say we did that, with focus and spirit.
The media conglomerates, used to the Guild’s traditional bluster-and-cave, found a union more engaged, more savvy, more united, than they’d ever faced. Even those on other sides of the table admitted to me, privately, that the strength, energy, inventiveness, and solidarity of our membership were beyond anything they’d seen, far beyond anything they’d expected.
While it took a strike to get what we needed, and while it is my deepest hope that our WGA generation never has to go through that again, let’s look at the things that our membership and leadership, working together for once, have achieved: The absolutely essential foothold in the internet. Countless contracts in cable. Vastly increased political clout. Stronger alliances with fellow guilds and unions.
In my own bailiwick, which is independent film (I’m a four-hundred-dollar-per-screen kind of guy), we’ve brought smaller films into the tent, and in the process, made our Guild larger and stronger.
We’ve signed 131 Low–Budget Agreements, resulting in well over a hundred feature films that would not otherwise have been Guild-covered. We’ve signed six partnership agreements where the writer, after limited and defined investor recoupment, shares in first-dollar gross. We’ve signed four documentary screenplay contracts. And we’ve negotiated retroactive coverage to 13 high-profile independent films.
But to my mind the best and most essential thing to have been gained in the last few years is this: we now have a Guild that, to a far greater extent than has been true in decades, is guided by its membership, with a staff responsive to that membership. We are no longer pitted against each other. And we have a leadership that feels proud of — rather than scared shitless by — the idea that the inmates might actually know something about how to run the asylum.
I welcome the opportunity (with your support) to continue to serve our Guild. I look forward to serving with President Elias Davis, Vice-President Tom Schulman, and Secretary-Treasurer David N. Weiss. And I look forward to serving on the Board with those not this year up for re-election; with my treasured colleagues Patric M. Verrone and Dan Wilcox; and with fine new colleagues, among them Linda Burstyn, Carleton Eastlake, Chip Johannessen, Jan Oxenberg, Luvh Rakhe, Billy Ray, Eric Wallace, Jed Weintrob, David Wyatt. In particular: it was my honor and pleasure to work with Billy Ray and Carl Eastlake during the strike, an experience that convinced me that they are essential to our Guild. Their service, in ways large and small, has more than earned your vote.
If elected, I will work toward the further expansion of our gains. I will work toward the relentless enforcement of what we’ve already gained. And I will work toward a more robust engagement between screen and television, between east and west. I don’t want us to abandon our differences, our contentions, our controversies. Rather, I want us to harness those energies to find what truly unites us. And, building on that, to form a more perfect union.
But mostly: I look forward, and would humbly urge you to do the same. Otherwise, we’re back where we were at the end of the 20th century — wringing our cloth caps, hoping against hope that if we can prove we’re “serious,” if we can prove we’re “reasonable,” the Man with the Power will succumb to moral suasion, will open up his heart, will step into that back room, and when he returns, will somehow deign to ladle out a bit more porridge.
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