The WGA West’s opposition slate, led by presidential candidate Phyllis Nagy, is making its case for taking the guild in a new direction in the WGA’s battle with talent agents. One of their shared beliefs is that the standoff — now in its 105th day — threatens to undermine the guild’s solidarity going into next year’s negotiations with management’s AMPTP for a new film and TV contract. They also agree that the current fight stands to benefit the guild’s wealthiest and most powerful members, while the guild’s “most vulnerable” members are bearing most of the hardships.
The slate includes Craig Mazin running for vice president; Nick Jones, Jr., running for secretary-treasurer; and board candidates Marc Guggenheim, Nick Kazan, Ashley Miller, Courtney Kemp, Rasheed Newson, Ayelet Waldman, Sarah Treem and Jason Fuchs. The slate has received the support of more than 300 writers, from up-and-comers to superstar showrunners, who have signed an open letter endorsing Nagy and her running mates.
Writers' Strike Could Accelerate Scripted Programming's Decline On Linear Television
Below are excerpts from statements made by the slate’s candidates. Their full statements can be read here:
“I’m a loyal Guild member with questions and concerns. To address the elephant in the room — I’ve had these questions and concerns for months leading up to and continuing through the current Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement action. Because our Guild’s storied history is a shining example of how to tolerate and encourage freedom of expression in all its forms — I speak frankly and encourage all to speak similarly, with a respect, civility, curiosity and empathy for opposing arguments.
“To be clear, reform to the practice of packaging and the collection of packaging fees and elimination of agency conflict of interests is necessary. Current leadership has brought these issues into the light, and for that, we should all be grateful. Writers deserve and should demand complete transparency from their reps, and any agent who doesn’t agree with that basic principle shouldn’t represent us. Full stop.
“But I also believe a negotiated agreement that includes capturing a new income stream to benefit the most vulnerable members of our Guild rather than our most wealthy and successful members is the only reasonable way forward.
“We won’t reach a resolution with stalemates, entrenched thinking, a reliance on lawsuits that may or may not resolve in our favor after years of litigation, and a refusal to talk to the other side. Of that much, I am convinced.
“Leadership has asked for ‘sacrifice’ from membership. Leadership has told us that some of us will ‘suffer.’ That these are necessary conditions to achieve progress. This is absolutely acceptable rhetoric in a strike. There is no question that we’d follow the lead on sacrifice and suffering then. But this is not a strike, and the most vulnerable of us — newer members, women, people of color, LGBTQ… in short, anyone who does not have a lucrative overall deal or existing fat feature contracts — these members are, indeed, bearing the brunt of the suffering and sacrifice.
“So, we are obligated to work swiftly, efficiently, and fairly with the agencies to resolve this action, before careers disappear. And they will, believe me — unless we unite to hold our agents accountable for abusive practices, and in the process make concrete monetary gains for members who need it most. United, we can do this.
“We’ll need that unity in the crucial AMPTP MBA negotiations next year, when the battle for residuals across all platforms will determine how we survive as writers in this business.
“It’s the single most important battle we’ll fight for our future earnings. And we can’t successfully fight that battle if we’re not focused on preparing for it. We must forge healthy bonds with both the DGA and SAG-AFTRA in order to smartly address this pivotal issue.”
“I’m running for vice president because I love my union, I see working on the Board as a continuation of my steady years of service to the Guild, I have every reason to think we are heading into a series of critical and perilous negotiations with the AMPTP, and I fervently believe our current fight with the talent agencies is justified and appropriate.
“I’m also running because our current leadership, while excellent at starting this fight and organizing our membership, has fallen short of winning it. In the weeks to come, I will discuss possible ideas on how to win that fight… although I think my actual willingness to get in the ring and trade punches with the Big Four agencies already sets me apart from many incumbents.
“I also have a number of thoughts about our upcoming battle over the threat to redefine residuals, our union’s shortcomings in the area of MBA enforcement, and the ongoing struggles of our underserved and overburdened feature writers. But no matter what problems I see, my goal is singular.
“Let’s put our most vulnerable members first. We can’t pursue solutions that make the rich richer. We can’t demand concessions that make A-list writers’ lives a little easier. This is a union with far too much income disparity, and because of corporate integration and consolidation, it’s going to get even worse unless we work as a union to take care of our most vulnerable.
“Who are the writers who are earning scale or near-scale? As we push hard to diversify our membership and bring in members who look more like the audiences we serve, that means the ranks of our most vulnerable writers will include more women, writers of color, disabled writers and LGBTQ+ writers. It is the height of hypocrisy to demand doors be opened for these writers, only to forcibly detach them from their individual day-to-day advocates once they step through.
“That’s why the deal we must wrestle from the agents has to put these writers first. I agree with many in current leadership who think it’s morally questionable to take money from a corrupt system… but I only agree as far as that money is kicked back to writers who do not need it.
“I’m not above being Robin Hood. Not in the slightest. To that end, I am proud to endorse a diverse group of writers who bring a mix of long-standing Guild experience and fresh, creative inspiration and perspectives. I don’t believe our leadership should be monolithic. Our Board was once a place for vigorous debate and the thoughtful stress-testing of ideas. It didn’t paralyze us then, and it won’t now. It made our consensus stronger, it forced to consider unintended consequences, and it better served our democracy. I hope I and the candidates I support get an opportunity to work with the incumbents on the Board to make our strong union even stronger.”
Nick Jones Jr.:
“The WGA-ATA dispute stands as one of the single greatest challenges we have faced as a union — and it likely pales in comparison to the challenges ahead of us in 2020 with the upcoming AMPTP negotiations. We must approach these kinds of campaigns with the courage to stand up for our principles, but also with the awareness of the damage these kinds of battles can do to those of us whose careers are most vulnerable. When that damage begins to accrue at alarming rates, with no prospect for relief; when we find our strategies and tactics leaving us more isolated in the creative community than we were before; and when division within the Guild is at an all-time high, something has to change.
“My interest in the position and purpose for my candidacy is to inject a greater sense of diversity and to create a place for unrepresented voices into the WGA Leadership. I am aligned with the beliefs of my fellow colleagues, Phyllis Nagy and Craig Mazin, whom I’m running alongside. Our priority is to vigorously pursue policies that can aggressively achieve positive change — getting writers working, combatting racial and gender discrimination, tackling pay equity issues. But also to find new solutions to complicated and rapidly evolving problems; to both meaningfully reform the Guild’s relationship with the agencies, while also repairing fractured relationships with agents; to give voice to underrepresented elements within the membership, while also finding fresh ways to make sure we can still speak as one, a membership with a unified voice and aligned interests rather than riddled with the kinds of division I fear we face today.
“I believe good leadership encourages people to speak up and engage, so your voice will always be the baseline in decision making. The only way for us to pull through this current challenge is together.”
“We must prepare for our 2020 AMPTP MBA negotiations. Just six months from now, our guild will be confronting negotiations that will define the rest of our careers. Unlike the DGA, which has invested heavily in researching business trends, we have heard nothing from our union about efforts to assemble data on the issues critical to the vast majority of its members. We need to prepare for what is ahead of us. If we don’t do the research, we won’t even know what to fight for.
“Our world is changing rapidly. Disney+, Netflix, Amazon and others are making residuals a thing of the past. If we do not focus on practicalities — like residuals, span protections, family leave, etc. — those of us who don’t have nine-figure overall deals are going to be left wondering why our incomes have been cut in half and where our green envelopes have gone.
“I support negotiation. Packaging and affiliate production are serious issues that must be addressed. I believe, however, that rather than wait for the resolution of a years-long legal battle, we can and should negotiate with the ATA for the best possible deal.
“Very few writers ever see a meaningful back end. The lucky few who do would absolutely get more money in profit participation without agency packaging fees. There is no evidence, however, that getting rid of packaging would translate to higher salaries for the rest of us. Nor is it clear that more of us would end up getting jobs without packaging. If we succeed in ending the practice of agency packaging, the savings will go back to studios. Who wants to take bets on whether they will pass that money along to us?
“Accordingly, we must return to the table and negotiate a deal that maximizes transparency, choice, and getting all writers, not just those lucky few, a piece of the pie.
“Feature writers are getting the short end of the stick. The concerns of feature writers are often very different than those of TV writers. Feature writers pay dues of 1.5% of every dollar they earn. TV writers at the producer level are able to pay no more than WGA minimum. These means that an astonishingly well-compensated showrunner could pay less in dues than a mid-level feature writer. This disparity negatively impacts all of us. We all need to pay our fair share, in order to keep our health insurance and pension fund viable.
“I will not be ethically compromised. Whether or not it is a technical violation of the rules, it is a strategic error for one of the leaders of the Negotiating Committee to tell us to fire our agents because packaging is criminal and affiliate production violates anti-trust laws, and then go on, months later, to sell a packaged Endeavor Content show. If elected to the Board, I promise to avoid such hypocrisy.”
“When I was on the Board before, I supported every action David Young proposed and ran along with, and enthusiastically supported Patric Verrone. Something has changed. I am now deeply concerned about the future — indeed the survival — of our union. Our current action is perilous.
“There are serious issues here — agency practices and abuses that must be dealt with and remedied. They must be. But we are in unexplored territory, and (inevitably) there are unintended consequences — consequences which fall on our members unequally. Therefore I have grave concerns about the way the Guild has proceeded and, most critically, about the effect of this situation on our solidarity.
Many writers voted for the concept of a CoC in order to give the Guild power to negotiate — not to empower it to disrupt or destroy the business. But the Guild has not negotiated.
“This is not a strike. It does not impact all writers in the same way. Some among us have overall deals. Some have jobs lined up and can keep working for months or years — they don’t need agents right now. Others don’t have jobs, need their agents, and feel stranded, without guidance and recourse.
“Those most grievously harmed are members whose careers are most vulnerable: writers of color, women, and those who only recently joined the Guild. We need an agreement that will actually help working writers and those most in jeopardy. We should not hold out for a settlement which will primarily benefit showrunners. Yes, we’ve been given hypotheticals about how this action (if it achieves total victory) will put money in the pockets of working writers. Maybe. But those are theories, based on predictions about the future behavior of studios, networks, and agencies. Personally, I can’t predict what corporations will do, and I don’t think we should jeopardize people’s careers when we don’t know — can’t know — what the future will bring.
“The spirit of this negotiation has also been worrisome. The WGA has demonized all agents and ignored or denigrated the value agents now have (and have had) in the careers of many of us. Yes, agency practices need to be addressed and abuses rectified. But insisting that agents and agencies are “the enemy” won’t do that. It’s largely untrue, needlessly insulting, and terrible strategy.
“You may disagree with me here. That’s fine…and it’s symptomatic: this action leaves every writer feeling and responding differently…and that is what concerns me; that is what has fractured the Guild. The fracture will only worsen the longer this goes on, and there is no end in sight. And. And: if there isn’t a resolution soon, the implications for the WGA are potentially catastrophic.
“In a strike where we’re all not working, our membership has always been — fabulously, admirably, save for a few scabs and cowards — united. We have walked the lines and held the lines together and found strength and comradeship in doing that. This is different. Because we do not suffer equally here, and because this action is taken not against our employers (networks, studios) but against our creative partners (agents), some writers may soon feel they have to choose between their families and their Guild. No one should have to make that choice.
“And this action could not have come at a worse time. We face serious contract issues with the AMPTP in 2020. Disney is threatening to come after the residuals we have; other studios may follow suit. Netflix is using de facto buyouts in place of residuals. We must face these issues head on, protect what we have and demand that residuals for streaming be improved. The money involved is massive (hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars) and these issues affect us all (TV and screen alike) and should unite us all. Right now we are undermining our unity and jeopardizing our ability to wage that fight. If we go into 2020 crippled by the fallout from our current action, the wound will be self-inflicted and the companies will feast on our remains.
“So. Two major issues:
1. Extricate ourselves from the present mess with the best deal available given the damage already done. We must gain clear improvements on previous practices.
2. Prepare for the 2020 negotiation with the AMPTP.
Beside these, everything else pales.”
“For the past decade, I’ve spent a lot of time in television writers’ rooms and have heard fellow scribes discuss the challenges facing working writers — shorter TV seasons; onerous exclusivity clauses; a streaming model that is decimating residuals; and the gradual extinction of mid-level TV writers, etc. In all that time, I don’t recall packaging fees being on the list of top concerns.
“Yet, despite the threats on the horizon, our guild is looking to the past. We are waging the greatest labor disruption since the 2007–2008 strike over the terms of a 1976 contract. We are essentially engaged in a crusade that would have made perfect sense circa 1982.
“Why are we doing this? I believe it is because our current leadership doesn’t know what to do about the emerging business models that are threatening our collective financial future — so they’re sacrificing time and money and goodwill in a prolonged attack on an old business practice that writers and agents blithely engaged in for 40 plus years.
“Our guild is fighting the wrong war. And we aren’t even fighting it that well. We need to resume talks with the ATA and negotiate a deal that maximizes packaging revenue sharing, transparency, choice, and protections for unpackaged writers.
“In preparation for AMPTP negotiations, we need to spend money and time gathering legitimate data about the business trends affecting our members. No more anecdotal “evidence.” No more essays. We need numbers. It is not enough to say, Staffing season was a success because all the shows got staffed. How many mid-level writers got hired this staffing season? Is that up or down from last year or from five years ago? How many women got hired? How many writers of color got hired? Again, how are those numbers trending? The guild tells us how many people earned money writing in a given year, but more useful stats would break that down further: how many writers earned less than $50,000? Less than $100,000? And so on.
“Such data shouldn’t take years to collect. Nor do we need to comb through contracts from agents to get it. Showrunners could report this information to the guild. They make the hiring decisions; show us your rooms.
“Regarding showrunners, the guild needs them to be more forthcoming about their hiring practices. Imagine if a few weeks after staffing season, every showrunner had to report to the guild about the demographics of their staff: what levels they hired at, how many women (and at what levels), how many writers of color (and at what levels), how many LGBT+ writers (and at what levels). Now take that information, show by show, and make it public (not years later, but in early June after staffing season ends), and the exposure (yes, the fear of embarrassment or backlash) might very well boost diversity numbers.
“I say let’s give it a try because nothing else has done much to improve diversity numbers for the past generation. And if you’re wondering if the guild can compel showrunners to divulge such information, recall that the guild just forced every writer with an agent to fire his or her agent. If that can be done to 7,000 rank-and-file members, showrunners can be made to disclose the demographics of the staffs they hire. In fact, one might wonder why the guild didn’t just order showrunners and creators to refuse continuing to package their shows under threat of Working Rule 23. But I’m trying not to dwell on the past. Let’s move forward.”
“For the past nineteen years, I have been a proud member of the Writers Guild of America alongside my wife and brothers. My youngest daughter was literally raised on the picket line as my wife and I pushed her in her stroller at only three weeks old. That said, I’ve been less involved in the Guild than I’d care to admit. Politics lie outside my comfort zone and I’ve long resisted raising my hand and risking being noticed. But our Guild now faces issues that require all of us to get off the bench and get into the game. And so, I am suiting up.
“Those issues are complex and manifold, and they are going to require sophisticated and nuanced solutions. The challenges we face are significant, but in trial there is opportunity. With the right leadership, we can not only clear the hurdles we currently face, we can — and we must — position our union for tomorrow, not merely resolve yesterday’s problems.
“The expiration of the 2017 WGA Theatrical and Television Basic Agreement is just around the proverbial corner. The next negotiation with the AMPTP comes at a time when feature writers are being taken advantage of by one-step deals and television writers find their incomes depressed by short orders. Meanwhile, the proliferation of streaming services threatens the very existence of the residuals system that our union fought and sacrificed so much for. Make no mistake: These upcoming negotiations will chart the course of our union for the remainder of our careers.
“And yet we are woefully unprepared for them. There is no sign we have any intention of changing our normal strategy of threatening to strike and hoping for the best. No army would go to war with a single nuke in lieu of tanks and soldiers, yet that’s what we do every three years. We need a better strategy. To be clear: A strike threat is a powerful and critical source of leverage. But for too long, it’s been our only source of leverage and, consequently, our only tactic.
“As long as I’ve been a member of the Guild, I’ve heard the message we can’t count on the DGA and SAG for support — that either our interests weren’t aligned or their memberships were weak — but perhaps the reason we haven’t worked with our sibling unions is that we haven’t tried particularly hard to. Although it’s generally accepted that the DGA just capitulates, there’s a contrary school of thought that posits they actually make worthy gains in the negotiations because they don’t go into them threatening to burn down the town. At the very least, it’s worth questioning the assumptions we’ve been operating with for the past two decades. After all doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of network television. Er, I mean insanity.
“Of even greater concern is the fact that the AMPTP negotiations loom while we are already fighting a two-front war — litigation in state and federal court — against the ATA.
“I’ve heard that the Agency Campaign has forged membership solidarity and makes us stronger going into these negotiations, but I have my doubts. For one thing, 95% of the membership voted in favor of the Agency Campaign to give our Negotiating Committee leverage to negotiate — only to see that leverage squandered by voluntarily withdrawing from the bargaining table.
“To be clear: We must address the conflicts of interest inherent in packaging and affiliated production. But the belief that we can do so without negotiating with the ATA is naive at best. Equally naive is the notion that the two litigations which we are presently mired in will provide a way forward. I used to be a litigator and I saw firsthand the limitations of our legal system (and that’s before over two years of Trump appointments to the federal bench). Even in the rare instances when justice is done, it takes years to achieve. In the meantime, we are racking up legal fees that will rapidly number in the tens of millions of dollars with no end in sight.
“As I said, the issues we face require nuanced solutions. Simply branding our representatives as racketeers isn’t nuanced. Our solidarity brought the agencies to the bargaining table. We need to return there post-haste and hammer out a deal that aligns our interests with that of our representatives. I don’t believe for a moment we aren’t smart enough to work out the negotiated solution the majority of the membership wanted.
“At the same time, we have to re-enter these conversations with a focus on the future. The ill-fated negotiations focused almost exclusively on the sharing of backend profits — precisely at a time when backend profits are being eliminated. Don’t get me wrong, I am in favor of revenue sharing, but I’m also in favor of negotiating with an eye to the future so that we’re not just fighting yesterday’s battles.”
“Writers have never received the respect we deserve in this industry. We’re not on the covers of magazines, we’re not wearing designers on the red carpet (usually), and we’re often shoved aside or lowballed in the process of making a deal. This is true in both television and in film, but our screenwriter membership suffers more often from requests for free rewrites, late or missing pay, and credit-theft of the highest order. Our Guild is for writers of all media, and that’s important to consider as we move forward together in strength. In television, we are in a grand age, where writers are gaining more power than ever. We should be walking into the next AMPTP negotiation in the strongest position in history.
“But we’re not. Instead, over the last year, our Guild leadership has pursued a renegotiation of the AMBA with the ATA, a campaign that has been fruitless, costly, and threatens to be endless. The lack of transparency and accountability has been appalling. I was asked as many of you were, to vote YES so the Leadership would have leverage in negotiation. I did. Then they did not negotiate. I was told a lawsuit was a last resort. The decision to file was swift. I aired my concerns again and again, and again and again I was patted on the head and dismissed. It felt far too familiar. A new version of governance has swept the land, and this Leadership has conformed, using obfuscation and diversion to compel obedience from the membership. I believe that the campaign was, from the beginning, about jurisdiction over writers. But had that been stated openly and clearly, I think that would have been a worthwhile discussion. Instead, agents and agencies were vilified, used as a scapegoat for a bigger problem — our Guild has little to no role in the employment of writers. We should examine that and if elected, I commit to doing so.
“From the beginning, I was outspoken about the dangers of this campaign to women, people of color, and LGBTQIA writers, those that often need agents to advocate on their behalf just to get into the room. My pleas fell on deaf ears. I begged this leadership to reconsider, to present us with a plan that did not include firing our agents before staffing season. The leadership, many of whom were on overall deals (as I am), moved forward with the plan anyway. If the firings were necessary, we could have done it in June, right before development season, when the agencies would have lost out on potential new packages. Instead the membership — especially the younger membership, just breaking into the business — lost out on jobs. Showrunners asked me how to find writers of color or women because they “didn’t know anyone.” When these showrunners became frustrated, they hired their friends, maintaining the status quo. I have spoken to younger writers of color who are lost, not knowing where to send their scripts or how to make connections. They were told to hire managers. That’s not an answer. They were told this was being done for their futures. Potentially, if a great deal had been negotiated, that could have been so. But there has been little negotiation and there is currently no deal. Instead, time marches on, and the gains that our younger membership may have made under a deal remain potential. The next AMPTP deal is real, though. It is real, actual and direct to their pockets — and we cannot fail.”
“The absence of writers has not ended packaging. Packaging continues around us. Our task is to demand transparency and strengthen enforcement mechanisms from the previous AMBA — mechanisms we chose to ignore and have never discussed. If the ATA returns to the table with real proposals that profit everyone, we have a duty to consider them.”
“Recent events have foregrounded several important issues: our preparation for negotiations with the AMPTP in less than one year’s time; the fate of the mid-level writer in television; the future of residuals and profit participation in an ever more vertically integrated, streaming- driven world. The state of our negotiations with the ATA casts a long shadow over everything.
“That said, none of our concerns exists in a vacuum. They must be addressed in a larger context. We need a holistic, reality-driven strategy if we are to achieve real, bottom line gains.
“The WGA must do business differently. For the last ten years, we have adopted a piecemeal, confrontational and data-light approach that hasn’t served our interests. The 2007–2008 strike destroyed incalculable writer wealth, damaged the industry and yielded minimal gains that didn’t outweigh our losses. 100 days of effort was finally resolved by following the pattern set by the DGA, who did not strike. The threats of 2001 gave us PODs; the action of 2008 gave us a surge in reality TV.
“There are fewer originals and fewer OWAs than ever before. Studios and networks have learned how to mitigate our leverage and we are not strategically countering them the way we need to. Every year, they get better at it. In the last negotiation, we were forced into a rear-guard action that gave us span “protection” which now gives our employers the legal cover they need to reduce many writer-producers to guild minimums — some writers (those in teams) find themselves making less than these minimums.
“Since 2007, our employers have proposed rollbacks in some form at the start of every MBA negotiation. There is no reason to believe 2020 will be any different. This doesn’t happen to the DGA, and it’s time we ask ourselves why. It’s not because we’re victims, or disrespected as some would have us believe. It’s not because the directors have an “in” with the powers that be, and we are at their mercy. The answer is very simple: the DGA collects and analyzes real data about their membership’s earnings. They invest in consultants who pore through actual numbers (as opposed to WGA salary surveys) and project the future. The DGA doesn’t hide this information until the start of a labor negotiation kabuki. The DGA shares data with the studios and networks well in advance of negotiations. They engage directly. They win before the fight begins. The data-driven approach works. The WGA should emulate what works.
“Success in 2020 demands preparation. We need real, ground-truth overscale salary data in television. The AMPTP has this. The agencies have this. We do not. We must get it. The guild reports a nearly $10M budget surplus. Some of this money would be well spent on data collection, analysis and visualization. We should do what writers do best — craft a compelling story. Our story. A true story about the state of the business and the future of our membership.”
“I believe the system needs to be reformed, but not decimated. I believe in our ability as a union. With the right leadership and the right negotiators, we can reform our relationship with agents and get working writers a more equitable distribution of wealth. I believe we must focus on our health and pension fund, the lifeblood of membership, and not weaken our union with endless lawsuits that are paid for by member dues. And I know we have to focus on the AMPTP negotiations coming up in 2020, where our residuals, health and pension are going to be under attack by the Companies. These things are vital to all our members and must be protected in perpetuity.”
“We must prepare for our 2020 AMPTP MBA Negotiations. The long and the short of it is, I think we need our agents. We need to get back to the table. We have a momentous negotiation coming up with the AMPTP. Anyone who cannot see that we are barreling back towards a new old-fashioned studio system is not paying enough attention. But the studios now have new names. This backend that we’re fighting so hard for our agents not to have a part of? It’s disappearing. It’s already on its way out. The studios are offering money upfront to own a writer’s work entirely and in perpetuity. If this happens, in another two or three or five years, we will simply be employees; some better paid than others, but we will be owned. Our work can be streamed or sold, over and over again, within huge integrated platforms, and we will get nothing. That is the reality of what’s already happening.
“This next fight is an enormous, essential one. For the future of residuals and the concept of a backend. To say our agents’ interests are not aligned with ours isn’t good enough. We have to actively negotiate a real solution, so our interests are aligned. This is an opportunity to invest our time, energy and skill into reinventing our relationship with the agencies. To recognize we can use that relationship to build power and influence for all writers, instead of throwing away valuable potential allies when we need them. They need us to create the work. And we need them to defend our rights of ownership over that work and compensation for it, not just in the moment of creation, but for years to come. I believe what happens this year is going to change the course of writing as a career in Hollywood. We will either hold on to revenue from our work in content-distribution landscape that is changing profoundly and at a dizzying speed. Or we may lose our right to what we create, entirely and forever.
“I currently have a deal with an affiliate company, and while I like working with the players very much, I was surprised to find their involvement presented to me as a fait accompli when it came time to do my contract. That needs to be looked at. The affiliate companies need to be examined. Packaging needs to be reformed. But I know there is a deal to be made and made swiftly with the ATA that will redistribute wealth to all the writers who help create a successful television show, ensure an agency no longer claims a package on a show if the creator is let go, support the survival of a robust health and pension fund and lock us into a very powerful partnership to face the monumental negotiation ahead of us, with our agents as advocates at our sides.”
“I have been a proud WGA member for virtually the entirety of my adult life working in both film and television. Until April 13th, I had literary representation for an even longer period, spending four years with a boutique agency, followed by eleven years at one of the so-called “Big 4”. What that means is that I have seen firsthand the necessity for agents’ interests to be aligned with writers’ and the dangers incurred when that relationship is distorted. It is why I was grateful and optimistic over a year ago when our current leadership began a conversation about how to correct this.
“However, I have gradually become convinced that though this is unequivocally the right fight, it is being fought the wrong way. As David Goodman said, ‘The problem leadership identified has not gotten better — it has gotten worse. The fundamental goal of this campaign is to maximize writer income — not primarily for the most successful among us, but for our middle class.’ I agree; but, as we approach the beginning of our fifth month of this campaign, we are farther than ever from achieving that fundamental goal.
“Four months ago, agencies profited from packaging fees and ran affiliate production companies while providing literary representation services to their clients. Four months later, agencies still profit from packaging fees, they still run affiliate production companies and the only difference is that 7,000 some odd writers now no longer have access to their services — many shut out of agencies who never even engaged in these practices in the first place. The current leadership says this means we are winning. I disagree.
“Let me be clear. The action current leadership has taken, much to their credit, has shown our unified determination to fix the problem of conflicted agency practices and given us extraordinary leverage to secure a deal that benefits not only membership at large, but especially the most vulnerable writers among us.
I want to win this fight, but we cannot win a game we refuse to play.
“And make no mistake this is not a contest we can afford to forfeit. We cannot afford to forfeit access to the largest talent agencies on earth, which provide writers the connective tissue between the worlds, characters and stories they create and the actors, directors and producers who can help bring those words to life. We cannot afford to forfeit the benefits provided by effective representation. We cannot afford to forfeit our hard won position in television and that is precisely what is about to happen. The agencies are already reshaping the packaging fee structure to revolve around movie stars, filmmakers and IP. Who among us wishes to see the television business, for writers, more closely resemble what the feature business has already become? Certainly not me.
“Perhaps most importantly, we cannot afford to forfeit our sense of unity and shared purpose in the run up to the even more critical AMPTP talks that lie before us. The longer this fight goes on without an endgame in sight, the weaker we will be come spring for the very real battle ahead.
“This is a moment of tremendous opportunity for our guild, but also one of great peril. We have an opportunity within our grasp to reform the relationship between us and our agencies once and for all, to fully and fundamentally align their interests with our own. We have an opportunity to consolidate those gains and work together to forge a new MBA that does for the next generation of writers in the streaming era what the 1960 MBA did when it secured our membership what was then unheard of — residuals in the then-nascent narrative medium of television.
With fresh leadership, committed to reopening negotiations with the ATA as a starting point, I believe we can do all those things.”
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