EXCLUSIVE: Concussion and Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House writer-director Peter Landesman has gone public with his frustration following an email sent to WGA members by WGA West executive director David Young. Young excoriated “a histrionic, biased trade press” after Deadline and Variety revealed that Chris Keyser, the former WGA West president who is WGA-Agency Agreement Negotiating Committee co-chair, is about to take to buyers The State of Affairs, a packaged drama series set up with WME-affiliated studio Endeavor Content. It’s being shopped just as talks rekindle between ATA and WGA. Young excused Keyser’s move, despite the show creator starring in a WGA-sanctioned video on why the WGA held moral high ground in its fight with the agencies to eradicate interest-conflicted packaging and affiliated production companies.
This is the second time a writer has shared with Deadline their disagreement with WGA leadership’s handling of its dispute with ATA—Jon Robin Baitz was the first.
Here is Landesman’s direct response to Young’s email, and then the filmmaker comments below on why he chose to make it public here.
From: Peter Landesman
Agency Campaign Update: Optics
Date: June 1, 2019 at 8:36:26 AM PDT
To: David Young
CC: David Goodman
You are dead wrong about this. You of all people have made this about ideology and “power moves,” which means optics sure as shit matter. If you are leading the masses of this Guild on a crusade – remember, you’re the one who called this a “war” – leaving bodies and reputations and careers on the field, it sure as shit matters if leadership is having lunch with the other side. Lunch or a cup of coffee. If you despise packaging and affiliated companies (though I’m sure you’d be happy to take some of the spoils if offered the right amounts), because of what they represent (i.e. LOOK like), you and everyone who has put our careers and reputations at stake needs to be airtight. Err on the side of clarity. Sacrifice, just as you’re asking the middle classes of this Guild to sacrifice. If you want to split off affiliates, it’s an utterly absurd hypocrisy to justify continuing to work with and for them. You/we have no credibility. You/we are talking out both sides of the mouth. You/we look greedy and conveniently selective.
You bet optics matter. And this this looks shitty. Because it is. And it looks – and smells – worse every day.
You know why Keyser has that project going? You know why others do in similar ways (including me)? Because this so-called crusade is riven with hypocrisies and fraudulent positions, and overreach.
Said Landesman: “Young’s email provokes what had been a mostly internal debate to public scrutiny. His claim that the hypocrisy narrative is just Agency-patsy propaganda is manipulative, is itself propagandist, and sounds a lot like Trump’s crazy-making ‘fake news’ claims. Most of my friends are working writers and directors. I don’t know one who wasn’t enraged by that email. Why? Because while claiming to speak for us, and at us, it so blatantly performed acrobatic feats of hypocrisy. Its message was: ‘let them eat cake.’ And: ‘As a Board member and NegComm member let me keep my stuff going, without cessation, with the so-called declared “enemy” (their rhetoric not mine), with the very entity the Guild has targeted as part of a racketeering mechanism.’ Meanwhile, all of us writers – those who are happy with their representation and those who are not – are stuck, or nervous. Some may have discovered they don’t want or need agents, or want different ones. Okay, then. Great, it’s a free country. But then don’t lecture us on solidarity and then go make hay off the back of the so-called Agency conflict of interest you’ve declared illegal, immoral and other exaggerated claims.
“I don’t like sticking my head up like this. It doesn’t feel good. But staying silent while this crap goes on and on – in our names – feels worse. I used to be a journalist. I used to spend a lot of time around authoritarian governments and autocracies. Those leaders would tell their people the communist movement was about a great leveling, about fairness, and protecting the workaday common man. Across the board, those guys didn’t live in one of those giant communist-era apartment blocs. They lived in mansions. They drove big – probably American – cars. They ate well. Everyone suffered but them.
“The stakes are far lower, but someone please tell me how that analogy does not apply,” Landesman told Deadline.
Deadline is awaiting WGA response and will update the story if it materializes.