Screenwriter Jason Fuchs has a message for Oscar-winning screenwriter Adam McKay: “Dissent is not disloyalty.” Fuchs, who’s running for the WGA board as opposition leader Phyllis Nagy’s running mate, took issue with McKay’s recent statement that opponents of the guild’s leadership should not be making public comments in opposition to the guild’s four-month standoff with Hollywood’s talent agents.
“The WGA is a union,” McKay tweeted the other day. “The whole reason they call a ‘union’ a union is because our strength comes entirely from staying united. If members disagree that’s fine, but it should stay in house. Seems pretty basic but a few people seem to have forgotten.”
“When he refers to ‘a few people,’ to be clear, he’s talking about me,” Fuchs said in a statement posted on the opposition slate’s website. “He’s talking about Phyllis Nagy who is running for president. He’s talking about Nick Jones Jr. who’s running for treasurer. He’s talking about all seven of my slate mates who have volunteered their time and energy to advocate for, to work on behalf of, to protect a Guild they dearly love. He’s talking about the almost 500 writers – so far – who signed Phyllis’s July 26th open letter to membership. And what Adam is saying to them, to me, to all of us is…Shut up. Disagree! By all means, disagree, but just don’t do it too loudly. Propose a different strategy! Offer your contrary ideas, of course, but speak them in hushed tones.”
“I’ve never met Adam McKay,” he wrote, “but I have tremendous respect for him as a filmmaker, as a writer and as a colleague in this industry we are all so lucky to work in together. Adam’s extraordinary body of work has shown audiences his uniquely incisive political mind and films like Vice captivatingly illustrate the dangers inherent when leaders, even duly elected ones, operate without that essential guardrail of democracy we call dissent. That’s why I was so surprised by his statement last night on Twitter.”
“Well, I have good news and bad news for Adam,” said Fuchs, whose credits include Wonder Woman and Ice Age: Continental Drift. “The good news? I’m not a yeller, so, you won’t have to worry about me being too loud. The bad news? I’m not so great at whispering either, especially when it comes to speaking my mind; to being true to my conscience.
“So, here is what will happen. I – and my fellow candidates – will continue to offer what we believe are the best ideas we can offer to benefit all our fellow members. We are going to offer those ideas in measured, respectful tones…But, I assure you, you will hear us.
“And here’s the great news. If members like what we have to say? Our candidates will do pretty well in September. If members don’t like our ideas? We’ll do pretty poorly. That’s how a democratic union works. Of course, our unity is our source of strength, but – as board member John August rightly noted – unity and unanimity are two very different things.”
“To be clear,” Fuchs wrote, “we are loyal union members, and it is because of that deep loyalty, we are compelled, duty bound even, to point out a strategy that is failing and to pivot to a solution that secures the best deal for writers.
“And make no mistake, the current approach of our WGAW leadership is a failing strategy. Negotiating with small and mid-size agencies – most of which don’t even package – does nothing to put pressure on the Big 4 and this strategy is exactly the reason for this long and pointless stalemate. It does nothing to raise writers’ incomes, nor does it modify (or eliminate) packaging or affiliate production. All this strategy does is move writers out of the Big 4, which decreases our clout and power and hands it to directors, actors, and non-writing executive producers, who can still be repped there.
“Leadership believes that we have all the leverage, that packages will always center around writers, but more and more often since our action, they already don’t. Directors, actors and intellectual property holders are rapidly becoming the center of more packages because, unintentionally, the Guild’s strategy has put in motion market forces that are diminishing the clout of writers in the marketplace, even on their own projects.
“Shows will always need writers, leadership has assured us. Well, of course, no rational person could question that, but – at the same time – that does not assure us that writers will enjoy the same power and primacy they have fought tooth and nail to secure in the television space. If a writer is the last element brought onto a show which is already sold and packaged, that dilutes their power as a creator and lets others drive the vision of the show. As someone who works primarily in features, I can only say look to our humbling experiences in the open writing assignment space to see our collective television future unless we change course.”
“Moreover, the idea that the 70-80% of agent-repped working writers who were repped at the Big 4 will just be forced to go to nine smaller agencies, and that will be defined as a success, or in any way exert real leverage over the Big 4, is being disproved right now. Some writers are already being displaced from agencies like Verve in favor of ‘bigger’ writers who’ve left the Big 4. We are watching, in real time, the failure of leadership’s current ‘negotiating’ strategy to do ANY of the things we were promised. No impact on packaging. No impact on affiliate production. No impact on working writers’ median wages.
“If this is leadership’s idea of a successful negotiation with the agencies, I shudder to think of their idea of success in the even more critical upcoming negotiations with the AMPTP.
“So what should we do? What is the plan? Let me be clear on what we are proposing. If elected, we will get in a room with the entire Association of Talent Agents and be willing to use all the options at our disposal to actively negotiate – that includes any combination of litigation, eliminating packaging as a practice, revenue sharing, tying writer compensation to packaging rates, sunsetting affiliate production, and more. All of these things will be potential tools.
“Current leadership is taking an all-or-nothing approach that precludes us from any deal at all. They are caught up in an ideological war, but ideas aren’t action and now, more than ever, action is what is required of our leaders. We will look realistically at market forces – not to compromise or concede – but to get the best deal possible for writers.
“Our goal: more money for rank and file writers and a realignment of agencies’ incentives to mean that they never make more unless we do. That’s how we’re different from current leadership. They want to continue with a strategy that’s not working. We want to get in a room and do the hard work of negotiating a real agreement, using all the tools that they have chosen not to. We want to get this done, swiftly and fairly and with the interests of writers front and center. It’s time to move forward together.”
“The union votes and whatever action is chosen should be supported publicly 100%,” McKay wrote. “Anyone publicly undermining that ‘unified’ action is acting against the union. It’s pretty simple. When people join a union they choose to unite under its collective position, so speaking against that position publicly kind of defeats the purpose, no? If they’re free to do that, I’m free to say it’s shitty.”