More than 100 WGA members attended a meet-and-greet today with opposition leader Phyllis Nagy and members of her slate of candidates in the guild’s officer and board elections. The meeting, which was held at the London West Hollywood hotel, was the first in a series of Sunday meetings Nagy’s slate – Writers for Negotiation – has scheduled through August. Joining Nagy at the event were running mates Nick Jones, Jr., running for secretary-treasurer, and board candidates Rasheed Newson, Jason Fuchs, Sarah Treem and Ashley Miller.
“Our first meet-and-greet was a success because we did what we set out to do: answer questions from WGA members,” Nagy told Deadline. “Nick, Sarah, Jason, Rasheed, Ashley, and I met with a range of people – feature film writers, television writers, those who are at the very beginning of their careers, and others who have decades of experience. I was especially pleased that the majority of people came prepared to discuss and engage about the issues facing our guild. They were curious about who we are and what our leadership represents. They asked tough questions and we answered them. This is the beginning of our grassroots effort and we look forward to continuing the discourse about the future of the WGA.”
Graham Moore, Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Imitation Game and one of the organizers of today’s meeting, said that “This is an election with the very future of our Guild at stake. I believe that current leadership’s strategy has failed and will continue failing, sending the Guild I love barreling toward disaster. Gathering together so many thoughtful writers and talking honestly about which strategy will produce the greatest benefit for the most writers feels like a pretty invigorating way to spend a Sunday. No matter where people eventually fall on the issues everyone who came left better informed than when they arrived, myself included.”
Moore was one of the original 300 writers who endorsed Nagy and her slate.
“It’s an unusual election,” Newson told Deadline after the meeting. “Usually, you get 20 board candidates and they all agree on the top five issues. But this time, you’ve got substantive differences. I expect voter turnout to be up, and I can tell you for sure, the voters are engaged. My hope is that ultimately, that will be good for the guild.”
Nagy’s opposition slate wants the guild to return to the bargaining table with the Association of Talent Agents to see if an agreement can be reached to settle the four-month standoff over packaging fees and agency affiliations with related production entities. On April 13, the guild ordered all of its members to fire their agents who refuse to sign its Code of Conduct. At last count, more than 7,000 writers fired their agents, although the Big Four talent agencies — CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners — remain united in their opposition to the guild’s terms. Only three mid-sized agencies — Verve, Buchwald and Kaplan Stahler — have signed with the guild.
“It was a good meeting,” Newson said. “We had a large group of people who agreed with us and a large group who disagreed with us, and we took the time to really hash out the issues. My goal wasn’t to change everyone’s mind. It was to let them know where I stand. I’m for returning to the negotiating table.”
Ballots won’t be counted until September 16, and four independent board candidates have already dropped out of the race and thrown they support to WGA West president David A. Goodman and the guild’s leadership. Craig Mazin, Nagy’s vice presidential running mate, also dropped out due to a medical issue with an immediate family member.
Goodman and his team are the clear frontrunners, but “Nobody’s dropping out of this,” said a source close to Nagy’s slate. “People can vote for them or not, but they feel compelled to speak up because there is so much at stake for the future of the guild.”