Tonight at the WGA Awards, WGAW President David A. Goodman addressed the elephant in the room: Concerns of a possible strike as WGA talks approach with the AMPTP. At the same time he praised the progress that the guild has made in hammering out franchise agreements with several agencies.
And as far as the big 4 holdouts?
“Most of them have said repeatedly directly to me that they want to make a deal. So we continue to our endgame: all our representatives, unconflicted, working for their clients,” exclaimed Goodman on the WGA’s showdown with the ATA.
Goodman shared a story with the crowd in the Beverly Hilton ballroom how an executive he was on the phone with recently had to cut their conversation short because he had to go prepare for a possible strike. “The town has already lost its mind,” said the WGAW President. Goodman reminded the guy, who he called ‘Jim’ for the crowd, that the guild hadn’t gone on strike; that negotiations hadn’t even started.
“Everyone seem to think a strike is happening, in part it’s an effort by our employers…to force and calm everyone down and say we won’t, and thus give up our greatest leverage,” Goodman told the crowd, “Well, I’m not going to say that.”
“It’s dangerously naïve to think that a strike is never necessary” exclaimed Goodman.
“I’ll point out that 30% of the nominees tonight are working on shows and features that wouldn’t be covered work if hadn’t gone on strike in 2007,” he continued to great cheers.
“Whatever road we decide to take, I do know that as tired as we are of the struggle, and no one is more tired than I am, because we used our strength and made a huge change in how the whole town does business. And because we’ve show in the past we’re ready for a necessary fight, we’re going into negotiations in a very strong position,” said Goodman.
“People ask me if I worry. Well, I take some comfort from this quote from Civil Rights leader Ella Baker, who said, ‘Strong people do not need strong leaders’. So, I’m not worried because you guys got this.”
Earlier in his speech to members tonight, Goodman called attention to the board’s diversity.
“We’ll often put up with employers who undervalue, discriminate and in some cases abuse us. As a group in the current political age, writers expect the guild to address these inequities and injustices. Our board’s current make-up reflects this. When I was first elected to the board in 2006, it was entirely white and there were only two women. This year, there’s five people of color, and there are nine women – they outnumber the men.”
Goodman also applauded the guild’s progress with agencies agreeing to the WGA’s franchise agreement:
Writers understand that sometimes sacrifice is necessary. Last year we shined the light on corrupt practices of the talent agencies. When presented with the facts, the overwhelming majority of writers wanted to take action. It took longer than we thought, but almost everything we said would happen has happened. We challenged agency packaging fees that everyone in the business hated for decades, but were afraid to take on. But we said we want this fixed, and we’re fixing it.”
Last Wednesday, both the WGA East and West sent members the 2020 MBA Pattern Of Demands ahead of the current Minimum Basic Agreement’s May 1 expiration date and urge members to approve the set of demands by voting yes. Along with a broad list of issues the WGA had been expected to pursue that closely mirror the guild’s 2017 Pattern (including more profit participations from streaming), one demand that the WGA wants it members to sign off on is to “require signatory companies to negotiate only with agents franchised by the WGA.” That point could trigger a strike by demanding that the major studios and production companies take the guild’s side in its ongoing battle with the major talent agencies. Management’s AMPTP flatly rejected a similar proposal last year over concerns that a group boycott of the talent agencies would subject the companies to a substantial risk of liability for antitrust violation.
Deadline asked Goodman tonight about the rationale behind that point in the Pattern of Demands and he provided no comment. Talking to various writers tonight, many of them had yet to digest the Pattern of Demands.
Watchmen creator Damon Lindelof was among those few who had read the Pattern and had made up their mind: “I just voted yes,” he told Deadline. “It was not specific, it was more of a philosophical Pattern of Demands.”
In regards to the part about studios not doing business with non-franchised agents, Lindelof said “I did see that. I completely and totally support the current action and the leadership and I really hope we can reach an agreement with the agencies.”