The opposition of WGA West, led by presidential candidate Phyllis Nagy, argues for a new direction for the guild in the WGA fight against talent agents. One of their common beliefs is that the stalemate – which is 105 years old – threatens to undermine the guild's solidarity in negotiating with the AMPTP of management over a new film and television deal next year. They also agree that the current fight benefits the richest and most powerful members of the guild, while the "most vulnerable" members of the guild have the most needs.
The plan is Craig Mazin, who is running for the vice-president; Nick Jones Jr., running for the 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 authors, from aspiring to superstar showrunners who have signed an open letter supporting Nagy and her running mates & Greg Berlanti Among more than 300 writers offering the WGAW election offer supporting a letter of support from Phyllis Nagy
Below are excerpts from statements made by Slate candidates. Their full statements can be read here:
"I am a loyal guild member with questions and concerns. To address the elephant in the room ̵
"It is clear that a reform of packaging practices and the collection of packaging fees and the elimination of conflicts of interest between agencies are required. The present leadership has brought these problems to light, and we should all be grateful for that. Writers deserve and should demand complete transparency from their representatives, and any representative who does not agree with this rationale should not represent us. Point.
"But I also believe that a negotiated agreement to unlock a new income stream for the benefit of the most vulnerable members of our guild instead of our richest and most successful members is the only sensible way.
"We do not have a solution with stalemates, firm thinking, trust in legal disputes that may or may not be settled after years of litigation in our favor, and the refusal to talk to the other side. I am convinced of that.
"The leadership has demanded of membership, victims & # 39 ;. The leadership has told us that some of us will "suffer". These are the necessary conditions to progress. This is an absolutely acceptable rhetoric in a strike. There is no question that then we will be at the head of sacrifice and suffering. However, this is not a strike, and the most vulnerable of us – newer members, women, people of skin color, LGBTQ … in short, anyone who does not have a lucrative overall contract or no contracts for fat functions – are indeed the brunt of the suffering and sacrifice.
"We are therefore committed to working with the authorities quickly, efficiently and fairly to resolve this action before careers disappear. And they will, believe me – unless we unite to bring our agents to account for abusive practices and to make real financial gains for those members who need it most. United, we can do it.
"We will need this unity in the pivotal AMPTP MBA negotiations next year as the battle for residuals on all platforms decides how to survive as authors in this business.
"It is the most important battle in which we will fight for our future revenues. And we can not succeed in this fight unless we focus on preparing for it. We need to build healthy relationships with both the DGA and the SAG AFTRA to address this key problem wisely. "
" I run for the Vice President because I love my union I work on As a continuation of my many years of service to the Guild, I have every reason to believe that we are a number of more critical and dangerous Negotiations with AMPTP, and I strongly believe that our current struggle with talent agencies is justified and appropriate.
"I also run because our current leadership, while excellent at starting this fight and organizing our membership, has failed to win it. In the coming weeks I will be discussing possible ideas on how to win this fight … although I believe that my actual willingness to enter the ring and trade with the Big Four agencies has already set me apart from many established companies ,
"I also reflect on our upcoming struggle to redefine residuals, the shortcomings of our union in the field of MBA enforcement, and the ongoing struggles of our underserved and overburdened feature writers. No matter what problems I see, my goal is singular.
"Let us put our most vulnerable members first, we can not pursue solutions that make the rich richer, we can not demand concessions that will ease the lives of the authors a little big income differentials, and because of the company's integration and consolidation, it gets worse if we do not work as a union to take care of the most needy. "
" Who are the writers who deserve scale or scale? " strive to diversify our members and to attract members who resemble the public we serve, this means that our most vulnerable writers include more women, color authors, disabled writers, and LGBTQ + writers. "It's the height of hypocrisy, To demand from these writers that doors be opened to them by their individual daily Forcibly separate advocates as they enter.
"That's why we have to put up with the agents. Put these authors first. I agree with many in the current leadership who consider it morally questionable to take money from a corrupt system … but I only agree as far as the money is thrown back to writers who do not need it.
"I'm not over being Robin Hood. Not in the least. To that end, I'm proud to endorse a diverse group of writers who bring a mix of years of guild experience and fresh, creative inspiration and perspectives. I do not think our leadership should be monolithic. Our board was once a place for fierce debates and careful testing of ideas. It did not paralyze us at the time and will not do it now. It has strengthened our consensus, forced it to take unintended consequences into account, and has served our democracy better. I hope that I and the candidates I support will have the opportunity to work with the established members of the Governing Body to make our strong union even stronger.
Nick Jones Jr.:
"The WGA-ATA conflict is one of the biggest single challenges we faced as a union – and it is likely to fade as compared to the challenges ahead of the upcoming AMPTP negotiations in 2020. We must embrace this kind of campaign with the courage to stand up for our principles, but also with the awareness of the harm that such struggles can do to those of us whose careers are most vulnerable. When this damage begins to grow at alarming rates, with no prospect of relief; when we find our strategies and tactics that make us more isolated in the creative community than before; and if the cleavage within the guild is at an all-time high, something has to change.
"My interest in the position and purpose of my candidacy is to create a greater sense of diversity and to create a place for unrepresented voices, the WGA leadership. I agree with the beliefs of my colleagues Phyllis Nagy and Craig Mazin, with whom I collaborate. Our priority is to vigorously pursue policies that aggressively drive positive change – getting authors to work, combating racial and gender-based discrimination, and tackling equal pay issues. But also to find new solutions to complex and fast-growing problems. both meaningfully reforming the guild's relationship with the agencies, as well as repairing broken relationships with agents; to give a voice to under-represented elements within the membership while finding new ways to ensure that we can still speak as one, a single voice and a concerted interest, rather than being plagued by the kinds of divisions that are created we fear today] "I think good leadership encourages people to speak out and get involved, so that your voice is always the basis for decision-making. We can only master this current challenge together.
"We need to prepare for our 2020 AMPTP MBA negotiations. In just six months, our guild will face negotiations that will determine the rest of our career. Unlike the DGA, which has invested heavily in researching business trends, we have not heard from our union about efforts to gather data on issues critical to the vast majority of its members. We have to prepare for what lies ahead. If we do not do research, we do not even know what to fight for.
"Our world is changing rapidly. Disney +, Netflix, Amazon and others make remnants of the past. Unless we focus on practical issues – such as residuals, casualties, family vacations, etc. – those of us who do not have nine-digit total contracts will ask why our incomes have been cut in half and where our green envelopes are gone.
"I support negotiations. Packaging and affiliate production are serious issues that need to be addressed. However, I believe that instead of waiting for the resolution of a year-long dispute, we can and should negotiate with the ATA for the best possible deal.
"Very few writers ever see a meaningful backend. The few lucky ones who do this would definitely earn more money on the profit sharing without the agency's packaging fees. However, there is no evidence that giving up on packaging for the rest of us would result in higher salaries. It's also not clear that more of us would get jobs without packaging. If we manage to end the practice of agency packaging, the savings will go back to the studios. Who wants to make bets if they pass this money on to us?
"Accordingly, we must return to the table and negotiate a deal that maximizes transparency, choice, and ensures that all authors, not just the lucky few, are a piece of the pie.
"Feature writers have the short end of the staff. The concerns of feature writers are often very different from those of TV writers. Feature writers pay a contribution of 1.5% of every dollar they earn. Producer-level TV writers can not pay more than the WGA minimum. This means that a surprisingly well-paid showrunner could pay less than a medium-sized feature writer. This inequality has a negative impact on us all. We all have to pay our fair share to keep our health insurance and pension fund alive.
"I am not ethically impaired. Regardless of whether or not it is a technical breach of the rules, it is a strategic mistake for one of the Chairmen of the Negotiating Committee to instruct us to dismiss our agents as the production of packaging is punishable and violates antitrust laws months later to sell a wrapped Endeavor content show. If I am elected to the Board, I promise to avoid such hypocrisy. "
" When I was on the board, I supported every action that David Young suggested, got involved 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 dangerous.
"There are serious problems here – practices and abuses of authorities that need to be addressed and remedied. You need to. But we are in an unexplored field, and (inevitably) there are unintended consequences – consequences that are uneven for our members. Therefore, I have great concerns about the way the Guild has proceeded and, in particular, the impact of this situation on our solidarity.
Many writers have voted for the concept of a CoC to give bargaining power to the guild – not empowering it to disrupt or destroy the business. But the guild did not negotiate.
"This is not a strike. It does not affect all authors alike. Some of us have a total of offers. Some have a job in the row and can work for months or years – they do not need agents at the moment. Others have no work, need their agents and feel stranded, without guidance or recourse.
"The most seriously injured are members whose careers are most vulnerable: women writers and those who recently joined the guild. We need an agreement that will help the working writers and the most vulnerable. We should not wait for an agreement that benefits the showrunners in the first place. Yes, we've got hypotheses about how this action (if it achieves a complete victory) puts money in the pockets of working writers. Could be. However, these are theories based on predictions about the future behavior of studios, networks and agencies. Personally, I can not predict what businesses will do, and I do not think we should jeopardize people's careers if we do not know – do not know – what the future will bring.
"The spirit of these negotiations was also worrying. The WGA has demonized all agents and ignored or vilified the value agents who were (and have been) in the careers of many of us. Yes, agency practices need to be addressed and abuses eliminated. But insisting that agents and agencies are "the enemy" will not do that. It's largely untrue, needlessly offensive and a terrible strategy.
"You can not agree with me here. That's alright … and it's symptomatic: in this action, every author feels and reacts differently … and that's what keeps me busy. that has broken the guild. The fracture will only get worse the longer it takes, and there is no end in sight. And. And if there is not a solution soon, the impact on the WGA is potentially catastrophic.
"In a strike in which we are not all working, our membership has always been – fabulous, admirable, except for a few scratches and cowards – united. We went the lines and held the lines together, finding strength and camaraderie. That is different. Because we do not suffer in the same way here and because these actions are taken not against our employers (networks, studios) but against our creative partners (agents), some authors may soon feel that they have to choose between their families and their guild , Nobody should have to make that choice.
"And this action could not have come at a worse time. We have serious contract issues with the AMPTP in 2020. Disney threatens to look for the remaining remains. other studios could follow. Netflix uses de facto buyouts instead of residuals. We need to address these issues directly, protect what we have and demand that the backlog for streaming be improved. The money for this is huge (hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars) and these problems affect us all (television and screen alike) and should all unite us. At the moment, we undermine our unity and jeopardize our ability to lead that fight. If we go to the year 2020, crippled by the consequences of our present action, the wound will inflict itself and the companies will feed on our remnants.
"So. Two Main Issues:
1. In the face of the damage already done, free yourself from the current chaos with the best available offer. We need to make significant improvements over previous practices.
2. Prepare for negotiations with the AMPTP for 2020.
Apart from that, everything else fades. "
" In the last ten years, I've spent a lot of time in the rooms of television writers, and was there listening to coders discussing the challenges facing working writers – shorter TV seasons; incriminating exclusivity clauses; a streaming model that decimates residuals; and the gradual extinction of medium-sized television authors, etc. In all this time, I can not remember that packaging fees were on the list of major problems.
"Despite the threats that are looming on the horizon, our guild looks into the past. We have the biggest work disruption since the 2007-2008 strike under a 1976 agreement. We are essentially in a crusade that would have made perfect sense by 1982.
"Why are we doing this? I think that's because our current leadership does not know what to do with the emerging business models that threaten our collective financial future. So they are sacrificing time and money and goodwill in a protracted attack on an old business practice, the authors and agents who have been awake for over 40 years.
"Our guild leads the wrong war. And we do not even fight it that much. We need to resume talks with the ATA and negotiate an agreement that maximizes the distribution of packaging revenues, transparency, choice and protection for unpackaged authors.
"In preparation for AMPTP negotiations, we must spend time and money to collect legitimate data about the ATA business development of our members. No anecdotal "evidence" anymore. No more essays. We need numbers. It's not enough to say staffing was a success because all the shows were filled. How many medium-sized authors have been hired this season? Is this up or down from last year or from five years ago? How many women were hired? How many color authors have been set? How are these numbers back in fashion? The guild tells us how many people made money in a given year, but more useful statistics would further break that down: how many authors have earned less than $ 50,000? Less than $ 100,000? And so on.
"The capture of such data should not take years. We also do not have to comb agent contracts to get it. Showrunners could report this information to the guild. They make the hiring decisions; Show us your rooms.
"With regard to Showrunner, the guild needs to be more open about their hiring practices. Imagine, a few weeks after the season, each guild showrunner would have to report to the guild about their staff's demographics: at what levels did they set, how many women (and at what levels), how many color authors (and at what levels) ), how many LGBT + writers (and at what levels). Now, take this information from show to show and release it (not years later, but early June after the end of the season), and the revelation (yes, the fear of embarrassment or backlash) could well increase the diversity numbers.  "I say, let's try, because nothing else has done much to improve the diversity figures for the past generation. And if you're wondering if the guild can force Showrunner to divulge such information, remember that the Guild has just forced every scribe with an agent to fire his agent. If this is possible for 7,000 simple members, show runners can be made to disclose the demographics of the people they hire. Indeed, one may wonder why the guild has not only ordered showrunners and doers to refuse to pack their shows under the threat of Rule 23. But I try not to deal with the past. Lets move on.
"For the past nineteen years, along with my wife and brothers, I have been a proud member of the Writers Guild of America. My youngest daughter literally grew up on the picket line when my wife and I pushed her into her stroller in just three weeks. Still, I was less involved in the guild than I want to admit. Politics is out of my comfort zone and I have long resisted raising my hand and risking being noticed. But our guild now faces problems where we all have to get up from the bench and come into play. And so I make myself comfortable.
"These problems are complex and diverse, requiring differentiated and differentiated solutions. The challenges we face are significant, but there are opportunities in the process. With the right leadership, not only can we overcome the hurdles that we are currently facing, we can – and we must – position our union for tomorrow and not just solve the problems of yesterday.
"The phasing out of the WGA Underground Cinema and Television Agreement 2017 is just around the proverbial corner. The next AMPTP negotiation will take place at a time when feature writers are benefiting from one-step deals and television writers are putting pressure on their revenues through short-term contracts. Meanwhile, the proliferation of streaming services threatens the existence of the residual system for which our union has fought and sacrificed so much. Make no mistake: these upcoming negotiations will determine the course of our union for the rest of our career.
"And yet we are absolutely unprepared for them. There is no indication that we intend to change our normal strategy of threatening strikes and hoping for the best. No army would go to war with a single nuclear bomb instead of tanks and soldiers, but we do that every three years. We need a better strategy. To put it bluntly, a strike threat is a powerful and critical source of leverage. But for too long, it was our only leverage and therefore our only tactic.
"As long as I'm a member of the Guild, I've heard the message we can not rely on. DGA and SAG are asking for support – that either our interests were not reconciled or their membership was weak – but the reason Why we did not work with our sibling unions is that we did not try hard. Although it is generally acknowledged that the DGA is merely surrendering, there is an opposite line of thinking that says they actually make valuable profits in the negotiations because they do not enter the bargaining process to burn down the city. At least, it's worth questioning the assumptions we've worked with over the past two decades. Doing the same thing and expect another result is the definition of network television. Um, I mean madness.
"Even more worrying is the fact that the AMPTP negotiations are imminent, while we are already conducting a two-front war – litigation before state and federal courts – against the ATA.
I have heard that the agency campaign has strengthened the solidarity of the members and strengthened us in these negotiations, but I have my doubts. Firstly, 95% of the members voted in favor of the agency campaign to give our negotiating committee the leverage to negotiate – just to see that leverage is wasted by voluntary withdrawal from the negotiating table.
"To put it bluntly: we have to address the conflicts of interest in packaging and related production. But the belief that we can do this without negotiating with the ATA is naive at best. Equally naïve is the idea that the two lawsuits we are in will provide a way out. I used to be a litigation attorney and I saw firsthand the limitations of our legal system (and that was more than two years ago when Trump was called to the Bundesbank). Even in the rare cases where justice is practiced, it takes years for this to be achieved. In the meantime, we charge attorneys' fees, which will cost tens of millions of dollars without any end in sight.
"As I said earlier, the issues we face require differentiated solutions. It is not nuanced to simply brand our agents as villains. Our solidarity brought the agencies to the negotiating table. We must hurry back there and work out a deal that reconciles our interests with those of our representatives. I do not believe that for a moment we are not smart enough to work out the negotiating solution the majority of members wanted.
"At the same time, we need to resume these talks with a focus on the future. The ill-fated negotiations focused almost exclusively on splitting back-end gains – just at a time when back-end gains are being eliminated. Do not get me wrong, I am in favor of sharing the revenue, but I am also in favor of negotiating for the future, so that we will not only wage yesterday's battles.
] "Writers have never received the respect we deserve in this industry. We are not on the front pages of magazines, we do not (usually) wear red carpet designers, and we are often pushed aside or knocked out at the conclusion of a deal. This applies to both television and film, but our scriptwriter membership is more likely to suffer from requests for free rewriting, late or missing pay, and credit theft at the highest level. Our guild is aimed at authors of all media. This is important to achieve progress together. On television, we are in a great age where writers are gaining more power than ever before. We should move into the next AMPTP negotiation in the strongest position in history.
"But we are not, and instead, our guild leadership has been seeking a renegotiation of the AMBA with the ATA over the past year, a campaign that threatens to be ineffective, costly, and endless." The lack of transparency and accountability was appalling how many of you asked to vote YES so that the leadership influences the negotiations I did Then they did not negotiate I was told that a lawsuit was the last resort The decision to file was quick I always said wieder meine Bedenken und wurde immer wieder auf den Kopf geklopft und entlassen. Es kam mir viel zu vertraut vor. Eine neue Version der Regierungsführung hat das Land erobert, und diese Führung hat sich angepasst und dabei Verschleierung und Ablenkung eingesetzt, um den Gehorsam gegenüber der Mitgliedschaft zu erzwingen. Ich glaube, bei der Kampagne ging es von Anfang an um die Zuständigkeit gegenüber Schriftstellern. Aber wenn das offen und deutlich gesagt worden wäre, wäre das meiner Meinung nach eine lohnende Diskussion gewesen. Stattdessen wurden Agenten und Agenturen verunglimpft und als Sündenbock für ein größeres Problem eingesetzt – unsere Gilde spielt bei der Beschäftigung von Schriftstellern keine oder nur eine geringe Rolle. Wir sollten das prüfen, und wenn wir gewählt werden, verpflichte ich mich dazu.
„Von Anfang an war ich offen über die Gefahren dieser Kampagne für Frauen, Farbige und LGBTQIA-Verfasser, die oft Vertreter benötigen ihr Auftrag, nur um in den Raum zu kommen. Meine Bitten stießen auf taube Ohren. Ich bat diese Führung, es noch einmal zu überdenken und uns einen Plan vorzulegen, der keine Entlassung unserer Agenten vor der Staffel vorsah. Die Führung, von denen viele (wie ich) im Rahmen von Gesamtgeschäften tätig waren, hat den Plan trotzdem vorangetrieben. Wenn die Entlassungen notwendig gewesen wären, hätten wir es im Juni, kurz vor der Entwicklungssaison, tun können, wenn die Agenturen potenzielle neue Pakete verloren hätten. Stattdessen verlor die Mitgliedschaft – insbesondere die jüngere, die gerade in das Geschäft einbrach – an Arbeitsplätzen. Die Showrunner fragten mich, wie sie Schriftsteller von Farbe oder Frauen finden könnten, weil sie "niemanden kannten". Als diese Showrunner frustriert wurden, stellten sie ihre Freunde ein, um den Status Quo beizubehalten. Ich habe mit jüngeren Farbautoren gesprochen, die nicht mehr wissen, wohin sie ihre Skripte senden sollen oder wie sie Verbindungen herstellen sollen. Man sagte ihnen, sie sollten Manager einstellen. Das ist keine Antwort. Ihnen wurde gesagt, dass dies für ihre Zukunft getan wurde. Wenn viel verhandelt worden wäre, hätte das möglicherweise so sein können. Es wurde jedoch nur wenig verhandelt, und derzeit gibt es keine Einigung. Stattdessen schreitet die Zeit voran und die Gewinne, die unsere jüngeren Mitglieder im Rahmen eines Deals erzielt haben, bleiben potenziell. Der nächste AMPTP-Deal ist jedoch real. Es ist real, aktuell und direkt in ihrer Tasche – und wir können nicht scheitern. “
„ Die Abwesenheit von Schriftstellern hat die Verpackung nicht beendet. Die Verpackung geht um uns herum weiter. Unsere Aufgabe ist es, Transparenz zu fordern und die Durchsetzungsmechanismen gegenüber den früheren AMBA-Mechanismen zu stärken – Mechanismen, die wir ignoriert haben und die wir noch nie besprochen haben. Wenn der ATA mit echten Vorschlägen an den Tisch zurückkehrt, von denen jeder profitiert, müssen wir sie berücksichtigen. “
das Schicksal des Mittelklasseschreibers im Fernsehen; die Zukunft der Residuen und der Gewinnbeteiligung in einer immer vertikaler integrierten, von Streaming getriebenen Welt. Der Stand unserer Verhandlungen mit der ATA wirft einen langen Schatten auf alles.
„Allerdings besteht keines unserer Anliegen im luftleeren Raum. Sie müssen in einem größeren Zusammenhang angesprochen werden. Wir brauchen eine ganzheitliche, realitätsbezogene Strategie, um echte Gewinne zu erzielen.
„Die WGA muss anders handeln. In den letzten zehn Jahren haben wir einen schrittweisen, konfrontativen und datenarmen Ansatz gewählt, der unseren Interessen nicht entsprochen hat. Der Streik von 2007–2008 zerstörte den unberechenbaren Schriftstellerreichtum, beschädigte die Branche und führte zu minimalen Gewinnen, die unsere Verluste nicht aufwogen. 100 Tage Anstrengung wurden endlich gelöst, indem man dem Muster der DGA folgte, die nicht zuschlug. Die Bedrohungen von 2001 gaben uns PODs; Die Aktion von 2008 gab uns einen Schub im Reality-Fernsehen.
„Es gibt weniger Originale und weniger OWAs als je zuvor. Studios und Netzwerke haben gelernt, unsere Hebelwirkung zu verringern, und wir begegnen ihnen nicht strategisch so, wie wir es brauchen. Jedes Jahr werden sie besser darin. In der letzten Verhandlung wurden wir zu einer Nachhut gezwungen, die uns einen umfassenden "Schutz" gewährte, der unseren Arbeitgebern jetzt die rechtliche Deckung gibt, die sie benötigen, um viele Autoren-Produzenten auf das Minimum der Gilde zu reduzieren – manche Autoren (die in Teams) befinden sich weniger als dieses Minimum zu erreichen.
„Seit 2007 haben unsere Arbeitgeber zu Beginn jeder MBA-Verhandlung Rollbacks in irgendeiner Form vorgeschlagen. Es gibt keinen Grund zu der Annahme, dass 2020 anders sein wird. Dies passiert der DGA nicht, und es ist an der Zeit, uns zu fragen, warum. Es liegt nicht daran, dass wir Opfer sind oder nicht respektiert werden, wie manche uns glauben machen würden. Es liegt nicht daran, dass die Direktoren mit den Mächten „in“ sind, und wir sind ihrer Gnade ausgeliefert. 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.”