I joined the WGA in 2007 and was a member for a few short months before I was putting on the red t-shirt, picking up a sign and walking the line.
I saw the immeasurable value of planting a flag in internet jurisdiction. I also saw the dark side of labor strife as I knew writers who lost their homes. I realized in my first year as a member that the job of the Writers Guild is both vital and complicated. Over the last decade I’ve had some good years doing twenty-two episodes on network TV shows. And I’ve had some brutal years relying on green envelopes and multiple jobs to keep my family afloat.
I’m a MIDDLE-CLASS WRITER still building a career and relying on my Guild to represent my issues. I take the work of the WGA very seriously and it’s why I’m running for the Board and asking for your vote.
On a national level, the anti-union winds have been blowing for quite some time. Those winds have now turned into a hurricane. Our union membership must stay strong and ENGAGED. That’s why I believe that having a voice like mine on the board, one that represents the middle-class writer, is more important than ever.
The bulk of our membership faces the same concerns I do in this rapidly changing landscape: can a middle-class writer still make a viable living? With every passing season, it gets tougher. Shorter seasons mean many TV writers need two jobs a year to survive and more writers than ever are seeing their salaries pushed downward to the minimum. The “blockbuster” culture of features has resulted in fewer films being made and less opportunities for young writers to launch careers. If we don’t keep this fundamental question at the forefront of our agenda now, we’ll lose it forever.
The last MBA negotiation was a success but there’s a lot more work to be done.
A 90-DAY WINDOW FOR EXCLUSIVITY, while a good start, is still a long time for a middle-class writer to be held in between jobs. That’s 25% of your year gone and that’s assuming you can find another job to start immediately – something we all know rarely happens.
DEFINING EPISODES by 2.4 weeks was another important get. But 2.4 weeks is still too long. An episode should equal 2 weeks and anything below that is only forcing pay closer to the minimum.
There’s another problem that’s hurting the middle class: the RISE OF THE MINI-ROOM. Mini-rooms are used to put together a group of writers before a feature or tv pilot is greenlit to work on story or scripts in advance of production. Here’s the problem. For writers that aren’t proven names with clout, which is most of us, you’ll be working with no guarantee of credit or pay above scale. There are often promises about future rewards if the film or show moves forward but no guidelines for enforcing any of this beyond what your agent can get you. We need to establish concrete parameters and guidelines for work done in mini-rooms. I want to talk to writers, gather information and look for creative solutions to address this growing problem.
We have to enforce no more LATE PAYMENTS and LATE RESIDUALS. This is an issue for all writers but impacts the middle-class even more. You’ve done the work and you deserve your money. That comes down to ENFORCEMENT. The Guild has made getting paid on time and enforcing the penalties against the studios a priority. This is very meaningful. Most of the writers in our room weren’t even aware that we’re supposed to be paid within two weeks of starting work and, if we’re not, start accruing interest. Members have been exploited on these fronts for far too long.
The writers that you vote onto the Board in this election will also be a part of the upcoming renegotiation of the AMBA – our agreement with the agencies. I’ve heard many writers say that it doesn’t impact them because it’s all about packaging fees that affect showrunners. But the CONFLICT OF INTEREST with the agencies is very much a problem for the middle class as well. When you’re out lobbying for that mid-level job on that show you’re perfect for, you better hope your agency packaged the deal. If not, the chances of meeting with that showrunner get even smaller. And if you are lucky enough to get that meeting and lucky enough to get that job, odds are they’ll be asking you to take less money.
In my own career, I experienced first hand where an agency put its own interests ahead of the writer. I had just optioned a pilot with the understanding that I’d be partnered up with a more-experienced showrunner. At the time, I was at a “Big Four” agency and I had a list of showrunners I wanted to meet with. They responded with a list of two names -- the two clients of theirs that they wanted to package. I had one lunch and they said, “this is your showrunner” and took the project out. As a mid-level writer, that should have been a chance to meet with multiple people for current and future projects – something that would have been important in my career. Instead, because of the agency’s conflict of interest, it was a missed opportunity.
Renegotiating with the agencies DOES impact middle-class writers and I want to ensure that those concerns are heard at the Board level and, in turn, that the information travels back to the membership.
Every union is only as strong as its middle-class of members. I think we have a strong Board of Directors in place. Momentum and leverage are currently on our side and I hope to be a part of that continued effort by ensuring that there is a strong voice for the concerns of the middle-class writer.
Can a middle-class writer still make a viable living? The answer is… we have to. As it gets harder and harder, we can never say that we won’t take on an issue because it’s too hard. We have to be diligent, work for transparency, gather information and look for creative solutions.
Thanks for your consideration and I would appreciate your vote.