As talks are about to resume Monday on the final elements that many hope will lead to a new deal for the Writers Guild Of America, we wanted to lend some perspective and give voice to the TV and feature writers whose fortunes will be tied directly to the deal their union makes. This is the fourth in a quick succession of five questions we asked a panel of 10 writers. Here are their responses, and hopefully other writers will be moved to comment about the issues that worry them most as their work is monetized in this fast-changing digital age.
DEADLINE: Patric Verrone is running for California State Senate and in establishing his cred to writers said, “We won the writers strike.” Would you vote for him?
WRITER #1: Honestly, I wouldn’t vote for Patric Verrone as the President of the Tupperware Club of Paramus, New Jersey. I also find it hilarious that he used the entire (supposedly confidential) WGA mailing list to seek contributions from writers he was largely responsible for harming. Why does he get to use the WGA mailing list for his political campaign? He should be investigated for that. I felt then and I feel now that Verrone was totally out for himself. I supported the WGA and the strike but I never supported Verrone. I think Billy Ray — the guy in there negotiating now — is a smart man who cares for writers. He’s also a damn good writer.
WRITER #2: The strike was “lost” before we hit the picket lines. Verrone and [Executive Director David] Young seem to have wanted the strike whether or not it was winnable or smart, to ﬂex guild muscles, and to establish a sense of leadership that, in the end, revealed itself to be divorced from the daily realities of our industry. Meanwhile, the studios, wanting to cut overhead, saw the strike as a way to accelerate the ways the business was already contracting. For them the strike couldn’t come fast enough. No working writer I know thought the strike was any kind of success. We limped to its conclusion, beaten, humiliated and humbled, a lot poorer. Verrone, who pulled salary while we went eight months or more without income, was only too happy to wave the banner while leading us into machine gun ﬁre. In the end, Verrone seemed about Verrone. Can’t see a circumstance in which I’d support his candidacy for state senate.
WRITER #3: I think Patric put in a good effort to try to get something from the strike and had some smaller victories. But as I said in Question 3, he was hamstrung by the fact that the high-end writers didn’t want to strike. Also I think Patric was very ambitious to try to unionize feature animation. But when the AAA-list screenwriters say “sure we’ll strike” and immediately book millions in high-end feature animation jobs, that goal proves impossible. Sure it’s mildly disingenuous for him to make the claim that he won the strike, but in the world of politics, I believe that statement is probably more honest than what his opponents will claim. I’d consider voting for him, however I haven’t seen what the rest of his platform is besides labor.
WRITER #4: I don’t know who he’s running against, but I’d be inclined to vote for him. He always struck me as incredibly reasonable, and as someone who was trying to get a fair deal for the people he represented. His critics have tried to paint him as some egomaniac with a personal agenda. To me, he said what a lot of writers were thinking, took a stand, and did an amazing job, along with the rest of the guild leadership, organizing writers so that there was unity before the strike. He got residual rates for the Internet closer to what they were before the abysmal DVD rates, and that’s a victory.
WRITER #5: I don’t know Patric well, but even years ago during the strike, I felt his priorities were askew. I’ll assume he means well, but I think the strike became an ego trip for him — one could feel it in the way he glad-handed us along the picket lines and at events back then — and I think the notion that we “won” anything substantial is ludicrous. The issues, as I recall, were digital downloads, streaming, etc. And none of that was resolved in the writers’ favor. Perhaps it was a high bar to begin with, but it oughtn’t be. It always seemed that the decision to “go it alone” without the DGA was foolhardy. But this is all Monday morning quarterbacking I’m not really qualified to do. Let’s just put it this way: He ain’t got my vote.
WRITER #6: The British won the vast majority of battles in the Revolutionary War but I don’t see the Union Jack flying over Washington. If you don’t win the ones that matter, you might as well not show up for any. I would rather vote for his dog. That would at least offer amusement and commentary on his political credentials.
WRITER #7: Verrone always struck me as a failed writer with a horrible haircut who never got laid. Surely we can find better political candidates than that loser? And while I don’t necessarily blame him for the strike per se, he was definitely no Jimmy Hoffa. I mean, would that guy scare you?
WRITER #8: Wouldn’t vote for Patric Verrone. I prefer leaders who can speak the same language as the companies and make them feel comfortable as opposed to rabid labor-leader types like Verrone who see the struggle as a jihad and the companies as evil.
WRITER #9: My perception is that we did not win the writers strike. So no, I won’t be voting for him.
WRITER #10: I would. I believe the writers did win the strike. We were able to own a piece of digital revenues and, perhaps more importantly, we put up a unified front, which can only help us in future contract negotiations.