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Original Media Writer-Producers Vote To Join WGA East

By | Friday July 11, 2014 @ 10:20am PDT

Original Media Writer-Producers Vote To Join WGA EastIn another victory for the WGA East’s ongoing campaign to organize reality TV shows, the writer-producers at Original Media have voted to be repped by the guild in collective bargaining. The vote, held under the auspices of the National Labor Relations board, was 42-9 to join. Original Media produces shows including Swamp People, Inkmaster and Stormchasers. “We look forward to sitting down with the company and negotiating a contract that will provide health benefits, paid time off, minimum compensation levels, and other basic union protections,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGA East, in announcing voting results today.

In the last five years, the guild has negotiated contracts with three New York-based reality TV companies in Sharp Entertainment, Lion TV and Optomen Productions. It trying to get two others – ITV and Peacock Productions – to sign its contract. During recent hearings before the New York City Council, the guild presented evidence of unsafe and “sweatshop” working conditions at the city’s largely nonunion reality TV industry.

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Beau Willimon Among Candidates For WGA East Council

By | Tuesday July 1, 2014 @ 3:11pm PDT

Beau Willimon Among Candidates For WGA East CouncilThe House Of Cards showrunner is looking to expand his political influence from the White House to the union hall. Beau Willimon is among the candidates announced today for a two-year term on the WGA East Council. Fifteen other candidates also will vie for the seven open Freelance seats including incumbents John Auerbach, Jenny Lumet, Terry George, Richard Vetere, Patrick Mason and Walter Bernstein, the 94-year-old Fail-Safe and The Front scribe who was blacklisted during the 1950s. The other candidates are Kyle Bradstreet, Andrea Ciannavei, Timothy Cooper, Marin Gazzaniga, Chris Kyle, John Marshall, Jo Miller, Oren Moverman, Danielle Paige and George Strayton. The four candidates for the three open Staff seats are Gail Lee, Patrick Mason, Kathy McGee and Cath Twohill. Balloting will begin August 27 and run through September 18. The winners will be announced September 19.

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WGA East Charges Reality-TV Producers With Creating “Sweatshop” Conditions For A “Beleaguered And Exhausted Workforce” At NYC Hearing

WGA East Charges Reality-TV Producers With Creating “Sweatshop” Conditions For A “Beleaguered And Exhausted Workforce” At NYC HearingThey may not be under-age moppets toiling in Dickensian work-houses, but like Oliver Twist, writer-producers in New York City’s reality TV industry are saying, “Please, sir, I want some more.” Their collective voices were heard today during testimony before the New York City Council’s Civil Service & Labor Committee, which is investigating allegations of sweatshop conditions at the city’s reality TV production houses. Although invited, executives from those companies opted not to attend.

Image (3) WGAE_logo_20110616205123__140211174509-275x101__140403013618__140408175314.jpg for post 711549Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGA East, estimated that some 15,000 New Yorkers are currently working in nonfiction television. Approximately 2,200 are writers and producers who “often work 12, 14, 16 hours or more per day,” the WGA East said in The Real Reality: Working Conditions in the Nonfiction and Reality Television Industry in NYC. The a report, presented to the council, recommends codifying reality-TV production practices. “Eight-hour days are rare,” according to the report. The writers “often work weeks or even months without a day off. Five-day weeks are also rare. And 88% of producers and associate producers said they were ‘never’ paid overtime on their current jobs. When coupled with periods of unemployment between jobs, and no paid time off (vacation or sick leave) allowed while on a job, these exhausting work schedules lead to severe burn-out.”

“Today you will hear the tale of two television industries,” Peterson told the committee. “Most of our members work in the part of the industry that provides good benefits, good pay, good middle-class careers. Today you are investigating the other part of the industry – nonfiction or ‘reality’ TV – which is almost entirely nonunion. People in that part of the industry work brutally long hours without overtime pay, without health or pension benefits, without paid time off, without the basic protections they deserve.”

TLCThe guild has been organizing reality show writers and producers in New York for the last five years. So far, it’s only signed contracts with three of the more than 20 companies there that each employ more than 50 writer-producers. It’s been trying to get a contract with ITV Studios, producers of A&E’s The First 48 and TLC’s Four Weddings, for the past four years.

So-called “wage theft” – the non-payment of overtime through the misclassification of employees as freelancers – dominated much of the testimony. Sarah Leberstein, an attorney with the National Employment Law Project, said that this widespread practice “illegally depresses labor costs and cheats workers out of the wages they’ve earned.” City Councilman I. Daneek Miller, who chaired the hearing, noted the city and state are “losing tax revenue” as a consequence of the practice.

Reality TV shows are currently not eligible to receive New York film tax subsidies, although Peterson said that industry executives are currently lobbying to be included in those tax breaks. Miller, a former union president, said he would strongly oppose extending those subsidies to reality TV unless the industry stops mistreating workers. “I find it appalling,” he said, “that the executives of these industries have not shown up to justify their positions nor to justify their asking for millions of dollars of subsidies in taxpayer dollars so they can continue to make a lot of money and exploit workers.”

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UPDATE: Reality Producers ITV Studios & Leftfield On NY City Council “Sweatshop” Hearing List

ITV-Studios-America-new-logoUPDATE, 12:40 PM:  Real Housewives and Pawn Stars producer Leftfield Entertainment and its new owner ITV Studios have been asked to testify at hearings this month before the New York City Council to provide evidence of their employees’ working conditions. The June 25 hearings are dubbed “The Real Reality of Reality TV” and will examine “the prevalence of long work hours, wage theft and overtime violations, the absence of health benefits, the lack of paid time off, and the health and safety concerns of producers and associate producers working under dangerous conditions,” NYC Councilman I. Daneek Miller said in letters to the production companies obtained by Deadline. (Read the letter to ITV here.)

ITV’s deal in May to acquire 80% of Leftfield for $360 million made ITV Studios US Group the largest independent unscripted producer in the States, the company said at the time. In Miller’s letter, he asked ITV to “describe how your recent purchases of other nonfiction production companies in NYC affect the working conditions of your writer-producers and other freelance employees.”

wga-east__120202004540__131121163927The City Council’s agenda for the hearings reads like the litany of accusations the WGA East has already made against ITV, which the guild has been trying to organize for the last four years. The guild has accused ITV of “stealing” an average of $30,000 a year from its writer-producers through what the guild calls “wage theft” — not paying overtime and for all hours worked. “At the hearing we hope to learn more about whether it will be necessary to involve the key players — production companies, networks, employee representatives — in an effort to establish and maintain better standards, perhaps with an industry code of conduct,” Miller said in identical letters to each of the companies. Whether they will get a fair hearing may be a matter of some concern to the companies, as Councilman Corey Johnson recently accused ITV of “working their people to the breaking point and then kicking them to the curb.” Read More »

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WGA East Pacts With Sharp Entertainment

By | Thursday May 1, 2014 @ 1:50pm PDT

wga-east__120202004540__131121163927A day after the WGA’s rank and file ratified the union’s new AMPTP contract, the East Coast branch has sealed a deal with the NYC producer of such nonfiction cable fare as Doomsday Preppers, Man vs. Food, and Bad Ink. The WGA East said today that it has reached a new collective bargaining pact with Sharp Entertainment that covers its writers and producers. Said WGAE Executive Driector Lowell Peterson: “We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Sharp that includes the provisions we have won for writer-producers employed by other nonfiction TV production companies – compensation minimums, paid time off, union security, grievance and arbitration and, perhaps most importantly, employer-provided health benefits.”

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UPDATED: WGA West & WGA East Slam Merger Of Comcast And Time Warner Cable

By | Thursday February 13, 2014 @ 2:00pm PST

wgaw__130208220853-200x112__130701180057__130917230333__130920203125__140131011111UPDATE, 2PM: Following their West Coast brethren, the Writers Guild Of America East today also came out against the proposed Comcast purchase of Time Warner Cable. Claiming that “Comcast/NBCUniversal want to further reduce competition at the expense of consumers and the people who create content,” the WGA East bluntly added “it would simply be wrong to give a giant corporation like Comcast/NBCUniversal even more clout in the marketplace, and in the workplace.” Read the full statement from the WGA East below our previous post.

RelatedPTC Blasts Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger As “Anti-Consumer & Anti-Family”

PREVIOUS, 1:24PM: The Writers Guild of America West didn’t leave much room for ambiguity on their feelings about Comcast’s newly announced $45.2B all-stock deal to purchase Time Warner Cable. “Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable is bad for everyone: content creators, programmers, suppliers, and consumers,” said the Guild today in a statement. “As writers know all too well, media consolidation leads to already too powerful companies limiting competition. The WGAW will fight to stop this ill-conceived merger.” The proposed megamerger has to go through a regulatory approval process from the FCC and the DOJ before it’s a done deal. Today’s vehement remarks by the WGAW comes as both the West and East coast divisions of the WGA are close to wrapping up their second week of negotiations for new 3-year contract with the studios and the networks. Those talks got off to a tense start on February … Read More »

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WGA East Certified As Reps For Sharp Entertainment’s Reality TV Staff

By | Tuesday February 11, 2014 @ 9:48am PST

WGAE_logo_20110616205123Almost three months after 150 writers and producers from Sharp Entertainment filed for a National Labor Relations Board election to join the WGA East, they’ve become union members. Ballots for an election held last month were counted February 3, the guild said today. The now-members work or recently worked as staffers on Sharp’s Doomsday Preppers, Man Vs. Food, and other series. ”We are very pleased that the writer-producers at Sharp have voted to become part of the WGAE,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGA East, in a statement today. “We anticipate entering a collective bargaining agreement with Sharp that includes the provisions we have won for writer-producers employed by other nonfiction TV production companies, he added. The announcement comes as the WGA enters its second week of talks with producers on a new labor deal.

Related: WGA Contract Talks Brittle In Opening Days Over “Ridiculous” AMPTP Proposals Read More »

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WGA East Foundation Announces Winner Of Screenwriting Fellowship

By | Tuesday January 28, 2014 @ 10:53am PST

WGINEW YORK CITY– Hennah Sekandary of New York University has been selected to receive the Writers Guild Initiative’s (WGI) 2014 Michael Collyer Memorial Fellowship in Screenwriting. The fellowship, which is funded by the Charles and Lucille King Family Foundation, is awarded to a student who plans to pursue a career in screenwriting upon completion of his/her undergraduate course of study. Sekandary will receive a $10,000 stipend to write an original screenplay, which she will do under the mentorship of David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly, Yellow Face, Possession). She will be presented with her fellowship at the 66th annual Writers Guild Awards on Saturday, February 1, 2014 in New York City at the Edison Ballroom.

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NY Radio Veteran Philip V. Pilato Set For WGA East’s Richard B. Jablow Award

By | Monday December 30, 2013 @ 12:42pm PST

wga-east__120202004540__131121163927The WGA East said today that Philip V. Pilato, an editor and service aide at WINS-AM New York, will receive its Richard B. Jablow Award. The honor for dedicated and enthusiastic service to the guild will be presented February 1 during the 66th annual Writers Guild Awards New York.

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James Schamus To Receive WGA East Honor

By | Friday December 20, 2013 @ 11:59am PST

James_Schamus_2011Can’t help but think James Schamus receiving the WGA East‘s Evelyn F. Burkey Award for “bringing honor and dignity to writers” is the guild’s way of making sure it thanks the now former Focus Features boss for his years mentoring art house fare from writers like Dustin Lance Black, Charlie Kaufman, Larry McMurtry & Anne Proulx, and Jose Rivera as well as himself (Lust, Caution and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Shamus was the longtime CEO at Focus before a full rethink of the business at NBCUniversal in October saw him removed and replaced by FilmDistrict’s Peter Schlessel, part of a plan to focus on more mainstream and genre films (at least in part) in the future. One of Shamus’ final films in Focus’ pipeline is Dallas Buyers Club, the kind of film Focus has so successfully shepherded through many an Oscar season.  “This film is very important and we have believed in it from the beginning”, Schamus told our Pete Hammond after the movie’s LA premiere October 18. “We are taking this one all the way to the altar, all the way, and I am going to be there for it.” Here’s today WGA East release, which comes a day after it said it would award The Wire creator David Simon with Ian McClellan Hunter Award for Career Achievement during the WGA Awards on February 1: Read More »

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Joan Rivers Fires Back At “Hurtful” Guild Slam Over ‘Fashion Police’ Strike

By | Friday November 22, 2013 @ 8:34am PST

She may have called striking Fashion Police scribes “schmuck writers” and “idiots”, and was slammed earlier this week by the WGA East, but a “stunned” Joan Rivers today says she is “supportive of the striking writers” (read the full statement below). The comedian also says she “just learned that E! and the WGA are having an election” on the over 6-month labor action and hopes the FP writers will soon be covered by a WGA contract. Here’s her statement:

I am stunned by the WGAE’s recent personal attacks and allegations that I breached the Settlement Agreement in connection with the WGAE Charges. I am supportive of the striking writers. I am hopeful that the writers will soon be covered by a WGA Contract as I have just learned that E! and the WGA are having an election in early December. As a long standing member of the WGAE, I am greatly confused and disturbed by Mr. Winship’s unprofessional and hurtful statements about my character – It is time for the focus to be on getting the writers a contract, not using me as a scapegoat.

According to Ms. Rivers’ counsel at the law firm of Loeb & Loeb, “Joan Rivers has fully complied with the terms of the Settlement Agreement. The statements that Mr. Winship attributes to Ms. Rivers do not violate the Settlement Agreement.”

The seemingly about-face remarks come a day after WGAE president Michael Winship called her out for “reprehensible” comments about the FP writers in an online interview last week. “We are exploring all options,” Winship added Thursday about possible repercussions. Read More »

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Joan Rivers Settles With WGA East Over ‘Fashion Police’ Dispute

By | Monday October 7, 2013 @ 11:43am PDT

As part of the deal struck today between Joan Rivers and the WGA East, the Fashion Police host said that she will not “render any writing services even though as a comedian and SAG-AFTRA host, I often write material for myself.” The WGA East had set an October 14 disciplinary hearing in New York to determine whether the E! host violated the union’s rules by writing and performing showrunner duties for the E! Network show during its current writers strike. Action could have resulted in Rivers becoming the first member of that guild to be tossed, and she had called the trial board hearing “a bunch of bullsh*t“. Former writers for show have been on strike since mid-April for over $1 million in back wages and overtime. Rivers and the network contend have that Rivers played no part in the situation that led to the dispute. Read More »

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UPDATE: ‘Fashion Police’ Writers Strike Is “Issue Between E! & WGA” Says Joan Rivers Manager

By | Wednesday July 10, 2013 @ 3:05pm PDT

UPDATE, 3:05 PM: Joan Rivers‘ reps haven’t heard anything from anyone at the WGA about the TV host violating union rules and any trial board hearing over her role on Fashion Police. And even if they had, they say the union is going after the wrong party. “Other than a press release, nothing has been filed by the WGA,” River’s personal manager Larry Thompson told me today after the union’s announcement this morning. “We have received no communication, notice or any paperwork from anyone at the union.  Joan has stated clearly, and E! Networks has repeatedly reconfirmed that Joan supports the Fashion Police writers who are hired by E! Networks Productions, not her.  This is an issue between E! and the WGA.  She is on-air talent.”

PREVIOUSLY, 8:05 AM: Can we talk? First striking scribes slam her and now the Fashion Police host is in trouble with the Writers Guild itself. The Council of the Writers Guild of America, East announced today that Joan Rivers “violated the union’s rules by writing and by performing showrunner duties for the E! Network show Fashion Police.” The guild voted last week to send these charges against lifetime members Rivers to Read More »

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WGAE Announces Council Candidates

By | Monday June 24, 2013 @ 9:02am PDT

New York – The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) announced today the 2013 nominees (order determined by lot) for its Council election. The term is for two years from 2013-2015. There are nine (9) open Council seats (six Freelance seats and three Staff seats) in this election. The twelve (12) candidates for the six (6) open Freelance seats are: Zhubin Parang, Bonnie Datt (i), David Atkins, Henry Bean (i), Bernardo Ruiz (i), Susan Kim (i), Robert Levi, Michael Lannan, Amy Sohn, Courtney Simon (i), Norman Steinberg and George Strayton. The five (5) candidates for the three (3) open Staff seats are: Duane Tollison (i), Jeff Christman, Phil Pilato (i), Matt Nelko and Sue Brown McCann (i). Guild President Michael Winship and Secretary-Treasurer Bob Schneider are running for reelection unopposed. Vice President Jeremy Pikser is running for re-election and faces Jeff Christman. The WGAE annual membership meeting and election is scheduled for Thursday, September 19, 2013.

Related: WGAW Unveils 2013 Candidates: Keyser Unopposed For Now

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WGA East Foundation Rebrands As Writers Guild Initiative

By | Tuesday May 14, 2013 @ 7:19am PDT

NEW YORK CITY – The Writers Guild of America, East Foundation has changed its name — it is now called the Writers Guild Initiative (WGI). The name change is part of a rebranding that recognizes the organization’s long time proactive and focused mission: “to perpetuate the art and craft of storytelling, either by professionals or amateurs, through education and practical experience, on local, national, and global levels.” The Initiative’s programs are designed to reach various populations and help them to find their unique voice as writers.

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WGA East Awards 2013 Ceremony

By | Sunday February 17, 2013 @ 4:56pm PST

Deadline Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke is writing from on-scene reports. The winners are named at 2013 WGA Awards (LIVE). There will be an update to this post on Monday morning:

NEW YORK CITY… Refresh for latest… The 65th Annual Writers Guild Awards New York Ceremony  tonight honored outstanding achievement in writing in film, television, radio, new media, and other awards categories. The presentation at the B.B. King Blues Club was supposed to go on simultaneously with the Los Angeles ceremony but in fact beat WGAW by an hour. Which meant that East Coast knew the winners first and ruined the evening’s suspense.  The WGAE paid tribute to the late legendary author, screenwriter and director Nora Ephron as well as presenting several honorary and service awards. Screenwriter and director David Koepp was the recipient of the Ian McClellan Hunter Award for Career Achievement. The award, established in 1992, honors a WGA member for his/her body of work as a writer in motion pictures or television. And current Secretary-Treasurer Bob Schneider received the WGAE’s annual Richard B. Jablow Award, named after the Guild’s first counsel who helped found the organization and authored its constitution, for devoted service to the Guild. 

Actor Richard Kind, who recently appeared in the Academy Award-nominated film Argo as screenwriter Max Klein, hosted. (When approached, Kind reportedly remarked, “I am a vapid, empty actor with … Read More »

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Nora Ephron Tribute Set For WGA Awards

By | Wednesday February 13, 2013 @ 8:59am PST

Nora Ephron, the quintuple-threat director and screenwriter and playwright and author and columnist, died in June after quietly battling leukemia. She had been a staunch WGA member and received the WGA East’s Ian McClellan Hunter Award in 2003 honoring motion picture work, so this tribute set for the WGA’s New York awards show February 17 is fitting — she never won the guild award despite nominations for a heavy-hitter list of movies (Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally..., Sleepless In Seattle and Julie & Julia). Her last play, Lucky Guy, is set to begin previews on Broadway next month with Tom Hanks and Maura Tierney starring. Here’s the guild’s release announcing plans:

New York City – Writers Guild of America, East today announced a tribute to award-winning, screenwriter, director, playwright, author, and Guild, East member Nora Ephron. The tribute to Ephron, who died in June, will be led by the author Meg Wolitzer, whose novel, “This Is My Life,” was adapted and directed by Ephron in 1992 and presented at the Writers Guild Awards East Coast ceremony on Sunday February 17th, in New York City.

“At this year’s Writers Guild Awards East Coast ceremony, we will mark the passing of one of our most distinguished and creative members. Nora Ephron’s life and body of work were those of a quintessential New Yorker, but not only did she embody the sophistication, wit and energy of our city, she was also a loyal union member who walked the picket line and talked the talk on behalf of all her fellow writers,” said Michael Winship, President, Writers Guild of America, East.

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WGA East To Honor Bob Schneider With Service Award

By | Tuesday February 5, 2013 @ 9:24am PST

New York City – Writers Guild of America, East today announced that it will honor current Secretary-Treasurer Bob Schneider with its annual Richard B. Jablow Award, named after the Guild’s first counsel who helped found the organization and authored its constitution, for devoted service to the Guild. The honor will be presented to Schneider by last year’s recipient Susan Kim, during the 65th Annual Writers Guild Awards, at B.B. King Blues Club in New York City on Sunday, February 17, 2013.

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David Koepp To Receive WGA East’s Hunter Award For Career Achievement

By | Tuesday January 29, 2013 @ 9:54am PST

New York City – Writers Guild of America, East today announced that versatile screenwriter and director David Koepp will be the recipient of the Ian McClellan Hunter Award for Career Achievement. The award, established in 1992, honors a WGA member for his/her body of work as a writer in motion pictures or television, and will be presented during the 65th Annual Writers Guild Awards, at B.B. King Blues Club in New York City on Sunday, February 17, 2013.

“For the past 25 years, David Koepp has written an extraordinary variety of movies that have thrilled audiences around the world – whether the exploits of Indiana Jones, the terror of genetically engineered dinosaurs at Jurassic Park or the derring-do of the Mission: Impossible team. But more than those adventures, David has given us tales of character and emotion that capture and lift the human spirit. He is a consummate storyteller and for that reason the Writers Guild of America, East is thrilled to present him its Ian McClellan Hunter Award for Career Achievement,” said Michael Winship, President, WGAE.

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