The WGA West has issued its final list of 18 candidates, including five incumbents, who will be competing for eight seats on the its board of directors in the September election. Incumbents Chip Johannessen, Scott Alexander, Michael Oates Palmer, Katherine Fugate and Marjorie David will square off against challengers Shawn Ryan, Chris Derrick, Cynthia Riddle, Peter Lefcourt, Shernold Edwards, Peter Murrieta, Doug Atchison, Stan Chervin, Jonathan Fernandez, Courtney Ellinger, Mark Amato, Aaron Mendelsohn, and Aaron Fullerton. The guild will host its annual Candidates Night forum, where members can grill the candidates, on September 3 at the guild’s LA headquarters. Ballots will be counted September 16.
WGA West President Chris Keyser sent a “private” email today to select members of the guild in a pitch for money to support the WGA political action committees’ lobbying efforts. Guild leaders, who oppose virtually all media mergers, used Fox’s proposed takeover of Time Warner as the drumbeat to scare up money to support its PAC’s ongoing political activities.
According to the guild’s latest filing with the Department of Labor, its political action committee spent $347,037 last year on “political activities and lobbying,” and it wants to raise even more this year. The PAC was formed in 2009, and the guild says that it is funded solely from voluntary contributions from its members. “WGAW assets will not be used to fund contributions to the WGAW PAC,” the guild told the Department of Labor. “WGAW PAC will solicit and raise voluntary contributions from the WGAW members, which will be used to support political activities on behalf of writers.” The guild’s PAC is administered by an 11-member committee that includes the guild’s elected officers and executive director. Day-to-day operations are delegated to a firm of election law attorneys.
In the supposedly private email, Keyser and negotiating committee co-chairs Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray pointed to a New York Times headline about the proposed Fox takeover of TW (“$80B Offer From Rupert Murdoch Puts Time-Warner In Play”) saying, “If this headline scares you — and it should — then consider this a call to arms.” The email said the pitch letter was “paid for” by the guild’s political action committee.
More evidence of an ailing film economy is evidenced in the WGA West’s 2013 earnings report, which shows that employment and earnings for writers of motion pictures declined for the fourth year in a row. Film writers earned $331 million last year, a 7.2% drop from 2012 and down nearly 25% from $437 million in 2009.
The report also shows that only 1,595 writers reported motion picture earnings last year, down 1.9% from 2012. That number also has decreased every year since 2009, when 1,848 guild members found work in the film industry.
It’s election season again at the Writers Guild, and continuing in their secretive ways, WGA West officials are refusing to answer any questions beyond what they put in their press releases. Seventeen candidates – including five incumbents – have been nominated by the guild’s nominating committee to vie for the eight open seats on the 16-member board. Asked if there are any incumbents who are not seeking re-election, guild spokesman Gregg Mitchell said, “We’re not commenting beyond today’s release.”
A review of those elected in 2012, cross-checked against the incumbents seeking re-election this time, shows that John Aboud, David Goodman, and Kathy Kiernan aren’t seeing re-election. So why couldn’t the WGA just say so? That’s unclear. “The open Internet is the greatest technological catalyst to participatory democracy and free speech since the printing press,” the guild said in a press release last month. “That’s why totalitarian states around the world try to control it.” The same could be said about unions.
Early election results show former WGA West President Patric Verrone heading for a resounding defeat in his bid for a seat in the California state Senate. With 1% of the votes counted, Verrone has received only 2% of the vote in the eight-candidate Democratic primary to represent California’s 26th Senate District.
The WGA West’s legal and claims department during the past year has collected more than $30 million in unpaid residuals and other payments owed to film and TV writers – more than all the dues paid by the guild’s members last year. The department is the guild’s chief mechanism for enforcing the WGA’s contract, and it pursues violators relentlessly through grievances and arbitrations. The largest single legal settlement came from Lionsgate, which paid the guild $388,378 in May 2013 to resolve contract disputes, according the guild’s 2013 fiscal report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. 20th Century Fox Film Corp paid more than $300,000 in legal settlements, followed by Walt Disney Pictures & Television ($170,000-plus), NBC Studios ($130,000), ABC Television ($116,000), MGM/UA ($69,000), Paramount ($58,000), Warner Bros ($48,000) and Universal City Studios ($19,000). But only about a third of the arbitrations and grievances the guild filed during the past year were against major or mini-major companies.
If early fundraising were to decide the race for the California Senate’s 26th district, former WGA West President Patric Verrone would finish a distant sixth. The most recent campaign finance filings show that Verrone raised $44,753 through March 17 – far less than five others in the race. Candidates will have to file one more round of funding reports this month before the June 3 primary.
For the moment, however, Verrone has a lot of opponents ahead of him in the money race, led by Manhattan Beach Mayor Amy Howorth, who has $381,725; Santa Monica school board member Ben Allen ($253,331); Dr. Vito Imbasciani, a state surgeon for the California National Guard ($183,874); former Assemblywoman Betsy Butler ($152,487); and Sandra Fluke, the women’s rights attorney and activist who Rush Limbaugh famously called a “slut” ($133,415). Trailing Verrone in the money race are Seth Stodder, a former policy director at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency ($36,600), and former lawyer and technology consultant Barbi Appelquist ($18,035).
Former WGA West President Patric Verrone’s campaign for a seat in the California Senate is getting support from a wide range of fellow writers – including the backing of guild candidates he once campaigned against. Verrone, who led the contentious 2007-08 writers strike, has been something of a lightning rod for those who opposed the walkout. But that hasn’t prevented some of his old foes from throwing their support to him now. John Wells, who defeated Verrone for WGA president in 2009, now is supporting Verrone for the state Senate. And Kathy Kiernan, who Verrone defeated for the guild’s presidency in 2007, is now supporting him too.
“I’m getting support from writers in all economic strata, from new entry-level writers to showrunners,” Verrone told Deadline, “and I am especially grateful for the support from WGA members with whom I have not always seen eye to eye politically in the past. These are colleagues and friends for many years who feel the same way I do about keeping Hollywood jobs in Hollywood and fighting for the middle class.”
The WGA West 2014 Hollywood Writers Report has uncovered modest gains for minority and women TV writers but on the film side employment in these circles is continuing its slide, offsetting overall gains. The full study, titled “Turning Missed Opportunities Into Realized Ones” – the ninth in a series of semi-annual reports commissioned by the guild — will be published in June. But some details were unveiled today in the Executive Summary (read it here) that analyzes employment patterns for writers working on broadcast and cable TV shows and theatrical features during the 2011-2012 season, highlighting women, minority, and older writers. Among them:
· Women remained underrepresented by a factor of nearly 2-to-1 among TV writers in 2012, claiming 27% of sector employment, and they earned about 92 cents for every dollar earned by white males in 2012 — up slightly from 91 cents in 2009. Women screenwriters accounted for 15% of sector employment (down from 17% in 2009) , and they earned 77 cents for every dollar earned by white male film writers in 2012, down from 82 cents in 2009.
· Minority TV writers posted an increase in employment share (from 10% in 2009 to 11% in 2012), also closing the earnings gap “a bit.” Data also show that minorities watch a disproportionate share of television and theatrical films, while increases in their consumer spending outpace the rest of the nation. On the film side, the minority share of film employment was steady at 5% compared by 2009.
· Older writers — especially ages 41-50 — claimed the largest share of employment in TV and film, as well as the highest earnings in each sector. The relative status of older writers tends to decline “rather rapidly” beyond 60.
As it did for feature film scribes in December, the WGAW today announced the 15 winners of its 2014 Writer Access Project honoring diversity in TV writing. The program first launched in 2009 aiming to help diversify TV writers rooms by highlighting writers with TV staffing experience and bring their scripts to the attention of industry figures. Eligible writers had to submit themselves in one of five categories: minority writers, writers with disabilities, women writers, 55-and-over writers, and gay and lesbian writers. “The intention of the Writer Access Project is very simple. It draws the best, experienced writers who, for whatever reason, have not been able to get their material in front of showrunners and lets their work speak for itself. The focus is put on the one thing that truly matters when hiring a writer: the words he or she puts on the page,” said 2014 WAP Drama judge Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead). In addition to Mazzara this year’s 93 WGA member judges include David Shore (House), Adele Lim (Star Crossed), Graham Yost (Justified), Dawn Prestwich (The Killing), Andre and Maria Jacquemetton (Mad Men), Janine Sherman Barrois (Criminal Minds), Mike Royce (Enlisted), Michael Oates Palmer (Crossbones), and William Martin (Ground Floor). Scroll down for 2014′s honorees:
UPDATE, 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.
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 …
Looks like not everyone in Hollywood is on the same page when it comes to combating copyright infringement. Specifically, the Writers Guild of America West thinks that the multimillion-dollar damages the Motion Picture Association of America wants extracted from file-sharing sites “has little additional deterrent effect” and “high statutory penalties are not only often unreasonable but unpayable.” The strong comments from the WGAW comes in a submission the guild made on January 17 (read it here) to the Commerce Department on its paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy. Citing that “television and film are controlled by a handful of media companies who decide what content consumers have access to,” the guild’s remarks are a clear slap to the MPAA and the studios from the representatives of more than 8,000 frontline content creators.
No surprise the MPAA does not agree with that POV. “The deterrence provided by the current range of statutory damages is of vital importance to MPAA’s members and other copyright owners, especially in the online environment,” says the studio lobbying group in its own submission (read it here).
Los Angeles – Acclaimed screenwriter-director-actor Paul Mazursky is set to receive the Writers Guild of America, West’s 2014 Screen Laurel Award, honoring lifetime achievement in outstanding writing for motion pictures. The award will be presented to Mazursky, among other honorees, at the WGAW’s 2014 Writers Guild Awards West Coast ceremony to be held on Saturday, February 1, 2014, at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE.
“Paul Mazursky’s talents as an actor (he was in Stanley Kubrick’s first film) and filmmaker (one of the signature directors of the 1970s) should not be allowed to obscure a central fact: he is among our greatest living screenwriters. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Blume in Love, Harry and Tonto, Next Stop, Greenwich Village, An Unmarried Woman – five films in six years, any of which can make you laugh and cry, break and mend your heart. His voice is strong, unique, hilarious, wise, unmistakable. He is fearless about his characters’ flaws, but always has the generosity of spirit to make us see the ways in which they are far more like us than not. His work in the ’80s and ’90s – Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Scenes from a Mall – only deepens that generosity. And his adaptations of Shakespeare (Tempest) and I. B. Singer (Enemies: A Love Story) are at once unflinching and celebratory. With appreciation and respect, we take this moment to celebrate an American master,” said WGAW Vice President Howard A. Rodman.
There might be one less name on the credits for The Expendables 3 if Millennium Films and Nu Image get their way. The producers have taken the Writers Guild of America West and scribe David Callaham to court this week for fraud, unjust enrichment and declaratory relief over the original Expendables. They claim a flawed and misinformed 2009 Guild arbitration gave the writer undeserved credit on the successful Sylvester Stallone-directed 2010 retro action pic as well as its sequels. To that end the plaintiffs want back the $102,250 that was paid to Callaham for as a “writing credit bonus” after the WGA arbitration went his way four years ago. In their demand for a jury trial and unspecified damages plus legal fees (read it here), they also want any sequel payments nixed and the court to rule that Callaham committed fraud by withholding vital correspondence from the WGA that revealed his true and much more limited role in The Expendables script. They also want the 2009 WGA ruling partially reversed and the Guild to “discipline” UTA-repped Callaham for not revealing emails in which he seemingly indicates his lesser involvement in the Expendables script.
“Plaintiffs are informed and believe that Callaham intentionally withheld these material emails, and concealed the limited extent of his contributions to The Expendables from the WGA screen writing credit arbitration panel in …
Related: R.I.P. Thomas T.S. Cook
Los Angeles – The Writers Guild of America, West has named the late OscarTM and Emmy-nominated and Writers Guild Award-winning writer Thomas S. Cook as its 2014 Morgan Cox Award honoree in recognition of his Guild service. The WGAW’s honorary award will be presented posthumously to Cook at the 2014 Writers Guild Awards West Coast ceremony to be held on Saturday, February 1, 2014, in Los Angeles at the JW Marriott L.A. LIVE.
“Tom was a beloved member of this Guild, renowned both for the remarkable work he produced and for his unending commitment to give something of himself back. His service touched on every corner of our mission and lasted over three wonderful decades. Even in his final days, as a Trustee of our Health and Pension Fund, he never forgot the needs of his fellow writers, and we, in turn, will never forget him,” said WGAW President Christopher Keyser.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 25, 1947, Cook passed away on January 5, 2013 at his home in Hollywood after a battle with cancer at age 65.
EXCLUSIVE: With the new The Tonight Show launch coming in February, NBC is looking to ramp up Jimmy Fallon‘s writing staff. It is also looking for a lot of free work from potential scribes in guidelines that went out about a month ago. Though not an uncommon practice, such requests are prohibited under WGA rules. In this case, the extensive call for submission packets has triggered a complaint to WGA West filed last week, I’ve learned. The writers are concerned that the more evergreen material could end up on the show even if the writer who submitted it ends up not being hired. The guild is contacting NBCUniversal about the matter. Here’s Fallon‘s submission request:
Below are guidelines for Late Night with Fallon sketch submissions:
Applicants should come up with 3 ideas for low-production desk pieces. We’re not looking for scripts for each of them, just a good title, a few sentences that describe the bit and a few examples of what the jokes would be.
STEP 2: ADDITIONAL SKETCH IDEAS
We’re looking for 3 ideas for in-studio character pieces, audience plants, games, or ideas for pre-taped shorts or television parodies. Again, this entails a few sentences that describe the bit and a few examples of what the jokes would be.
STEP 3: ONE FULL SCRIPT
Choose your favorite sketch idea from the steps above and write one full script for it.
STEP 4: MONOLOGUE JOKES
We’d like to see 10 monologue jokes to get a sense of joke writing style.
The final results are in for the WGA West’s officers and Board of Director elections, and nothing has changed at the top. Why would it? The election had almost no challengers. With the voting period concluding yesterday at 12 PM, incumbent President Christopher Keyser, incumbent VP Howard A Rodman and incumbent Secretary-Treasurer Carl Gottlieb are all keeping their jobs. Pulling in 1,217 and 1,201 votes, respectively, for their positions, the unopposed Keyser and Rodman were re-elected with 100% of the vote. The nominee picked to run against Keyser turned the offer down, and VP challenger Timothy J Lea withdrew from the race. The little-know Keyser was first elected to the WGAW leadership two years ago when he defeated Patric Verrone. Although the guild’s constitution doesn’t permit unopposed races, it was still fulfilled, union sources tell me, because the second Presidential nominee declined and the second VP candidate did run even though he dropped out before the election. In the one Officers race where there was a challenger, Gottlieb drew 713 votes, or 53.2%, against Dan Wilcox’s 628 votes, or 46.8%. Incumbent Board members David S. Goyer and Billy Ray were re-elected. Joining them are newcomers Verrone, Karen Harris and Ari B. Rubin, as well as incumbents Alfredo Barrios, Jr. Carleton Eastlake and Thania St. John. Officers and Board members will serve two-year terms effective immediately. A total of 1,463 ballots were cast in this year’s rather …
Related: 2014 WGA Awards Set For February 1
Los Angeles and New York – The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) today announced that submissions are now open for the 2014 WGA Documentary Screenplay Award, honoring outstanding achievement in documentary feature writing. This year marks the addition of a new eligibility requirement for the award: theatrical documentaries must be produced under the jurisdiction of the WGA or an affiliate Guild to be eligible for consideration. Submissions for the WGA’s doc writing award may be received from August 19 through November 15, 2013.
The Writers Guild of America West saw total earnings rise by 4.0% in 2012 to $1.02 billion, the organization said today in its annual report. Even though the total number of writers’ reporting earnings dipped from 2011’s 4,558 to 4,510 in 2012, the earnings were up from the $982 million the Guild reported in 2011. The WGAW itself ended the year with net assets of $39 million and an operating surplus of $4.5 million based on revenues of $28.8 million. In the 29-page 2012 report (read it here), the Guild says that $4.5 million came from a 10.1% growth in total revenue in 2012, in part due to an increase in writer’s pay in TV and investment gains. In TV, the number of writers rose from from 3,429 in 2011 to 3,508 in 2012 with total earnings reported at $667.2 million. On the big screen, total earnings slipped 6.1% to $343 million from $365.3 million in 2011 with fewer films made. The 2011 screen result was down 8.5% from 2010, which itself fell 9.1% from the year before. Overall residuals collected by the Guild were up 5.7% over 2011 to an all-time high of $348.67 million with the biggest single increase from the likes of Netflix and Hulu which went up from $4.21 million in 2011 to $11.26 million in 2012.