The Writers Guild Foundation has tapped a civil rights attorney as its next leader. Katie Buckland, former executive director of the California Women’s Law Center, a legal advocacy group targeting the civil rights of women and girls, will replace the retired Angela Kirgo, who stepped down after two decades. Earlier in her career, Buckland served Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns and the Democratic National Committee and was communications director for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office. Founded in 1966, the WGF works to preserve the history of screen and television writing and advancing excellence in writing.
Los Angeles – The Writers Guild of America, West announced today that it is contributing $977,095 to The Actors Fund. The monies are specifically earmarked for emergency financial assistance needed by entertainment professionals for basic living expenses such as rent or medical bills. The Fund provides support for everyone in entertainment – writers, designers, sound technicians, dancers, directors, film editors, stagehands, electricians, and actors – with a broad spectrum of programs designed to help with the serious economic, health or employment challenges they face.
EXCLUSIVE… FINDINGS INCLUDED: The major findings of the newly released 2011 WGA Screenwriter Survey (click here for full report) are that “screenwriters believe their status in the industry has significantly deteriorated over the past several years. The most flagrant studio practices contributing to this decline, ranked in order of frequency, are: free rewrites, sweepstakes pitching or bake-offs, late payment, free prewrites, and idea theft.” The Writers Guild findings included:
– One-in-four screenwriters reported leaving prepared materials behind as part of their pitch
– Three-quarters were asked to revise those pitch materials for the major studios, while requests at the smaller studios happened half of the time
– Producers were more likely to ask for revisions, but three-in-ten reported major studio representatives requested revisions to pitch materials
– A majority were asked by the major studios to work before being paid for commencement
– Most screenwriters received only 1 or 2 guaranteed steps in their deals from the studios
– Optional steps were common in these deals
– Nearly two-thirds say the major studios and over half say the smaller studios never exercised any optional steps in their deals
– Almost half were asked to do uncompensated rewrites at a major studio, with four-in-ten saying the studio representative made the request
– Smaller studios were somewhat less likely to ask for uncompensated rewrites, but a greater share of the requests came from studio representatives
– A majority of those working at major studios did the uncompensated rewrites because they felt it necessary to keep their current job or get hired in the future
– Nearly a quarter believe they were paid late by the major studios in 2011
According to a statement from WGAW Board Member David S. Goyer to me on the declining business conditions screenwriters face:
“Less movies are being made and that means fewer jobs. This means more competition between writers and the pressures become enormous. In this type of environment screenwriters rightly feel like they are being exploited. I’ve had to do free rewrites, often been expected to start work before any type of payment is made, and I’ve frequently been paid late by major studios. I think those qualify as symptoms of business conditions in decline.”
On the issue of one-step deals, WGA Board Member Bill Ray made this statement to me:
“One-step deals are a danger on several fronts. First, they are a fairly blatant means of getting writers to do several steps for free. Second, they artificially empower producers who can now convince writers to do a ‘producer’s draft’ by claiming to be speaking for the studio when that producer may in fact have no idea what the studio wants. Third, one-step deals yield timid scripts. Writers aren’t going to be very likely to take chances with material if they’re writing with a sword hanging over their heads. Good scripts take time. They also require some experimentation – the drafts that help you find your story. Contracts ought to reflect that, just as they used to. Lastly, perhaps most practically: would you really want your project written by a writer who’s so anxious about being fired that he or she is spending all their time booking their next job instead of throwing themselves into the one you’ve hired them for?”
Here is the email that went out today:
Frank Pierson had a magical way with words, so it is ironic that the most famous movie line he ever wrote is: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate”. Frank Pierson never suffered “failure to communicate”. That iconic phrase uttered by Strother Martin to Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967) – one of Newman’s greatest movies EVER — was even voted by the American Film Institute as the No. 11 greatest movie quote of all time. It’s even now part of a Guns N’ Roses song, “Civil War”. But Pierson, who died today at age 87 after a short illness, didn’t even know if he would be allowed to keep it in the script that also has Donn Pearce credited; he was author of the original book in which the line doesn’t exist. Isn’t that always the way with such immortal lines? Thank God it was left in. It’s hard to imagine this great film without it.
Pierson was nominated for an Oscar in the adapted screenplay category for Cool Hand Luke. It was his second nomination there: Two years earlier, his script for the classic comedy Western Cat Ballou landed him his first nomination, even though, as he said, he was the “11th writer” on the project. But he was the one (with inspiration from the film’s “10th writer”, Walter Newman) who finally cracked it. turning the dramatic Western into a comedy. It won Lee Marvin the Best Actor Oscar and made a star out of a drunken cross-legged horse to whom Marvin offered half his Oscar. It too contained another now-famous line said by a young Jane Fonda: “You won’t make me cry. You’ll never make me cry”. And of course his Oscar-winning original screenplay Dog Day Afternoon (1975) saw Al Pacino chanting another famous phrase, “Attica! Attica!” According to movie lore though, that may have been improvised on set, but there can be no doubt whenever Pierson’s name was on a script it was bound to contain immortal bits of dialogue to go with great screenplay structure and high-class writing.
His films as a screenwriter included some very fine underrated movies in his later career like Presumed Innocent (1990), which starred Harrison Ford, and In Country (1989) with Bruce Willis. But for me, a nifty little 1971 caper picture starring Sean Connery, The Anderson Tapes, has become a hidden gem in the filmography of both Pierson and its director Sidney Lumet. Of course, they would collaborate four years later on Dog Day Afternoon, but check out Anderson, like Dog Day a great crime/heist picture but one that almost seems forgotten 40 years later. It shouldn’t be.
There are 15 candidates nominated to run for eight open seats on the WGAW’s Board of Directors, as follows: Meg LeFauve, Marjorie David, David Shore (incumbent), Terrence Coli, John Aboud, Eric Small, Jordan Mechner, Barbara Turner, Michael Oates Palmer, Scott Alexander, Alexander Cary, David A. Goodman (inc.), Katherine Fugate (inc.), Kathy Kiernan (inc.), Chip Johannessen. (Previously announced Board candidates Patrick Sean Smith and Zoanne Clack withdrew their candidacies.)
Television writer Stephen Lord has died. The Writers Guild announced today that Lord died May 5 in his home in Sherman Oaks, CA surrounded by his family. The writer, whose real name was Stephen Loyacano, was 85. In a career that went from the 1950’s to the early 1990’s, Lord …
WGA Awards: ‘The Descendants’, Woody Allen, ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Modern Family’, ‘Homeland’, ‘Colbert Report’, ‘Cinema Verite’, ‘Too Big To Fail’
BREAKING… Refresh for latest…
Los Angeles and New York – The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) are announcing the winners for outstanding achievement in writing for the screen during 2011. Winners will be honored at the 2012 Writers Guild Awards tonight during simultaneous ceremonies at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles and at B.B. King Blues Club in New York City. Woody Allen won Original Screenplay for his Midnight In Paris. UPDATE: His sister and producer Letty Aronson accepted on his behalf at the WGAE event.
The Descendants won Adapted Screenplay for Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash. All three took the stage at the WGAW event. “I wrote some funny lines for the woman in the coma that Nat and Alexander didn’t like,” said Rash.
Faxon recognized The Groundlings improv theater for fostering his talent. Payne directed his acknowledgement to The Descendants author Kaui Hart Hemmings who was sitting in the audience: “Nice thing about doing adaptation is inhabiting a story that we never lived in. Thank you to the novelists for letting us in your life.”
Breaking Bad‘s Vince Gilligan accepted the television Drama Series honor saying, “We wouldn’t have a show without Bryan Cranston.”
The writers of Modern Family won for Comedy Series, and Steven Levitan exclaimed, “We are concerned that people are sick of us [winning]. Perhaps you can focus your backlash elsewhere. As such, we asked our writers to each say why they don”t feel like winners tonight.” At which point a number of Modern Family scribes described their deepest regrets:
“I worry about the future happiness of my children, particularly the fat one.”
“I write a show about relationships, half my money goes to my first wife, the other goes to the second.”
“I have 2 years left in this business, especially after they find out my real age.”
Levitan capped off, “I created the show Stacked and have to live with that.”
Actress and comedienne Rachel Dratch hosted the East Coast WGA show. At the start of the LA event, a who’s who of the film and TV industry arrived. ”Welcome to Nerd Prom,” host Zooey Deschanel greeted the guests. “Male writers, you are so hot with your minds and plaid shirts. Hit on me.” She closed the show by saying, “To all the writers who brought their parents, I hope this is enough to convince them you have real jobs.”
Soon after Deschanel closed the show by saying. “To all the writers who brought
their parents, I hope this is enough to convince them you have real jobs.”
Presenters included Tom Selleck, Lisa Kudrow, Mad Men creator Matt Weiner, Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry. In front seats are Luck creator David Milch, Oscar-nominated writer John Logan also up for a WGA nom for adapted screenplay of Hugo, Mission: Impossible 4 director Brad Bird, and Young Adult star Patton Oswalt fresh from his hosting duties last night at the ACE Eddie Awards. And Deadline Hollywood got a shout-out.
“Get ready for a bunch of F-bombs: it’s the Children’s Episodic Award” said Deschanel introducing the pair of presenters of the award, “Mad Men” Creator Matt Weiner and the show’s child star Kiernan Shipka. Shipka told Weiner that she wants to “sink her teeth into meatier roles,” and then killed the crowd with Faye Dunaway’s “No wire hangers EVER” monologue from Mommie Dearest. After she ended the speech to laughter and applause, Weiner remarked to her, ”Where were you when I was on Becker?”
Amy Poehler from Parks and Recreation and the show’s creator Michael Schur, presented comedy variety series. The two, who met on SNL, recalled their ‘woeful’ writing experiences there — how they spent hours doing Lorne Michaels imitations and crying how their parents never respected their life decesions.
The Honorary Service – Morgan Cox Award went to Patric M. Verrone. “I don’t need to tell you who he is,” said Michael Reiss of The Simpsons writing staff. “Pat is a 2-time WGA president. Thanks to him, he got me in the union, a health pension, and a copy of Written By which I read from the mailbox to the trash can. He is a gifted artist and goes to church every Sunday. Which is more than you creeps.” Best known as the leader during the WGA strike, Reiss noted how Verrone “looks like Hitler”. Verrone picked up on the joke during his acceptance speech. ”I want to thank the anonymous commentators on Deadline Hollywood who compared me to Hitler,” Verrone said. “To them I want to say – well, I don’t want to say.”
The Help screenwriter-director Tate Taylor accepted the Special Achievement - Paul Selvin Award and politely spoke out against those naysayers who criticized him and The Help book author Kathryn Stocket –
two white people — for writing a story about the African American experience of 1963. “It is a person’s right to tell a story,” said Taylor. “The Help was directed at those women in our lives. My desire to write The Help, came from my love of Carol Lee, the [African American] woman who helped raise me with my broke mother. I wrote The Help for them. When someone writes from love, truth, and honor, they have a right to tell a story. We lose if we give into society’s criticisms.”
Prior to Eric Roth receiving the Laurel Award For Screen, presented to him by Milch, a personal video clip from David Fincher played. ”I think it is important to keep Eric Roth focused on the conversation at hand. He’s a procrastinator like no other. Eric, if it is wrong for a man to love another man than I have nothing right to say to you in winning this award.” In accepting the award, Eric Roth recalled the last time he came to the Palladium: ”It was for a strike meeting. My car was stolen, and there was the screenplay that I had just written left in it… When the car was recovered, the cops said it was used in a bank robbery. All the stuff was stolen out of my car except for that screenplay. There was a note left onot from the robbers that said, ’Characters can be stronger’.”
Following a thirtysomething clip, Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick accepted the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award For Television and warmly recalled the joys of writing together, having first worked on the ABC show Family. Herskovitz reflected, ”When you are a 27, you can’t imagine a career. And at 57 you can’t remember it.” Zwick said, “There’s a lot to be said about writing with someone else. It has allowed us to do together what we are afraid to do alone.”
MOTION PICTURE WINNERS
Midnight in Paris, Written by Woody Allen (Sony Pictures Classics)
The Descendants, Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash; Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings (Fox Searchlight)
Better This World, Written by Katie Galloway & Kelly Duane de la Vega (Loteria Films)
Breaking Bad, Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett (AMC)
Modern Family, Written by Cindy Chupack, Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Carol Leifer, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Brad Walsh, Ilana Wernick, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker (ABC)
(TIE) “Box Cutter” (Breaking Bad), Written by Vince Gilligan (AMC)
(TIE) “The Good Soldier” (Homeland), Written by Henry Bromell (Showtime)
“Caught in the Act” (Modern Family), Written by Steven Levitan & Jeffrey Richman (ABC)
Homeland – Written by Henry Bromell, Alexander Cary, Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Chip Johannessen, Gideon Raff, Meredith Stiehm (Showtime)
Perhaps a victim of too many participants and too little time, a panel featuring the WGA screenwriting nominees Thursday night at the guild’s Beverly Hills theater was heavy on niceties with only traces of insight. Three Moneyball writers — Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin and Steven Zaillian (who also wrote The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) — were joined by The Descendants’ writer-director Alexander Payne, Hugo‘s John Logan, Bridesmaids‘ Annie Mumolo, 50/50‘s Will Reiser and The Help‘s Tate Taylor for an hour-plus discussion mostly peppered with practical advice dished to a large audience of new or aspiring screenwriters. The event was billed as a pre-cursor to Sunday’s WGA Awards, featuring the WGA’s and Oscar’s nominees for original and adapted screenplay.
A couple of panelists did offer up moments of insidery detail. Payne tackled his screenplay for The Descendants after drafts were delivered by the project’s other writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, but he said he had to overlook their take on the story before warming up to the project. “I couldn’t get into the film through their drafts,” Payne said. “I respected their work very much but I had to return to the novel. I learned some of the things I didn’t want to do [with the story] through their drafts.” Payne said the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings paved the way for his version of the screenplay, noting that this was his most “faithful adaptation” he’s done to date. “The [Hawaiian] aristocracy is very insular. They’re very suspicious of outsiders who come in and see what they want to see and leave,” he said. “My principal audience is the people who live there and I wanted people in Hawaii to believe I got it right.”
Payne said previous drafts of Descendants played up the high jinks of the younger daughter (played in the film by Amara Miller), but he said he “jettisoned that” and instead focused on the relationship between George Clooney’s character and the older daughter, played by Shailene Woodley. When writing, Payne said he likes to keep things “austere.” Though he may write a long script with details, when he’s ready to show it, minimalism wins out. “I like to keep it super austere. Ninety-one pages is the best length for a script.”
Veteran screenwriter, producer and director Hal Kanter died Sunday of complications of pneumonia in Encino, his daughter Donna Kanter told the Los Angeles Times. He was 92. “He was considered one of the wits of the industry,” said Carl Reiner, upon learning of Kanter’s death. ”He was a funny elder statesman, and there’s nothing better.” In a career that spanned several decades, Kanter worked in radio, TV and movies. He wrote for Bob Hope and Bing Crosby and for Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. Kanter directed Elvis Presley in Loving You which he co-wrote and he wrote the screenplaly for Blue Hawaii. He even collaborated with Tennessee Williams on the 1955 movie version of The Rose Tatoo. Among other movie credits were George Cukor’s Let’s Make Love, with Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand and Frank Capra’s Pocketful of Miracles.
His numerous TV credits included creation of the landmark sitcom Julia, for which Diahann Carroll became the first black actress to star in her own sitcom whose character was a professional woman rather than a maid. He also worked briefly on All in the Family and was a writer and produceer on Chico and the Man. His association with the Oscars as a writer on the ceremony began in 1952 when it still on radio and continued for more than 30 years. In 1991 and ’92 he shared Emmys for writing duties on the Oscar show telecast. His other Emmy was for The George Gobel Show.
New York – Writers Guild of America East protested outside the New York offices of ITV Studios Friday demanding that the company, which produces highly successful scripted reality television programming, give its American employees the same rights as their unionized British counterparts. WGAE was joined in the action by members of the Writers Guild of Great Britain, Irish Writers Guild, Scriptwriters Guild of Israel, Societe des auteurs de radio, television et cinema (SARTEC) – the Quebec guild – Writers Guild of America, West, La Guilde (French Writers Guild), Australian Writers Guild and New Zealand Writers Guild.
New York– A National Labor Relations Board judge has issued a decision to certify the results of last December’s election making the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) the Union representing employees of ITV Studios in New York. The WGAE has called upon the production company to honor the ruling and begin immediate contract negotiations. The Administrative Law Judge handed down his decision upholding the election results late last week, ending more than nine months of legal foot dragging by the company. The UK-owned ITV Studios is responsible for the nonfiction hit “Buried Treasure” for Fox and are in production on the U.S. version of the hit crime series “Prime Suspect.”
“We urge ITV Studios to recognize the election results and join us at the negotiating table immediately. The judge’s decision makes clear what we have all known since last year, that the WGAE represents the employees who write the company’s shows,” Lowell Peterson, Executive Director, WGAE said. “It would be in everyone’s best interest for ITV to start addressing employee concerns, such as paid healthcare and pensions, instead of continuing a futile effort to delay the election results and prevent the collective bargaining process from moving forward.”