This past March, days before our initial deadline with the ATA, I received an urgent email from a member - and agencies could not have been further from her mind. She had done a feature mini-room that should have renewed her health coverage, but the studio paid literally a few days late, and now her insurance would be lapsing within the week. She and her fiance, who she cc’ed, were panicking. He is also a member and was trying to chase the paper trail for her since she was in a room again. Luckily, we were able to get the late pay recognized, and her coverage continued uninterrupted.
Members like these are always at the front of my mind. The systemic problems we take on as a Guild can be abstract, but the risks they inject into the lives of writers are anything but.
I believe these risks can largely be traced to the defining dynamic of our time: studio and agency CEOs’ quest for monopoly power, or as they call it, “scale.” We see this happening in every industry, not just ours. They buy out the competition with the aim of becoming big enough to force costs down and insulate themselves from risk.
The only counterweight is our collective power. It’s the key to everything. It is the only shield for our most vulnerable members: middle class screenwriters, writers of color and other marginalized groups, and younger writers, to name a few. And if we are to have hard conversations about problems we can address within our own membership - sexual harassment, family leave, and inclusion in particular - that will demand collective power too.
Tapping this power is a learned practice. The next Board must know how to listen, collect information, educate, mobilize, listen, problem solve, reassess, and listen again. It requires experience, patience, and proven willingness to do the work. It has been an honor to serve you these past four years on the Board. With your support, I would like to continue that service.
My work on behalf of our AMBA campaign has been steady and relentless. I knew packaging was too complex to explain in a speech, so I created the animated infographic explaining it visually. Members reported how much they connected with it, and we are going to make more of them. I was concerned early on that the campaign would disproportionately burden lower level and marginalized writers, so I joined with other board members to create the Staffing Submission System, (a renewed) Find a Writer, and the Weekly Development Memos. We worked around the clock to design, test, and launch them. We continue to refine them, and we’re developing new tools as well. I am excited about how much power these tools have placed in the hands of writers. Not only did they lead to jobs, but members were excited to actually see showrunner’s own descriptions of their hiring needs. These tools must be made permanent and I will see to it that they are. My most gratifying work on behalf of the campaign is serving as a captain. My fellow captains are the backbone of this entire effort, and I could not be more inspired by their tenacity and leadership.
This campaign arose from the membership and it will be decided by the membership. Our end goal remains the alignment of our interests and those of the agencies. Agency conflict of interest isn’t some academic notion - it is about the deprivation of money that comes from self-dealing, amplified by monopoly. Left largely unchanged, these practices will cost writers enormous sums of money over the long term.
This is a tough fight but we’ve made progress. The expiration of the AMBA was itself a positive step; it opened the door for our lawsuit. We made a deal with Verve and Kaplan Stahler, and I believe we will make more. We have been reasonable and have conceded things that matter to us. To be sure, we take the disruptions and anxieties experienced by the membership very seriously. We have continually reassessed and sought feedback. We identified communication as an issue and have been striving to improve. At the moment of this writing, we are poring over extensive member feedback from our survey.
I continue to believe a resolution is possible. The longer agencies hold out, the more the industry will find ways around them. Network staff jobs were filled. Feature and TV development are still happening. In a variety of ways, this campaign has already improved on the status quo. It has created a shift in mindset, new tools, more transparency than we had before, and an explosion of grassroots support and solidarity.
Board service is about more - much more - than the agency campaign. The campaign will end, and when it does, we will still have a union to run.
I’ve been a member of the PAC board since almost its inception. Though we continue to shape policy in Washington - for example, work to protect multi-employer pension funds such as ours - we have, for obvious reasons, shifted some focus to the state level, where the enthusiasm for labor is unmistakable. I went to Sacramento to secure support for the AMBA campaign, and the legislators and staff we met with eagerly signed on - they implicitly understood its connection to larger trends affecting the workforce of our state.
I was part of the effort to reform and create best practices for packet writing in the Comedy/ Variety space. These writers, and comedy writers in general, are so rarely represented at the Board level. The effort was promising but was resisted by the companies. We need to see it through.
The Committee Advisory Panel, which I co-chair along with Marjorie David, brings me into contact with our most dedicated, innovative members. In addition to providing enriching educational opportunities to writers (recent events include a panel on artificial intelligence and (separately) a forum on balancing parenthood with being in a writers room), CAP Committees are where some of the Guild’s most dynamic diversity and inclusion work is being done.
If elected, here’s what I want to focus on in my next term.
Inclusion and diversity: The need for inclusiveness is more widely accepted than ever, but the numbers lag behind. Without accountability, we can’t expect this to change. The hiring of POC, women and other marginalized groups needs to be broken down by studio and network, and it needs to be done so publicly. Next, we need a Rooney Rule for feature assignments (at least one person of color must be interviewed for any opening) - we proposed this in the 2017 MBA and we need to revisit it. Finally, we need to do something about the abuse of the diversity staff writer position. We don’t want to make it harder for POC to get jobs but at the same time, we don’t want writers to be trapped at that level either. I understand this problem intimately - I was a diversity staff writer five times.
Screenwriter issues: These deserve center stage. One of the most powerful things we can do for our screenwriters is to get contracts and invoices from the agencies. We also need to widen the adoption of the Start Button. Changing the culture of enforcement will put money into the pockets of screenwriters. But we also need to pursue gains in the MBA. We need to increase minimums and we need to revisit the 2017 proposal of guaranteed second steps.
Beyond screen issues, there are a variety of MBA provisions I want to organize around. Script fees for staff writers will cost the companies $10M a year. We can get this for them. I also want to eliminate the 75% discount on staff writers, something I didn’t even know existed until it was brought up at a New Members Orientation I attended a few months ago. SVOD increases and script fee parity remain a high priority. Let’s get paid parental leave. And we need a Mini-Room Committee.
Politics: There is no goal of greater importance to labor interests than the revival of federal anti-trust. I intend to make this a guiding principle of our political activity this cycle. We must continue to develop relationships at the state level, especially once the new labor commissioner is confirmed by the Senate.
I deeply appreciate the trust you’ve placed in me these last four years. And whether I’m jumping in to restore a writer’s wrongfully lapsed insurance, or lobbying state officials, or debugging a submissions app, I strive to earn that trust. Throughout its 65 year history, the Writers Guild has taken on deep, entrenched interests to the betterment of all writers. I am very proud to be a part of this mission. Please endorse my reelection at www.luvhforwga.com. Thank you.
I enthusiastically support David Goodman’s reelection as President. He is a remarkable leader - wise, flexible, courageous. He has proven his dedication to the cause of all writers over the course of years.
Marjorie David must be re-elected Vice President. A devoted Guild leader who has changed many writers’ lives for the better. She has an astounding ability to connect with members of all kinds, and her clarity on sexual harassment is bracing.
I urge you to elect Michele Mulroney as Secretary Treasurer. The first volunteer for everything. Feature writers have no greater advocate, period. She seemingly has 30 hours a day and engages the membership with intelligence and warmth.
Meredith Stiehm is fearless and must be returned to the Board. An experienced showrunner, she was an early leader on agency conflicts.
In just one term Angelina Burnett has made a profound impact on the Board and the Guild at large. She can move mountains with her organizing skills. She asks hard questions and follows up to get the answer. The Board needs her.
Nicole Yorkin is a highly respected veteran of the business. Her perspective is vital to the Board and her dedication to family leave is remarkable.
Please endorse me.
See a list of my endorsers here.