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High-profile showrunners meet to discuss studio demands: “We Can’t Be at War One Day” and Partners the Next


Showrunners filled the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills on Saturday in an hour-long guild meeting designed to update the TV industry’s senior writer-producers on the state of play of the WGA strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The meeting came after the first week of the strike and when studios including Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount, among others, sent letters last week demanding that showrunners continue their non-writing production duties, in some cases in a way that potentially crosses the line. picket line. For example, Disney’s letter told showrunners that in this capacity they “may be… required” to perform so-called “(a) through (h) services,” the performance of which is prohibited by the WGA’s strike rules.

“Everyone is so aligned and united (across the board),” said a longtime showrunner who attended the meeting, who noted during the 2007-2008 WGA strike that the issue of going back to work as a producer is a lot of conflict. and caused strife among the guild. members. “It’s very different from ’07.”

Chris Keyser, co-chair of the WGA negotiating committee, took center stage again on Saturday, reiterating comments from Wednesday’s meeting outlining how talks with the AMPTP fell through before moving on to a larger discussion of why showrunners shouldn’t be doing non-writing production services whether to promote their shows during the strike.

“It’s as simple as we’re at war with the studios,” a showrunner told of Keyser’s comments. “We cannot be at war one day and be their partners the next. When we go to a For Your Consideration (Emmy) event, we are their partners. It’s almost impossible to separate your producer brain from your writer brain. Everything is really writing, especially if you’re a showrunner.

Ann Farriday, the WGA’s senior director of membership organization, sent out an invitation email to showrunners on Friday calling for a meeting with guild leadership on Saturday to discuss “where we are, how we got here and where we’re going from here.” Sources described the scene as a packed house and “bigger than anything”, similar to WGA’s last strike that lasted 100 days in 2007-2008. According to the venue’s website, the capacity is just under 500, with attendees describing the turnout as capacity, if not more.

Saturday’s attendees included Damon Lindelof (Peacock’s Mrs. Davis), David E. Kelley (ABCs big sky, from max Love deaththat of Netflix The Lincoln Attorney), Bill Lawrence (Apple’s Ted Lasso, Shrink), Alex Kurtzman (de Star Trek franchise at Paramount+) and Shawn Ryan (Netflix’s The Night Agent). Over breakfast burritos, several senior writers in attendance say they were encouraged by guild officials to share differing opinions on non-writing work.

“The fact that dissent was encouraged by Keyser and David Goodman (co-chair of the WGA negotiating committee) was a big shift,” said one attendee. “As someone who was one of the dissenters (during the guild’s battle with agencies over packaging costs), that was not encouraged during the ATA campaign. “It’s a different world without David Young at the helm.”

Ryan, a five-time member of the WGA’s negotiating committee present here, spoke from the audience about why he changed his mind in 2007 and chose not to perform production services for the studios. He described the situation as a “never-ending series of ethical dilemmas that could never be resolved before declaring that it was cleaner to stop producing,” according to one member present.

At the meeting, showrunners brought up the varying guidance they received from representatives and employers when it came to their producing duties. “Everyone has a different representation and they work for different studios that are different levels of hardcore about it. It’s hard when you get a ‘scary letter,’ as they called them,” said one participant. The WGA encouraged showrunners to get in touch to discuss their personal situations, not in the group setting of the meeting, but one on one.

On Friday, the guild responded to reports of the studio letters by destroying Disney’s in particular. “The rules prohibit hyphens (members working in dual capacity) from performing writing services, including ‘(a) through (h)’ functions,” the union stated of its strike rules, which exclude showrunners and writer-producers in a dilemma as they navigate the differing demands of employer and union.

“(A) through (h) came up a lot,” says the same meeting participant, a seasoned showrunner who admitted not knowing what those jobs entailed, having only recently heard of them. “They reminded us that we couldn’t do (those duties). The problem is that it is very difficult to determine where writing ends and something else begins.”

Other WGA leaders on stage included Ellen Stutzman, the WGA’s chief negotiator who stepped into the role after the western arm of the union’s executive director David Young went on medical leave in late February, co-chair of the negotiating committee David Goodman, union secretary-treasurer Betsy Thomas and president Meredith Stiehm. Stutzman echoed her Wednesday comments that the WGA has support from other unions, singled out the Teamsters on Saturday. Stutzman noted that this strike differs from 2007-2008 because some of the core issues are specific to writers, making it unlikely that the WGA would accept the same deal offered to the Directors Guild of America. During the final strike, the DGA made a deal for the writers that formed a template for the WGA’s final compromise with studios.

“What Ellen not say was, don’t expect a repeat of 2007 where the DGA comes in and makes a deal and we accept their deal — because even if they negotiate the best deal in the world, that deal wouldn’t solve the problems of minirooms, surge protectors and writers working minimal ,” said another observer.

The Hollywood Reporter has contacted WGA representatives for comment.

The WGA strike began on May 2 after the WGA and AMPTP failed to reach a deal and the guild’s current Minimum Basic Agreement expired. At rallies Wednesday in LA and New York, the WGA expressed its solidarity with other guilds — including the Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, whose own contracts with the studios expire on June 30. week in a show of solidarity and support in battling the AMPTP over central issues, including higher wage floors, streamer data transparency, and the regulation of mini-rooms and the use of artificial intelligence. Negotiations between the DGA and the AMPTP will begin next week.

Another veteran showrunner summed up: “Each question (Saturday) was about: How can I best advance the cause? Everyone is doing the right things.”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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