There were far more important things than trophies to be concerned about last night at the WGA Awards as scribes on both coasts were consumed with the guild’s upcoming talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and of course, the possibility of a strike.
In speaking with a number of writers at both the Beverly Hills and NYC ceremony last night, Deadline heard the same demand from scribes: Give us our cut of streaming profits.
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“The last big negotiation [in 2007] was just as streaming was on the table,” Jojo Rabbit filmmaker and WGA adapted screenplay winner Taika Waititi told Deadline last night in New York, “It is the platform and it’s where we all make our bread and butter now. So we have to re-negotiate.”
“This is a pivot point. It feels like every negotiation is an important negotiation, but we’re going through a tectonic change right now in the business, and I think it’s time for everybody to acknowledge that, and hopefully, we’ll get somewhere,” added Watchmen creator and WGA New Series winner Damon Lindelof last night at the Beverly Hilton.
“I’m interested in a way of making the profit participation more equitable across the breadth of TV shows and films. And I’m interested in a way of stopping with these crazy accounting practices that create these illusions of things that never happened, (such as) a lot of lazy practices we’ve fallen into like negotiating for production bonuses that never get paid,” expressed this year’s WGAW Paul Selvin honoree and Bombshell scribe Charles Randolph.
For The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel creator and 2x WGA nominee Amy Sherman-Palladino, her one gripe with streaming is how the platform automatically forces the viewer to go to the next episode, bypassing end credits. “I don’t really understand why the guild aren’t talking about credits getting cut off at the end. You work for those credits. Every year, it means something and you get to this place and they cut it off completely. The actors and the crew, their credits are cut off.”
Unlike the 2017 WGA Awards ceremony when leadership remained radio silent onstage about rallying the members for a strike, WGAW President David A. Goodman blatantly told members at the Beverly Hilton ballroom, ““It’s dangerously naïve to think that a strike is never necessary,” and that no studio will take away the guild’s greatest leverage as its contract with the AMPTP expires on May 1. The WGA’s 2017 talks with the studios ended with a last-time deal, averting a work stoppage.
Goodman’s comments came in the wake of a Pattern of Demands that he and WGAE President Beau Willimon sent out to members last Wednesday calling for “expanding made-for new media programs subject to MBA minimums” and “improving residuals for reuse markets” as well as enforcing studios to not conduct business with those agencies that are non-franchised by the guild (and we’re talking about the Big 4).
While Goodman told the WGA Awards audience at the Beverly Hilton that the Big 4 agencies have informed him they want to come to an agreement, if that isn’t realized in the near future, the question remains how precarious the WGA-AMPTP talks will be without having key agents on the guild’s side. For some, they’ve been the allies behind the scenes in previous talks.
Says Randolph about going into talks sans agents, “I do think it’s going to be hard. That’s their expertise and we’ve benefited from it in the past, partly it’s just getting a third party perspective on where the best deal available to you is. It’s just a little bit harder when all those negotiation partners are on your team. And always has been.”
“They’re rarely involved with our contract,” commented Unbelievable co-creator Susannah Grant who was up for a Long Form Adapted WGA Award nomination, “I don’t think they have anything to do with our contract negotiations. The guild is pretty self contained in that.”
For Watchmen actor and Leaves of Grass filmmaker Tim Blake Nelson at the WGAE awards ceremony, the current situation that the WGA is mired in is just one big mess.
“You have the agencies learning how to produce and package, and you have the writers struggling against that, and you have the writers wanting new contracts that reflects the new ways that stuff is being monetized on new platforms. It’s like anything, a negotiation back and forth. I feel like the writers have good points, the producers have good points, the agents have good points. And also everybody is acting kind of horribly.” said Nelson.
Michael Clayton filmmaker and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story scribe Tony Gilroy couldn’t agree more about the swampy situation that the guild is in prior to talks.
“The most terrifying and maybe even hopeful part of it is that everybody is doing everything now for the first time. I’m really hopeful — I am hopeful — that we can sort of stumble together into the unknown, as opposed to descending into chaos, at each other’s throats. The old ways were, it was easy to know what side you were on, what you wanted to battle for. I don’t think anyone knows what they’re doing right now, on either side,” said the filmmaker.
Whether to be anxious or optimistic about talks, “there’s not way to know until they (AMPTP) responds,” Grant told Deadline.
But there’s one absolute for her she doesn’t want the AMPTP to forget.
“We’re the content creators. Can’t make anything without us. We’ve never asked for anything more than what’s fair.”
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