- Zhubin Parang
- Bonnie Datt
- David Atkins
- Henry Bean
- Bernardo Ruiz
- Susan Kim
- Robert Levi
- Amy Sohn
- Courtney Simon
- Norman Steinberg
- George Strayton
CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT
I very much look forward to serving for another two years and thank you for your collegiality and support.
Jeremy Pikser -- friend, colleague and distinguished screenwriter -- is running for a second term as vice president. I urge you to vote for him. His commitment to the union and its members is profound. The same goes for Secretary-Treasurer Bob Schneider who has proven himself a highly capable and trustworthy watchman, vigilantly overseeing our finances, which are in excellent health.
Several candidates are running for election to the council as a slate and I urge you to please elect the following:
Freelance – Henry Bean, Bonnie Datt, Susan Kim, Zhubin Parang, Bernardo Ruiz, and Courtney Simon.
Staff – Sue Brown McCann, Phil Pilato and Duane Tollison.
All of them are knowledgeable and experienced; each brings a sturdy belief in this union and the art and craft of what we do. They will value your vote and make it worthwhile.
I became president at a turbulent time in Guild history, on the cusp of a 100-day national strike, in the midst of several negotiations and during a period of staff discontent. In the years since, working together, and with the leadership of Executive Director Lowell Peterson and his accomplished team, the ship has been righted and we are in the midst of several important initiatives in organizing and making available to our members a variety of opportunities for training and education, not to mention our unceasing efforts to make our pension, health and residuals programs the strongest we can.
At a time when organized labor has been troubled by economic crisis and partisan rancor, we successfully have increased our visibility and political involvement in Washington and Albany, bringing our issues and needs to the attention of our elected representatives. Perhaps most important, we have helped nurture a community of writers and other creative professionals who now know the WGAE as a place where they can gather, learn, share ideas, and find friends and colleagues.
Credits: Currently, senior writer at “Moyers & Company” on public television and a senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Emmy Award-winning senior writer, “Bill Moyers Journal,” 2008-2010. Writer-producer of documentaries, kid’s TV, music, variety and arts specials. Other productions include “NOVA,” “Nature,” “NOW with Bill Moyers,” “My Sergei” (CBS Movie of the Week), “Square One TV,” “3-2-1 Contact,” “American Experience,” “The Perfect War,” “Television,” “Smithsonian World,” “Benny Goodman: Let’s Dance” and many others.
Guild Activities: Member since 1981. President, 2007 - present. Council member, 1990-1998, 2000-2002, 2005-2007. Richard B. Jablow Memorial Award for Devoted Service to the Guild, 1998. Chair, Awards Committee, 1989-2004. Editor and Co-Editor, Awards Journal, 1992-2003. Delegate, International Affiliation of Writers Guilds since 1988; co-chair, first World Conference of Screenwriters, Athens, 2009. Member, advisory board, Hollywood, Health and Society at the Annenberg Norman Lear Center, USC, 2013.
CANDIDATES FOR VICE PRESIDENT
“The industry is changing,” is fast becoming a cliché, but it is no less true for that.
More and more TV is “reality” and “non-scripted.” TV and radio news is under continuing and increasing pressure from new media formats. Fewer films are being made and far fewer development deals with fewer steps. And don’t even get me started about what KINDS of films are (and aren’t) being made. Independent budgets are continually shrinking to the vanishing point.
All this puts ever increasing pressure on the Guild to resist attempts by the companies to lower our compensation and degrade the terms by which we work. In the coming term a new MBA will be negotiated. We need to be firm, innovative, and practical in using the considerable power we have to get the best deal possible. Raising rates and residuals in basic and premium cable would be, I think, at the top of a wish list.
But there is, if anything, more of threat to our future welfare from the continuing expansion of films and TV that are not now covered by the MBA.
My first term as Vice President has been spent mostly working with staff and members in trying to position the Guild to deal with these changes and remain a meaningful and useful organization for working writers.
As a member of the “Future Members” Committee, I have taken part in the difficult struggle to organize “non-fiction” TV. There are something like 1000 writers working in this area in NY alone. Not only are their pay, working conditions, and benefits shamefully unfair, but they provide an incentive for entertainment companies to make more of these shows and less of what they are willing to admit are scripted, written by writers, undermining everyone who writes for TV. The Council has made what I think is a bold gamble, devoted considerable resources to try to bring “non-fiction” writers into the guild and negotiate decent contracts for them. Working closely with our dedicated, inspired, knowledgeable, and professional organizing department and legal counsel, we have been able to win elections at several companies, and union contracts at two. And we’re moving on. Only time will tell if we are going to be ultimately successful in turning “non-fiction” TV into a unionized industry for writers, but what’s clear is that if we just sit by and do nothing, unionized writing for all TV will shrink.
I’ve also been active in forming an Independent Film Caucus, a group of members and non-members working in independent film. This is another area where the future seems uncertain and the need to develop new models and forms of collective action seems to me to crucial to our future. The ever smaller budgets of independent films don’t leave much room for writers’ pay, let alone benefits, and yet, as studio films become ever narrower in form and content, working with smaller budgets outside the mega-conglomerate world is, if anything, more and more attractive. The independent caucus is an attempt to keep lines of communication open and to begin to formulate new models that would make sense for guild covered work in independent productions.
Since my election to a first term two years ago, all three officers of the Guild have been MBA (not staff, or news) writers. This is, honestly, not ideal. For this reason, I’ve tried to pay special attention to Phil Pilato’s invaluable contributions to the executive committee, and the issues and concerns raised by the other news members of the Council. For this reason, I’m specially proud to say that I have received endorsements from all staff council members in NY: Phil Pilato, Ted Schreiber, Art Daley, Duane Tollison, and Patrick Mason.
After one term, I still feel I’m finding my legs. I believe I have excellent relationships with other members of the Council, and have enjoyed working closely and getting to know more and more members of the amazing professional staff we have at the Guild. I ask for your vote so that I can continue to grow in this role.
CANDIDATE FOR SECRETARY–TREASURER
When I first began my involvement in the Guild, we were at war with the West, had an angry staff and a dysfunctional office, and were running in the red year after year. We are now at peace with the West, the office is a place where the staff is eager to work for the good of the members, and we have run a surplus for the last two years, which—although it coincides with my first term as secretary treasurer (I just had to get that in)—is thanks to the excellent management skills of our executive director, Lowell Peterson.
There’s plenty of credit to go round but I would be amiss if I didn’t single out the strong and steady leadership of Michael Winship and the wise counsel of Jeremy Pikser (an invaluable asset to the Guild whom I urge all of you to vote for), as well as the rest of the Executive Committee, including our esteemed emeritus consiglieri, the sagacious Walter Bernstein. The committee has consistently focused and framed important issues for our council and effectively represented the interests of the East at the National Council.
I didn’t know Jeremy when he first got elected to the Council, but his wit and common sense, his ability to lay an issue out with clarity and insight made a deep impression on all of us. He’s a great writer and a strong leader and is committed to advancing the rights of writers of all stripes. He has been a stalwart on the members’ side of the groundbreaking, extremely successful nonfiction organizing campaign.
We need Jeremy. The Guild will be weaker if we don’t re-elect him vice president.
CANDIDATES FOR COUNCIL: FREELANCE
I’ve only been a member of the Guild for two years now, but in that time I’ve experienced firsthand the entire range of the Guild’s relationship with its Members, from its stalwart defense of our rights against management to its frustrating relationship with our health plan’s bureaucracy. So, in short, I’m running for the Council because I want to help continue the former and improve the latter.
There is an enormous amount that the Guild does right, and not just in dues-collecting. In negotiations with our management the Guild aggressively and ably represented us, and its communication and coordination with the Members was excellent. As a Council member, I want to continue and expand the Guild’s interaction with its Members, especially in its role of educating and informing Members about their rights and options. An informed Member is a better, more active Member, and I want a Guild filled with active Members.
On the other side of the spectrum, my experiences with our Guild’s health plan, like so many Members’ experiences, have been frustrating and at times enraging. Thanks to various members of the Guild staff, my experiences ultimately turned out positive, but as a Council member I hope to help reform the process so that claims are more streamlined and that Members are more quickly and thoroughly informed of their claims statuses, rights, and options under our health plan.
In addition to these specific goals, I generally want to help the Guild be better in whatever way I can, whether it’s through organizing new shows and industries, providing more and better services to Members, and responding to Member concerns and complaints. I’m very lucky to reap the benefits of other Members’ sacrifices to organize and develop this Guild, and I want to do my part to continue this work for current and future Members.
I also hope my background as an attorney will add a helpful perspective to the Council, and will also partly justify my law school tuition bill.
I am honored to join an election slate with freelance candidates Bonnie Datt, Susan Kim, Courtney Simon, Henry Bean, and Bernardo Ruiz, and with staff candidates Phil Pilato, Duane Tollison, and Sue Brown McCann. They are active and dedicated Council members and staunch advocates for their colleagues.
In our constantly changing media landscape it’s crucial for writers to be represented by a strong Guild. Since my election to the WGAE Council in 2011, I’ve spent my term working to protect writers’ rights and welfare. Although I’d always been an active member, serving on Council and becoming a chair of one Guild committee and co-chair of a caucus has afforded me even more opportunities to be of service to my fellow members.
I believe that the more writers we represent, the more clout we’ll have in negotiating for all our members. So for the past eight years I’ve diligently worked with the WGAE’s organizing department. I’ve strategized and participated in extensive outreach to help organize new media, non-fiction, basic cable, independent film and animation shops. The ultimate goal of this work has been to strengthen the Guild’s power and ensure fair treatment for all writers.
During my Council term, I’ve taken part in WGAE lobbying trips to Washington, DC and Albany to help promote national fair labor practices for freelance writers and the extension of the state’s production tax credit to writers in New York. In 2012 I was a WGAE Delegate to the New York State AFL-CIO Convention. Due to my organizing work, I was part of a group of representatives who met with AFL- CIO President Richard Trumka to strategize about our non-fiction organizing campaigns. I also attended sessions of the 2011 International Affiliation of Writers Guilds to learn how our sister unions around the world are attempting to combat the economic issues that we all face.
Last year, my fellow Council member Susan Kim and I resuscitated the long dormant Animation Caucus. As its co-chairs we’ve more than doubled the number of active caucus members from the group’s earlier incarnation. We’ve set up career development roundtables and networking sessions, including ones that focused on screenwriting for animation, self production and pitching to development executives. We’ve also encouraged cross-membership with the WGAE’s Digital Caucus, of which I’m an active member.
My focus has not been limited to organizing and lobbying. I’ve also worked as a producer and writer on every WGAE Awards show since 2009. In 2012 I became the first female chair of the Awards Committee, a position I continue to hold. Over these years, I’ve worked with the Guild’s industrious staff, the show’s other producers and the rest of the committee’s members to help lower the show’s net-cost by more than ninety-five percent.
Like many WGAE members, my writing background is varied. I started as a stand-up comic and wrote for other comedians and SPY Magazine. I've done comedy and story punch-up on pilots and sitcoms for ABC, Disney and Paramount. I've written for cable shows on the USA and Oxygen networks, and children’s shows for PBS and Disney—including co-creating an animated pilot for the Disney Channel. I’ve also worked as a story producer on a reality show. In the world of new media, I co-created an animated short, wrote for comedycentral.com, msnbc.com and am currently a regular contributor to the fashion site racked.com. Due to my varied resume, I’ve learned firsthand the multiple ways writers suffer without Guild representation. These experiences directly inspired my dedication to WGAE organizing.
I am honored to be running on an election slate with freelance candidates Susan Kim, Courtney Simon, Henry Bean, Bernardo Ruiz and Zhubin Parang, and with staff candidates Phil Pilato, Duane Tollison, and Sue Brown McCann. These members have repeatedly proven themselves insightful, committed and active supporters of the Guild and their fellow writers. I also want to endorse President Michael Winship, Vice President Jeremy Pikser and Secretary-Treasurer Bob Schneider in their reelection bids. They’ve all dedicated countless hours to protecting the rights and improving the lives of WGAE members. Their knowledge and insightful perspectives on the Guild will be invaluable as we head into our next MBA contract negotiations.
If reelected, I promise to continue building on my history of WGAE service, working with members and staff to try to protect the rights of all my fellow WGAE members.
As a member of the Writers Guild of America East since 1991, I have had the privilege of working in the film and television industry on a variety of projects large and small, both studio-based and independently produced. I have written primarily for film, but also for television and new media platforms.
Over the years I have watched closely as our industry has transformed in a myriad of ways, often with mixed results for writers. My perspective has been primarily populist in nature: For most of my career I have been a mid-level, rank-and-file member of the Guild. As such, I have been both blessed and cursed to be extremely familiar with what it means to be a working writer in Hollywood.
While the conditions in today’s industry no longer embody the go-go, halcyon days of multi-million dollar spec sales and three-pic-pack studio deals that were common in the industry at the beginning of my career, I believe there is still great potential to provide a range of excellent opportunities for all writers among our membership.
As a council member it will be my objective, not only to provide quality service to our Guild, but also to identify and develop these new opportunities with the goal of restoring our membership to the level of prosperity that it has enjoyed in the past.
First and most importantly, it is essential to create new jobs, not only for the top 1% of our writers, but for each and every Guild member. To accomplish this, I believe it is leadership’s responsibility to identify and develop strategies of monetizing new technologies and emerging distribution platforms.
In an arena where evolving players like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and Xbox are successfully producing new series, it is our obligation to be absolutely current in the arena of digital media, and have a facility with all nascent technologies and emerging modes of filmed story-telling. In this way, we can be in the best possible position to exploit developing opportunities and monetize them for our membership.
As a professor in the Department of Film, Television, and Interactive Media at Quinnipiac University, I have extensive experience in developing innovative strategies in this arena. Working with a team of nationally known researchers, I have focused on articulating new modes of distribution for classic programming and film, as well as new media content. This particular aspect of my background, I believe, will provide a unique and essential asset to our membership as we move forward into the digital age.
It will also be my focus as a council member to forge effective partnerships with emerging players, markets, and financial entities in the industry, both domestic and international. Additionally, I will advocate taking steps to rebuild important relationships that may have been damaged with our colleagues in the Producer’s Guild, and strive to develop more effective working alliances for the future.
Finally, it will be my goal to seek to enhance the stature of our health and pension plans. In this way our Guild will not only thrive through the twenty-first century, but also be safeguarded against any and all potential perils or events that may threaten the financial soundness of our membership.
A brief professional biography:
I have been a screenwriter for the past twenty years, most recently for MGM on "Hot Tub Time Machine" (uncredited) starring John Cusack. Four of my screenplays have been produced. These include "Arizona Dream" starring Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway, and "Novocaine", starring Steve Martin and Helena Bonham Carter, which I wrote and directed. Novocaine was chosen as a Gala Premiere Event at the London, Boston, and Toronto Film Festivals. I have written screenplays for Paramount, Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, DreamWorks, MTV Films, MGM, UGC, and NBC as well as scripts for directors Oliver Stone, Luc Besson, and Steve Pink.
This is my first time running for a seat on the council. I would consider it an honor and a privilege to serve our Guild membership.
I once heard a very smart and serious member of Congress talk about his legislative plans. There were bills he thought he might be able to get passed sometime in the next year or two; there were bills that would take five years, others that would take ten, and there were a couple he thought would take twenty years, or possibly longer. He knew that some of them would fail and that some might become reality after he was gone, but they were all important, and he had both a lot of faith and a lot of tenacity.
After a term on the Council, I think about him often. In my candidate statement two years ago, I argued that the days of lucrative screenwriting deals were over for all but a handful of writers and that for the rest of us to make any real money (and get the respect that comes with it) we would need meaningful profit participation. Since the existing buyers would do anything to deny us that, we would have to find and even develop other customers and other markets for our work.
All that now seems to me both true and naïve. True because the studios have found that even after cutting fees by 50-75%, writers will still compete for jobs, write free outlines, treatments, even scenes, and then, if actually hired, do countless drafts though only contracted for one. In short, writers are even more desperate to write than they are to get paid and are, therefore, endlessly exploitable.
And I was naïve because I had no idea how hard it was or how long it would take to change any of this. The fight for gross position will take many years and will be conducted like a prolonged asymmetrical war in which, at best, we will seize a little territory at the margins of the business (e.g. low-budget indies) and try to move over decades toward the heart of the empire. It will take faith, tenacity and a strategy that, at this point, has not even been articulated. One thing I would like to do if I have another term, is to begin formulating that strategy.
Another thing I’ve learned on the Council is that the future of the Guild, a key to its strength and its ability to help all of us, depends on its own growth into new areas, particularly, news, reality and animation. A lot of money is being made there, and writers are not getting their share; i.e. anything like the value they add to the shows. Writers who are covered by the Guild will make more money, get better benefits and raise the status of writers generally. The more the public sees us not as fungible hacks, but as skilled workers with special talents – indispensible to the quality of entertainment and news – the more power we will have both individually and collectively.
Therefore, it seems to me important for all of us that the Guild put both effort and money into organizing non-Guild shows and writers and in expanding its membership. In the East, this is largely the work of the New Members Committee, which has been very active and remarkably effective over the past few years. But this, too, is long term. We get both help and opposition, support and indifference, from various government officials and agencies. It’s our job to keep the fight going.
Serving on the Council and a couple of committees has been a continuing education into the workings of the Guild and into some of the forces that, recognized or not, shape our working lives. I’d like to do it for another term, see what I can learn and what I can move forward a little bit.
I’m happy and honored to be running on a slate with eight other candidates, seven for re-election and one for the first time. They are Susan Kim, Phil Pilato, Bonnie Datt, Bernardo Ruiz, Courtney Simon, Duane Tollison, Sue Brown and, the rookie, Zhubin Parang. We come from news, non-fiction, daytime, comedy/late night TV and digital, as well as features. These are intelligent, hard-working people who give a great deal to the Guild, not only on the Council, but in committees and other areas. I urge you vote for all of them. And, also: Michael Winship for President, Jeremy Pikser for Vice-President and Bob Schneider for Secretary-Treasurer.
Member since 1978. Credits Committee since 2009. New Member Committee since 2011.
My name is Susan Kim and I’m running for my fifth consecutive term as a freelance council member.
In addition to documentaries, I write children’s TV for broadcast, cable, and PBS. This informs everything I do at the guild… for because I know how much better covered work is than uncovered, organizing has always been my top priority. In a political landscape that is increasingly precarious for the middle class, we must expand jurisdiction, grow our membership, and thrive as a union so that we all have a shot at a decent standard of living. Much of my work is in animation which, as a non-mandatory subject of bargaining, is ignored in every single MBA negotiation. The bitter truth is we can’t “bargain to organize”; we must “organize to bargain.” Organizing animation is a complex and elusive goal that many of us have struggled with for years. Yet the recent organizing victories in nonfiction and new media continue to give me hope for the future… and that is where I promise to continue putting my efforts.
I first ran for a council seat eight years ago as part of a slate of candidates called WGAEmpowered. Back then, our challenges were considerable: we were at war with our colleagues out west, newswriters were in a drawn-out contractual battle at CBS, digital rights in the MBA were still a question mark, organizing was dead, and membership apathy was beyond rampant. Since then, I’m proud to have helped revitalize our union.
As directed by the council, our executive director, Lowell Peterson, has made organizing a priority, turning it into the Guild’s largest department. As a result, there have been dozens of new deals in cable, new media, and low-budget features. We have had impressive victories in an extended nonfiction organizing drive that continues to grow, bringing unprecedented optimism to and activism among members, future members, staff, and leadership. Yet there are still huge challenges that lie ahead; we can’t afford complacency. We must continue to win and enforce contracts, identify new targets, organize, mobilize… and above all, stay vigilant.
During my four terms, I have served not only on the council, but on numerous committees, working groups, and caucuses. I am one of the founding members of Future Members, which continues to actively support the nonfiction, digital, and late-night organizing drives. In addition, I served on the Constitution Committee, was a picket captain during the strike, and currently serve on the council, the national council, and executive committee. With fellow council member Bonnie Datt, I reactivated the dormant Animation Caucus, which provides professional training and networking opportunities for both member and non-member writers and animators. If I am elected, my priorities will be to continue supporting internal and external organizing both from my seat on the council and with Future Members.
I am honored to run as part of a slate of candidates, made up of both incumbents and a first-timer. The incumbents (Sue Brown, Henry Bean, Phil Pilato, Bonnie Datt, Courtney Simon, Duane Tollison, Bernardo Ruiz) come from news, feature, digital, nonfiction, and daytime, and bring invaluable experience, wisdom and vision. The first-time candidate is Zhubin Parang, who represents comedy/late night TV. All are smart and dedicated members who have proven themselves in committee and caucus work over the past few years.
I’ve written for more than three dozen children’s TV series, for which I’ve been nominated for five Writers Guild Awards and four Emmys. Credits include: HANDY MANNY, ARTHUR, SPEED RACER, WONDER PETS!, OSWALD THE OCTOPUS, HAPPILY EVER AFTER, ARTHUR, MARTHA SPEAKS!, READING RAINBOW, SQUARE ONE TV, COURAGE THE COWARDLY DOG and ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? I’ve also written specials and documentaries and won a WGA award for Best Documentary in 1996 for PBS’ "Paving the Way”.
In addition, I write plays and books. Along with my boyfriend, WGAE member Laurence Klavan, I’m currently writing a young adult fiction trilogy for HarperCollins; the first volume, Wasteland, came out this spring. Prior to that, we wrote two graphic novels, City of Spies and Brain Camp, that were published by First Second Books. I also wrote a non-fiction book, Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, with graphic designer Elissa Stein, published by St. Martin’s/Griffin. I teach writing at Goddard College and NYU/Tisch, where I’m also a proud member of the UAW.
I’m Rob Levi, a lifetime Guild member and four-time WGA award-nominee. My film “Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life” – a work I independently wrote, produced, and directed for PBS – became the first program in broadcast history to win the Emmy for Best Documentary, a Peabody, and the WGA Best Documentary (other than current events) Award – all in the same year. I’m currently finishing another feature documentary, “Playwright: From Page to Stage,” that I wrote, produced, and directed that tracks the lives and work of two young multicultural playwrights whose success leads to Broadway. The film will air on PBS in 2013-2014.
Having worked on the WGA Negotiating Committee during the last complex PBS contract negotiations that took well over a year to finalize, I am excited by the prospect of working with the Council. I believe that the WGAE must continue its ongoing efforts to organize reality-shows, animation, news, and other internet incarnations that fall into the new media category.
I often witness how production executives deal with union involvement, and I’m opposed to anyone who says that hiring our writers is not in the budget. In this new and frenzied workplace, there’s little status quo or business as usual; even the usual suspects are harder to track as they fly under the radar.
In addition to being a WGAE lifetime member, I had a successful earlier career that served me well and complements my qualifications to serve the WGA. For over a dozen years, I was a film and video Director of Photography who also sat on the Executive Boards of NABET Local 15, AFL-CIO, and Local 600, the International Photographers Union. I grew up in a pro-union environment, but I also continue to produce independent films, which helps me understand management concerns and realties specific to low-budget and new media production. We’re now in a phase in which many projects – with origination and capturing formats evolving yearly – need to be examined and considered when we decide on how best to involve and cover our writers. My experience with production budgets, new media formats, and image-capturing systems will hopefully add to my qualifications.
The creative workforce and management playing field is less balanced than in recent memory, and profits realized on the internet have become very real and need to be monitored. We must remain united and vigilant but open-minded; committed and impassioned in our writers’ space, but equally so at the bargaining table. We’re a creative guild, but also a catalytic and galvanizing force -- witness the meaningful effect on popular culture and primetime television that resulted from our strike of years past. We need to follow lessons learned during these hard-fought victories as we continue to develop strengths and unity and build on our successes. Thanks for your consideration in this election.
In addition to “Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life” -- one of three documentaries to make New York Magazine’s Top Ten Best Television Events list, I received three Writers Guild nominations for other work, including the Emmy-winning “Duke Ellington: Reminiscing in Tempo,” a feature documentary film that premiered on PBS's American Experience, and was later broadcast on A&E’s Biography, BBC’s Omnibus, and on other international carriers. My films have screened at festivals including Berlin, London, Melbourne, Munich, AFI and others. As a Director of Photography, I have worked with many directors, including Norman Jewison, Sidney Pollack, and Nick Broomfield.
As a nine-year WGA member I have witnessed the rapid changes facing our industry and I believe that we must constantly grow and evolve as a union to remain strong. On the strike line I witnessed the incredible sense of community. I also witnessed the longing that many of us had to know our fellow members in not only bad times, but good.
I have written for HBO, ABC, and FOX, among other networks, and believe that our Guild should be led by working writers. Though I joined the Guild through a television pilot deal, I have been a novelist and journalist for sixteen years, and understand that New York-based writers in particular have many pots on the stove. The Guild has an obligation to support our multi-faceted membership, rather than divide us into disparate groups. As a Council member I will work on strengthening the relationships between TV, screen, and digital writers, and between writers and directors. I want to build bridges that not only inspire New York-based writers but help them get paying work.
To that end, this year Council Member Lara Shapiro and I launched WGA-Brooklyn, a meeting series in which Brooklyn members can network, discuss their creative processes, and exchange resources. We have gotten great feedback from WGA-Brooklyn members and I have been awed by their diversity, hunger for collaboration, and optimism. In the future WGA-Brooklyn will be reaching out to members in the other boroughs; fostering connections between the WGA and DGA; and finding ways for NYC members to collaborate on new projects.
I received WGA health insurance for the first time two weeks before giving birth, and was grateful that my child would have health coverage thanks to the Guild. As a mother, a feminist, and the family breadwinner, I want to build on the Guild’s efforts to address issues facing women and minority writers. I also want to reach out to Guild families of all kinds to make sure that our union is addressing their needs.
During the time that I've been privileged to serve on the Council, I've spent the bulk of my energy representing members who work in what used to be known as Daytime. Now, with two established shows having migrated to the web, perhaps this field should more accurately be referred to as "Anytime". And this is a good thing. As I write this, it remains to be seen whether the digital versions of One Life to Live and All My Children will have long-term legs. But initial indicators have been very promising.
Meanwhile, back in broadcast television, it’s heartening that after many dire predictions about the precarious state of the few remaining network shows, Variety recently reported that all four shows are winning ratings that exceed expectations. And along with these more traditional productions, there’s a proliferation of shorter-format web shows as well, enough to inspire a yearly digital presentation called the Indie Soap Awards. Clearly, there is still an audience for this time-honored brand of storytelling.
But the new landscape is constantly evolving. And while it’s finding its way, it is critical that the Guild make it possible for writers in this genre to try ways of working that are different from the old models. The deal made with Prospect Park Productions for its two digital soaps demonstrated the kind of flexibility that allows emerging formats to get off the ground. Some concessions on the part of the union were required and granted. But changes in compensation can’t be accompanied by unfair working conditions. I ask all of you, particularly those who are working in these new formats, to keep me informed of the conditions at your shows. If there are complaints, I will do everything I can to see that your Guild sets about making sure that contracts are fully honored and that writers are treated with respect.
Apart from these longstanding concerns, which will continue, there are other avenues of Guild work that I’m finding increasingly exciting. The victories we’ve achieved in organizing new shops, primarily in non-fiction, inspire me to get more involved in this area. I’ve also greatly enjoyed my work with the Awards Committee and look forward to more.
As I once again ask for your trust and your vote, let me draw your attention to some inexhaustible, dedicated and fiercely creative colleagues. Together we compose a slate representing a number of fields, including features, non-fiction, digital and news. My fellow incumbents Susan Kim, Bonnie Datt, Henry Bean, Bernardo Ruiz, Sue Brown, Phil Pilato and Duane Tollison have all earned your vote many times over. Joining them is first-time candidate Zhubin Parang, who represents comedy/late-night TV and will be a bright new voice on our Council.
Thank you for supporting all of us and thank you for giving me the opportunity of serving you for the past six years.
Let me state, right off the bat, that the rumors of the infusion of vast sums of Sheldon Adelson money to my campaign are utterly false.
I’ve been a member of the Writers Guild for more than forty years. In that time I have neither run for nor held any office or position in the Writers Guild, either on the west coast or here. I didn’t seek office this time either. I was informed that I had been nominated for a Council seat and had to check to see that perhaps a mistake had been made. It wasn’t. I’m in the running.
I did not choose to run, but if I am elected, I will serve. With dignity? We’ll see. Here are my qualifications: I love the Guild (even though it screwed me big time on a credit arbitration) and I think we all owe this organization our loyalty and, in this case our service. I believe in payback and, if elected, this would be mine.
I love writers and during my career, launched the careers of a couple of hundred of them. I’m still doing it through my graduate writing program at Long Island University at the Steiner Studios.
The Writers Guild validated me. It stamped my card and allowed me to call myself a writer. That was a price above rubies. That’s what I have to offer: passion. If that’s enough, then you should vote for me. I now have to decide if I’m voting for me.
I will make one campaign promise. It’s the same one that the legendary newspaperman Jimmy Breslin made when he was running for Mayor when he was asked what the first thing he would do if elected Mayor. Breslin said, “I will demand a recount.” Me, too.
I became a Guild member in 1999 and have seen the industry change drastically since that time. I've written television, film, and transmedia projects. I've also been involved in various WGA activities over the years, including participating in the successful credit revision committee, speaking as a panelist at Guild-sponsored events, and, most importantly, proudly marching on the picket line every day during our most recent strike, whether I was in New York or Los Angeles on any given day.
I was surprised and humbled to find myself nominated for the Guild Council and excited to accept. I'm passionate about the Guild and its work, but I especially value my fellow members and would be honored to represent you.
My chief concern revolves around new distribution platforms, especially given my experience in different media over the past fifteen years. When I started, transmedia didn't exist; now it's rampant. I fear the studios will take advantage of every new method of distributing content to lessen our power and lower our wages. Despite producers' claims that our last strike garnered us nothing significant, I adamantly disagree. However, given the rapid changes in technology, we have more work to do to ensure we retain our fair share of -- and even increase -- payment for our work.
Secondly, if elected, I will expend every effort to increase public awareness of writers as the true creators in the industry (no one else works until we first invent characters and a story). This takes away nothing from the great work of our collaborators in this art/business hybrid we all love (directors, actors, and producers), but we need the general audience to crave to see the next Marc Norman, Aaron Sorkin, or Michael Arndt film. The fact that Netflix lists only a film's director and its actors tells you all you need to know about the public's perception of writers. The point is, with greater audience awareness comes greater power in our negotiations with producers.
I appreciate your taking the time to read my candidate statement and hope to receive your vote. Thank you.
Credits: Transformers (transmedia), Xena: Warrior Princess (staff writer), Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (freelance writer), Cleopatra 2525 (freelance writer), Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight (writer). I've also optioned a screenplay to Kurtzman/Orci.
CANDIDATES FOR COUNCIL: STAFF
I became active in the Guild as a member of the WGA/CBS Negotiations Committee, holding our ground against staggering cuts in wages and jurisdiction. That experience--seeing how important and necessary the Guild is in the lives and work of our members--inspired me to join the organizing committee, the committee for an informed membership, become a shop leader at CBS Radio News, and eventually led to my first run for council.
I am proud of the work that I, and my fellow council members, have accomplished: Our contracts are stronger, we've organized more shows, and we are reaching out and cultivating new writers of different genres; we are saving tens of thousands of dollars in our budget and awards show, and our pension is solid; our relationships with other entertainment guilds are strengthening, and we are lobbying the state assembly and Congress in support of writers and artists everywhere. I take the most pride in our commitment to grow, educate, and train our members, helping our writers evolve, as our industries change, with a litany of panels, workshops, and classes.
With your support, I will make sure we continue our education initiatives, especially for news writers and journalists in an industry still trying to find its footing. I will continue to challenge our organizing department to target and organize more news shops. And I will help lead our diversity efforts.
I am running with a slate of writers who have worked tirelessly on your behalf, who represent the broad and diverse spectrum of members represented by the Guild, who are bold, selfless, and innovative leaders: Susan Kim, Bonnie Datt, Courtney Simon, Henry Bean, Zhubin Parang, Sue Brown, Phil Pilato, and Bernardo Ruiz. I encourage you to vote for them.
I also hope you'll re-elect our Guild officers, Michael Winship, Jeremy Pikser, and Bob Schneider.
I have never been afraid to stand up and speak out on your behalf, and that determination is stronger now than ever. I hope you will renew your faith in me as mine is renewed by you.
I've been a member of the WGAE for three decades, and a council member representing news writers now for six years - and during that time - nothing has changed my opinion that management and labor are locked in a power struggle. They want higher profits and less costs, writers need better pay and benefits.
There are now more people working in news than ever before - however most of those jobs are non-union. Management doesn’t want to elevate non-union workers to our level - by raising their pay and giving them benefits. Instead they continue to hammer away at us - trying to get us to reduce our pay and benefits until our earnings are on par with non-union workers.
With a weak jobs market, management tries to pit workers against each other - making us fight for the same few jobs.
That is why we must stop the bloodletting - and begin to turn the tide - by organizing non-union workers, getting other unions involved in our struggle, and by uniting writers so that we can demand better pay and benefits from management for all writers.
Since I've been on the council - one of my top priorities and a top priority of my fellow council members has been to organize non-union shops in order to get them decent pay and benefits.
The result- Non-fiction writers, who up to this point have been working 50 and 60 hour weeks with no overtime and no benefits - now have a union fighting for them - the Writers Guild. Some of these shops now finally have a decent contract - with health benefits, 40 hour work weeks and better pay. We are expanding our efforts to organize - with the Council pushing the organizing department to get more non-union shops organized.
At the same time the Guild must also focus on traditional members' needs. So I, along with my fellow news Council members have formed two committees - the news committee and the shop leaders committee. The shop leaders is devoted to getting already existing shops organized and active, not just waiting until a contract is up. The News Committtee, which I co-chair with Duane Tollison, focuses more on the state of our industry- where it's going and what the Guild can do to help News members prepare for changes and new opportunities.
Over the past six years, I've worked on getting the best news contracts for our members, I've walked the picket lines with our MBA brothers and sisters, met with members of our sister union - the WGA-West as part of the national council, served on the executive committee - in a seat voted on by my fellow council members, helped work on the rewriting of the Guild's constitution, as well as volunteering during our annual awards ceremonies.
Therefore, I ask you to allow me to continue to serve you -- the members of the Guild -by voting for me for another term as a council member - after all it's members who run the Guild, members who are the Guild.
I also ask you to vote for my co-chair on the news committee, Duane Tollison, and for Sue Brown-McCann who has done fantastic work representing news in Chicago.
I also urge you to vote for Henry Bean, Bonnie Datt, Susan Kim, Bernardo Ruiz, and Courtney Simon - five of the most active MBA members on the Council . Henry represents screenwriters, Bonnie represents New Media writers, Susan represents Animation writers, Bernardo represents Non-fiction writers, and Courtney represents Daytime writers. And there is also one non-incumbent who deserves your vote - Zhubin Parang - who will represent Comedy-Variety writers.
Your vote for all nine of us will be rewarded many times over by our dedication and activism for all writers.
Sue Brown McCann
It is my pride and joy to represent thousands of members in the WGAE. I find it empowering to make sure every voice is heard!
I'm especially privileged to work in Chicago with Allen Schaefer, one of the longest standing members in our Guild. Sixteen years ago, he took me under his wing, teaching me the importance of the WGAE, and I’ve never forgotten his tutelage.
As the only Chicago member of the Council I help members understand that distance doesn't diminish our ties to the Guild, or our importance.
I am also proud of my reoccurring role on the negotiation committee. I take pride every three years, in looking members of the Company team in the eye and fighting for what I think is right for membership.
My work with the Guild has afforded me the opportunity to be surrounded by some of the most dedicated and incredible people in the business.
In solidarity I support and I urge you to vote for: Susan Kim, Bonnie Datt, Courtney Simon, Henry Bean, Zhubin Parang, Bernardo Ruiz, and Phil Pilato.
Please also, re-elect our Officers: Michael Winship, Jeremy Pikser, and Bob Schneider.
Each of these individuals are key assets to our success and the future of Guild.
Sue lives in Plainfield, a suburb of Chicago with her incredible husband and son.