WGAE Announces Writers Guild 2.0

We are pleased to announce a series of initiatives we have dubbed “Writers Guild 2.0”.  There is a brave new media world and we aim to be an integral part of it.

Calling it “new” media is a bit of a misnomer.  Digital technology has been transforming the entertainment and news industries for years, and an entire generation of young adults does not remember life before the internet.  In their experience “text” has always been a verb.  They have been creating and posting images and words on cell phones and web sites since elementary school.  Even people who remember black and white TV are hooked into the matrix of iPhones, Blackberries with video capabilities, computers at work and at home, screens in taxis and grocery stores, and so on and so on. 

As a member of the Writers Guild of America, East, you know that one of our biggest challenges is to advance the interests of writers in the digital world.  Some things will probably not change.  A certain number of well-funded and carefully crafted films and television programs will be continue to be made in essentially the same form, with essentially the same budgets, even if they are distributed digitally.  Our members have the skills and experience to create news content for various platforms, even as the distinction between television and the internet continues to erode. 

But there is something more happening here, and (with apologies to Stephen Stills) what it is has become increasingly clear.  A lot of the material being created for the internet is shorter and more interactive, and we must figure out how our members can get that work – or, more precisely, can obtain appropriate compensation for that work even though the budgets and business models are very different from what we are accustomed to.  More and more writers will develop their careers off the familiar paths and we must make the Guild relevant to them. 

Thus, over the next six months we will roll out Writers Guild 2.0:

New web siteWe are painfully aware that our current site is inadequate.  A committee of members and staff has been working with a great design firm to transform the look and feel of the site and to add a lot of new features, including video and blogging.  We are hiring a Director of Communications who will update the content on the site and keep it fresh and interesting. 

New media classesWe are working with job training and new media professionals to develop courses where members can learn about the technology they need to create and distribute content digitally, discuss the new business models with people who are building them, and sharpen their skills to write for the web and other digital media.  Some of the courses will be geared more towards people in news, others towards people who write in various entertainment genres; some of the courses should work for everyone.   We will soon be sending you a short survey that will help us structure these courses to be as helpful as possible.  (CBS members have already received the survey.)

New media programs and eventsWe will present workshops, panel discussions, networking sessions, and other events addressing various aspects of the new media – economics, trends, styles, technologies.  As with the training programs, we are developing these events by consulting with people who create and distribute content for the internet, for iPhones, and for other new media.

New media contracts  Both the WGAE and the WGAW have already signed a number of new media projects.  The WGAE organizing department has been meeting with new media content creators and production companies, small and large, and we anticipate that more of them will sign Guild contracts.  Many producers are enthusiastic about developing a relationship with the Writers Guild and its members.  We understand that in many cases the economics and business model are very different from the big studios and networks, and the MBA takes this into account. 

Listening and learning.  The WGAE continues to research new media production and trends (as we do with traditional media), and we all are trying to absorb as much information as we can during this transitional era.  We are not so arrogant as to think we already have all the answers and the structures to represent writers in the digital world.  Every meeting, phone conversation, and email exchange tells us something new about how writers fit into the new models, and how writers can develop their own models.   We welcome any information and feedback you can provide us, too.  So, even as we roll out Writers Guild 2.0 we will be thinking about version 3.0, and beyond.

 

Lowell Peterson,Executive Director