Candidate for Council, Film/TV/Streaming Sector
My name is Nick Bernardone and I’m running for Council in the Film/TV/Streaming sector. In addition to being a proud WGAE member since 2010, I’ve recently served as a Strike Captain, on the War Room committee, the inaugural Digital Roundtable, and the 2023 WGAE Showrunner Academy.
Like many of you, I grew up in a union household and came up grinding in NY through a hearty combo of Production, writers’ room support staff, and generating indie content. Over the last 12+ years I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a handful of series across various mediums and genres. Half-hour, hour, shortform… Horror, fantasy, comedy… I’ve been in NY rooms, LA rooms, Zoom rooms… Rooms above sound stages, rooms in tall office buildings, rooms in abandoned warehouses… Streamers, cable, broadcast… A bit of development, a dash of late night, even a Guild covered podcast somewhere along the way.
And after all that, what was my biggest takeaway? That streaming residuals absolutely suck. And that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to fixing the issues in all these different mediums. But understanding what makes them different is the first step toward making progress.
I’m running for council because having truly active leadership with varied experience will be essential in harnessing the momentum we’ve gained these last 100+ days. I don’t have to tell you how inspiring it’s been on the picket lines. Meeting folks from every corner of our Guild — hearing their different paths, stories, and especially struggles. That’s why I’m ultimately running for council. To ensure that all those very different voices have a seat at the table.
The Guild (and industry) has changed dramatically in the last decade, and the next couple years will be critical in defining who we are.
- We will need to empower the Writer as we come out of this strike – a smooth transition back to what we do best.
- We need to stand firm in reciprocating the solidarity that our sibling unions showed us in our time of need.
- It’s essential that we stay ahead of the negotiation curve, anticipating the battles of tomorrow just as much as the ones in front of us.
- Navigating AI will be a constant existential threat, one that we’ll need experts and political engagement to keep in check.
- In the coming years, there will be opportunities to expand our Guild to cover the likes of the gargantuan Videogame industry, Podcasts, reality TV, and other untapped creative outlets.
- And last but certainly not least, we need to keep building on the Guild’s training programs – to prepare the writers and showrunners of tomorrow to be properly equipped when they finally get their shot. This will ensure we’re bringing and keeping Writers’ rooms and productions in NY.
If elected, I look forward to applying my varied experience to both supporting my sector and navigating the Guild out of the greatest labor movement of our lifetime.
(That’s the one pager – read on for the full pitch.)
Empowering the Writer as we return to normalcy
Much like the agency campaign in 2018, we need to be prepared to come out of this strike stronger than before and resume our necessary partnership with the studios. Like many of you, at one point or another, I’ve come to believe that #StrikeLife is simply my new reality. Racing across boroughs to beat Billions’ 3rd unit 15 pass… chanting at a 10th floor rooftop at 2am until my voice dies… dressing up in a bulky costume for a themed event in 100-degree heat. It’s been an epic war, one where writers served as the infantry. They’ll sing songs for a thousand years about the battles of Greenpoint and Hell’s Kitchen…
But one day (and hopefully soon), we will get to go back to what we actually do for a living. Writing. Creating worlds and telling stories. As leaders, we will need to help usher in a smooth transition back to work. These past 100+ days have been intense. And it won’t be easy to simply snap out of fighting the man back into the creative forces we are. But getting back to what we do best will be paramount in taking advantage of the monumental gains our Guild will have achieved thanks to our efforts this strike.
Most importantly, as we return to the workforce, we need to continue to fight for our creative freedoms across the board. We need to protect the Writer-Showrunner. We need to protect the Screenwriter who is too often pushed out after their script is purchased. Simply put: we need to be involved in the creative process from beginning to end. Any good Writer-Producer knows that our job never ends once we press send. It’s a model that’s worked in television for decades and is the path to sustainable financial years and quality over quantity. It is our duty as the Writer to protect the integrity of the work from top to bottom.
This strike has been successful in large part to the solidarity that’s been shown from our sibling unions. The Teamsters, IATSE, SAG-AFTRA – all the way to nurses, teachers, flight attendants, UPS, and Amazon workers. It’s paramount that we’re able to repay the favor if/when it comes time for their fight. No matter what that looks like on paper, every individual writer should have the right to reciprocate the loyalty and support that gave our fight the teeth needed to succeed.
Off the heels of this groundbreaking solidarity, we could look to establish an East Coast cross-union committee where we keep each other informed and have each other’s backs. Not just in a time of need, but year-round. Our cross-union solidarity was one of our strongest assets in this MBA negotiation. We should be ready to weaponize it whenever the moment strikes.
Staying ahead of the curve
Let’s be real – billionaires and tech bros disrupted and broke our industry. Now it’s on us to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate the problems of tomorrow so we never let it happen again. Having taught screenwriting at NYU and SU, I’ve gotten a peek into the incoming crop of creatives. And I’m super impressed. These future WGA hopefuls are not only incredibly smart and creative, but enthusiastic as hell about keeping our industry sustainable.
As elected officials, we need to not only win the battles in front of us, but always look to the battles ahead. It’s on us to future-proof this constantly changing model. Streamers are rolling out AVOD, FAST channels are gaining steam, and companies are abusing the “under 5 minute promotional material” loophole to amass millions and millions of views without having to pay us a cent in royalties.
Similarly, we need to explore ways to disincentivize Streamers from purging our content to save a few bucks. In the current model, if something isn’t a hit, these giant corps are able to take massive write-offs from purging our content.
But to be fair, it’s not all doom and gloom – our incredible Negotiating Committee will have made gains in these current negotiations no doubt. It will ultimately be in our best interest for Streamers to license our work to new outlets. We just need to ensure that we’re substantially compensated in the form of buy-outs, new residuals, or license/rental fees. Addressing these battles of tomorrow is how we ensure these pre-WGA’s inherit a Guild that’s built to last the ever-changing business models and platforms our work lives on.
“When you say AI, we say bye-bye”
America’s favorite chant from the WGAE picket lines will also certainly be our generation’s longest battle. We need to work hand-in-hand with our sibling unions to ensure AI exists to support the creatives, not replace us. This isn’t just going to be a fight between us and the companies. To be fair, it’s not even strictly our industry’s fight. It’s literally every human of Earth who provides a service for a living. And since we writers cracked this fight open on the main stage, we need to continue leading the charge. We’ll use every ounce of political power and legislative action imaginable. We’ll join hands with the American worker to pressure Congress into passing sensible regulation to protect jobs from automation. So that when you do inevitably say AI, we will in fact say bye-bye.
Room for growth (Videogames, Podcasts, Reality, and more)
As our Guild continues to expand and evolve, we should push to include and unionize Videogame writers, Podcast writers, Reality TV writers, and other likeminded allies. Just to state a fact, even if it’s a pill we’d rather not swallow: the video game industry is now larger than Hollywood. And it’s a vastly more popular medium amongst younger consumers. But we shouldn’t see them as a rival to what we do – this is an opportunity to expand our coverage to this rapidly expanding (and very much creative) industry. The immersive storytelling and dialogue woven throughout beautiful graphics and interactive engagement isn’t so far off from what we strive for when inviting our audiences to our large and small screens. And let’s be honest, some of the biggest videogame franchises have practically become breeding grounds for developing film and television (The Last of Us, The Witcher, Arcane, etc.) And the same can be said about popular fictional Podcasts. Imagine a world in which we bring these writers into our fold, generating Guild revenue and a pathway to cross-pollination. A world where between staffing and/or screenwriting, you could dabble in videogame development or podcast writing to hit your annual healthcare threshold.
Building up NY & Training Programs
I’ve come to learn a lot about our industry this past year, specifically the relationship between the writer to set/production. See, I was one of the lucky ones. I got to work for the better part of a decade in NY under some of the most experienced showrunners in the industry. And our writers’ room was in the same building as our sound stages and production offices. I received the best on-the-job training that I didn’t realize was such a rarity in our profession.
For example, this year I was included in the 2023 WGAE Showrunner Academy. Out of the 30 or so writers in the academy, there were only 5 of us that had legitimate on-set production experience. A sixth of writers! And these are writers who are about to become showrunners!! Imagine all the lower to mid-level writers (often BIPOC and working-class writers) who have been thrust into the lightning-quick and demanding world of prep and production. It’s unfair to them, it’s unfair to the process, and it’s something we can continue to improve by bolstering our training programs. Even in addition to the Guild-led programs, we can continue the Member-Captain led workshops post-strike and help educate WGA and pre-WGA writers who have yet to have this vital opportunity and exposure.
In the long term, we’ll be creating the NY Showrunners of tomorrow. It will help bring writers’ rooms to New York and keep them there. Even if that means embracing a hybrid-remote situation to round out our staffs. Because more rooms in New York likely means more production in New York. And that’s the path to strengthening our Guild and being built to last, no matter what disruptive curveballs are thrown our future-proofed way.
Thank you for reading and considering my candidacy. I am honored to be endorsed by the following writers:
Kay Cannon, Ashley Cardiff, Andrew Chambliss, Nazrin Choudhury, T Cooper, Timothy Cooper, Sean Crespo, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Stephani DeLuca, Alex Delyle, Azie Dungey, Grace Edwards, Liz Eney, Tina Fey, Hannah Friedman, Scott Gimple, Ian Goldberg, Josh Gondelman, Dylan Guerra, Lauren Gurganous, Brandt Hamilton, Hilary Bettis, Sheri Holman, Liz Hynes, Greg Iwinski, Dave Johnson, Dru Johnston, Chris Kyle, Ursula Lawrence, Judah Miller, Sam Means, Sarah Montana, Jacob Pinion, Celine Robinson, Dan Rubin, Meredith Scardino, Calaya Stallworth, Sasha Stewart, Leila Strachan, Katie Tibaldi, Tracey Scott Wilson, Suzanne Weber, Matt Whitaker, Adam Wiesen, Michael Winship