WGAE’s Letter to President Obama about FCC Nominations

WGAE President Michael Winship and Executive Director Lowell Peterson urged President Obama to nominate to the FCC commissioners who are "committed to the robust, open communication of ideas and programs over the airways and wires." Click here to read more.

Open Letter to Occupy Wall Street and and the New York Police Department:

The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, has strongly and actively supported the Occupy Wall Street movement from its inception. Our union members and staff have participated in many OWS actions, and we have endorsed OWS’ important message that corporate greed and economic inequality are wrong.

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Breaking news in court case on documentarian rights

Documentary filmmakers and journalists may breathe a partial sigh of relief today as the Court of Appeals has issued a largely positive order in the case of documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger. Attorney Michael C. Donaldson filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of the Writers Guild of America East, as well as 22 other industry organizations and individuals, who saw an earlier court order for Berlinger to turn over footage he filmed making CRUDE, The Real Price of Oil as a grave threat to the future of investigative documentaries. Donaldson evaluated yesterday’s ruling as “a partial victory for both sides. Chevron gets some but not all of what it wants. Berlinger has to turn over some, but not all 600 hours of footage.  The many hours of footage that Joe gathered alone with the plaintiffs and their families, friends, and neighbors has all been protected.  What is important to the documentary community is that – for the first time in this kind of case – the court is restricting Chevron on how it uses the footage.  Chevron can only use the footage for litigation, arbitration, or submission to official bodies.  Chevron can’t use the footage in publicity or promotional materials.  The documentary community is awaiting the final order of the court because it should give detailed discussion of the court’s thinking and provide guidelines to help documentary filmmakers in the future."“It is important to note that the many hours of footage that Joe gathered as he talked to the victims and their families does not have to be turned over pursuant to this order.   In terms of the trust and confidence that is at the heart of investigative filmmaking, this is a very important element of the order.”A lower court had ordered Berlinger to turn over 600 hours of raw footage he shot producing the documentary CRUDE, The Real Price of Oil to Chevron. Chevron went to court to gain access to the footage because it is defending itself against amassive Ecuadorian class action lawsuit brought by workers and residents of the Amazon who are seeking redress for years of environmental pollution.

The Independent Documentary Association explained that the earlier ruling to turn over the footage “will have a crippling effect on the work of investigative journalists everywhere, should it stand” because "If witnesses sense that their entire interviews will be scrutinized by attorneys and examined in courtrooms they will undoubtedly speak less freely.”

The Amicus Brief filed on behalf of the WGAE and 22 other industry organizations and individuals was considered invaluable by Berlinger’s legal team.

A Message from WGAE and WGAW Presidents -TV and Screen Credits Referendum Overwhelmingly Approved

To Our Fellow Members:

We’re pleased to inform you that the ballots have been tabulated and members of the Writers Guilds East and West have overwhelmingly approved all proposed amendments to the Screen and Television Credits Manuals. A total of 1,443 ballots were cast with the following results:

•    Screen Proposal – Uniform standard for screenplay credit on non-original screenplays – 85.7 % in favor of  adopting the amendment (1,237 yes; 197 no)

•    Television Proposal #1 – Arbiter Teleconference in the case of non-unanimous decision – 91.4% in favor of adopting the amendment (1,319 yes; 86 no)

•    Television Proposal #2 – Consolidation, reformatting, and clarification of Television Credits Manual and Separation of Rights Manual – 92.9 % in favor of adopting the amendment (1,341 yes; 64 no)

The amendments are effective immediately, and will apply to any project for which a Notice of Tentative Writing Credits is submitted on or after June 18, 2010.  The text of the amendments may be found on each Guild’s website at www.wgaeast.org and www.wga.org.

Thanks to all of you who participated in this important referendum, and special thanks to the members of the Credits Review Committees for their patience, commitment and hard work.  Sincerely,

Michael WinshipPresident, WGAE

John WellsPresident, WGAW 

The Guild Is Moving

Dear Writers Guild of America, East Member:

You may recall that in our New Year’s letter we mentioned that we would soon have news to share about an exciting new move for the Guild.

So here it is: the Guild really is moving. Downtown, at the end of June, construction gods willing. Our new address will be 250 Hudson Street, just above Tribeca, between Broome and Dominick.

Why? Several reasons. First, our lease at 555 West 57th was up for renewal, and with the real estate market being what it is, this seemed the perfect time for a change. Commercial rents have dropped and incentives are being offered to new tenants. We decided to take advantage of the opportunity, securing a fifteen-year lease for better space at a cost far below what it would have been just a few years ago. And we have a new landlord eager to work with us.

Also, 250 Hudson is in one of the most dynamic neighborhoods in the city, especially for people in our business. Many of our new neighbors are media and entertainment companies and the area has become fertile ground for digital media and a variety of other start-ups that are so essential to our continued growth. What’s more, our new address is close to mass transit, making access to the office easier than ever.

But perhaps most important, the new office will be designed for your needs as well as those of our hard-working staff. There have been a lot of changes in the union and the business since we first moved into West 57th, and the new space will reflect that. As just one example, our organizing staff is now six strong and they will be able to work for you more collegially and effectively at 250 Hudson than in the old space.

We think you’ll find the offices more open and inviting. We’ll be able to host more events than we have been able to in the past – there’s even a rooftop deck with views of the city that we’ll be able to use for certain special occasions. And there will be a writers’ room – if you’re in the neighborhood, it will be a place where from time to time you can come to work, discuss projects with your colleagues or just take a quick break.

Work already is underway, and once it has been determined, we’ll let you know the official move date. When we’ve settled in, we hope you’ll stop by, have a quick tour, take advantage of what we have to offer and become involved in what we do.

This is your union, and this move is designed to make you more an integral part of it than ever. We look forward to seeing you downtown.

WGAE Opposes Subpoena To Obtain Documentary Film Footage

The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE), issued this statement to its members regarding the Chevron Corporation’s lawsuit to obtain 600 hours of  raw footage from filmmaker Joe Berlinger:

“In defense of free speech and the First Amendment, the Writers Guild of America, East joins with the Independent Documentary Association (IDA) in support of documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger and in objection to Federal Judge Lewis A. Kaplan’s recent ruling that Berlinger must turn over to the Chevron Corporation 600 hours of footage shot during the production of his documentary ‘Crude: The Real Price of Oil.’

To accede to such a demand is tantamount to a reporter being told to turn over all of his or her notes and to violate confidentiality agreements with sources. As with the members of the IDA, our WGAE members working in the documentary field ‘hold ourselves to the highest of journalistic standards in the writing, producing, and editing of our films.’ Those standards include the protection of our outtakes, script drafts, research and sources.

Berlinger and his attorneys are asking Judge Kaplan to delay Chevron’s subpoena pending their appeal. As events proceed, we will let you know how you can help. In the meantime, for more information on the case, read the article by Bill Moyers and Guild East President Michael Winship on Huffington Post.  For more material, go to www.documentary.org.”

Deeply troubled by rumors of FCC inaction on net neutrality

“The Writers Guild of America, East is deeply troubled by the report in the May 2 Washington Post suggesting that FCC Chair Julius Genachowski is ‘leaning toward’ a decision not to reclassify broadband as a ‘telecommunications service’ under Title II of the Communications Act. The FCC can and must act decisively to protect the Internet from those who would limit access for commercial or political gain.  As the FCC itself has noted, the Internet is likely to become the preeminent method of distributing news, public affairs, and entertainment programs in the future. We would therefore remind the Commission and the White House of President Obama’s pledge to preserve ‘net neutrality’ – to keep the Internet open as a democratic and uncensored forum equally available to everyone.Despite these rumors that the FCC might choose the path of inaction, we hope the Commission will fulfill its obligations to the American people – to consumers and content creators alike.”