2020 Council Election – Candidate Statements
Each name below links to that individual candidate’s statement.
Voting will take place online beginning on August 27, 2020 (paper ballots will be available upon request). Voting instructions will arrive in August in a Guild envelope marked “Election Material.” The WGAE does not endorse or recommend any candidates for Guild office.
The Council is the governing body of the WGAE, consisting of 19 members, plus the three officers (President, Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer). Freelance members work in screen, television and new media, and Staff members work in television, radio and digital news shops under the Guild’s jurisdiction.
The twelve (12) candidates for the seven (7) open Freelance seats are (order determined by lot*):
- Christopher Kyle (i)
- Erica Saleh
- Kyle Bradstreet (i)
- Gina Gionfriddo
- Jason Kim
- Lisa Takeuchi Cullen (i)
- Kaitlin Fontana (i)
- Michael Winship (i)
- David Angelo
- A.M. Homes (i)
- Monica Lee Bellais (i)
- Benjamin Rosenblum
The three (3) candidates for the three (3) open Staff seats are (order determined by lot*):
Candidates for Freelance Seats
I am running for re-election to the WGAE Council. During the past term I have served as a captain for the AMBA campaign and the 2020 MBA negotiations, as a member of the Screen Credits Review Committee, and as a board member and treasurer of the Writers Guild Initiative, the Guild’s charitable foundation.
Over the past year the Council and the Negotiating Committee devoted considerable effort to addressing issues specific to screenwriters and comedy-variety writers in the 2020 MBA. While we have made important gains over the past three cycles, problems like one-step deals, sweepstakes pitching, and the low SVOD residuals and minimums in comedy-variety have not been addressed. This time I really thought it would be different. After reaching out to members in these fields for ideas and input, the Negotiating Committee crafted an excellent set of proposals and was prepared to fight for them. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we lost any credible strike threat. The 2020 MBA agreement (not formally ratified as I write this) includes some nice things—hurray for parental leave—but, without the leverage of a possible strike, no progress was made on these issues.
As a screenwriter, I’m frustrated and disappointed. But I believe these efforts laid important groundwork in both Guilds that will pay benefits in future negotiations. If I am elected to another term, I will keep working to make it so.
Background: I have been a WGAE member since 1995 and served on the picket lines and as a credit arbitrator, but my real engagement with Guild began when I became a volunteer mentor for the Writers Guild Initiative in 2008. Over the past 12 years I have worked with dozens of other members as part of the WGI’s Veterans Writing Project, mentoring Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who want to write about their experiences. Under the leadership of Tom Fontana and Michael Weller, the Mentor Program has expanded enormously from our humble beginnings and has now helped hundreds of veterans and members of other underserved populations tell their stories. The work I’ve done with fellow writers in the WGI inspired me to join its board and, later, to run for the WGAE Council.
Endorsed by: Chris Albers, David Auburn, John Auerbach, Henry Bean, Stephen Belber, Monica Lee Bellais, Craig Carlisle, Andrea Ciannavei, Bonnie Datt, Richard Dresser, Josh Fagin, Kaitlin Fontana, Tom Fontana, Ari Handel, Melissa London Hilfers, Susan Kim, Kathy McGee, Phil Pilato, Willie Reale, Tom Sellitti, Susanna Styron, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Michael Weller, and Andy Yerkes.
WGA Credits: Serena, Alexander, K-19: The Widowmaker, The Weight of Water, Homicide: Life on the Streets. As a playwright: The Monogamist and Plunge (Playwrights Horizons), The Safety Net (Broken Watch Theatre), Boca (Charlotte Rep). Guggenheim Fellow in Drama.
I am proud to be endorsed by Sofia Alvarez, Kyle Bradstreet, Kate Erickson, Melissa London Hilfers, Michelle King and Robert King, Lauren Ashley Smith, and Stu Zicherman.
I’m honored to be nominated for WGAE Council. I’m an Episodic TV Writer (currently a Producer on Happy Face for CBS All Access) who came to this career after many years of “working” as a playwright (i.e. writing mostly for free and making a living tutoring). As a playwright married to a freelance journalist, joining the WGA was life-changing—and not just because of the health insurance. I am acutely aware that a strong union is THE reason I get to make a living as a writer. I am running for Council because I love the Guild, because I respect the years of hard work that have gone into building the WGA, and because I know we have a lot more work to do to evolve into an even more equitable, powerful, and accessible union.
I have worked my way up the ladder in writers rooms in LA and NY, for broadcast (Evil, Instinct, Wisdom of the Crowd), cable (Channel Zero), and streamers (Happy Face). I’ve developed pilots (most recently One of Us is Lying), and I’ve been in mini-rooms. This is to say, I work a lot but I’m also personally (and often painfully) familiar with the issues facing TV writers as seasons get shorter, spans get longer, rooms get mini-er, and residuals get smaller. Fighting for protections and solutions to these issues is a huge priority of mine.
That said, I want to be very clear that I am running to represent all of our writers. Since joining the Guild I’ve sought to understand the issues facing writers of all stripes by getting involved. I have served as a Captain for the ATA and MBA negotiations. I have been a reader for the Made in NY Writers Room. I am a member of the Equity and Inclusion Committee. And, this year, I had the privilege of serving on the 2020 MBA negotiating committee. Through this work, I have seen how much we do so well, far beyond minimums and health insurance. I have also become more aware of the need to do better and fight harder in these areas:
EQUITY AND ACCESS: As a Middle-Eastern-American woman I am extremely passionate about issues of equity and access. I will fight for more opportunities at every stage for under-represented writers. We need to see BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and women writers being hired more, promoted more, and in more positions of leadership. We must hold studios accountable by tracking who they are meeting with, hiring, retaining, and promoting. But there’s also a lot we can do from within. Just like studios, our showrunners should be held accountable for who they are meeting with, hiring, retaining, and promoting. The Guild should better support these showrunners in their efforts to advocate for more underrepresented writers in their rooms. The Guild should also work harder to ensure that these writers are paid equitably and not forced to repeat levels.
UNITY: I know that our Guild can often feel Episodic-TV-centric. I want to be clear that I am as committed to fighting for our feature writers, comedy-variety TV writers, and news and digital-media teams, as I am our episodic writers. It should be a priority to educate all of our members about the issues facing all of our members, so that we can be unified—and stronger—in all of our fights together. We are one union and progress for any of us is progress for all of us.
Feature writers have always stood with TV writers and it’s time for our whole Guild to stand with them to press for progress on feature-specific issues like free work, pitch process abuses, and one-step deals.
The East is home to most comedy-variety writers. We must amplify issues unique to these members, including lack of minimums on SVOD and discounts on long-term work, and not let them be dismissed as fringe issues.
Finally, I am educating myself about the issues facing news writers and digital media writers. I am married to a journalist, and I’ve had a front row seat as he and his colleagues have seen their benefits slashed, rates cut, and newsrooms decimated. I am committed to bringing more newsrooms into our Guild and to fighting for their protections.
NY ROOMS AND LEADERSHIP TRAINING: I have spent the last five years ping-ponging between LA and NY. I want to stop. (I hate flying.) I love NY. I will support the Guild’s ongoing work with Albany to get more writers rooms in NY. I will also push for more leadership training and mentorship opportunities on the East coast. Since mini-rooms and short seasons are already minimizing on-set experience and organic long-term mentorships, we need more training and mentorship programs, particularly in NY. I believe that the more showrunners and producer-level writers we have here, the more rooms we will have.
TRANSPARENCY: I believe that we are 100% in the moral right in the crucial agency fight. I also know that many writers have missed the productive relationships they had with their agents and are anxious not just for resolution, but also for clarity. As we stand in solidarity against agency conflicts of interest, we deserve more transparency and regular communication about where this action stands.
Thank you for taking the time to read. I hope my positions resonate with you, and that I’ve earned your vote. I am so proud of our Guild and would be honored to represent you, and fight for you, on Council.
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Tom Fontana, Michael Winship, Michael Weller, Melissa Hilfers, Kate Erickson, Tracey Scott Wilson, Gina Gionfriddo, Philip Pilato, Stephen Belber, Michael Rauch, Julie Martin, Richard Dresser, Laura Eason, Erica Saleh, Anya Epstein
As an incumbent council member, I am grateful to have been nominated for a fourth consecutive term on the Writers Guild of America, East Council.
Over the last several years, my main focus as a council member has been helping to connect members of our guild in an effort to strengthen the WGAE community as a whole. In doing so, I met many working writers and listened as they spoke about the wide-ranging issues our freelance members were facing. And I brought those issues to Council. I fought for them to be part of the conversation.
Today, given the tragedy of COVID-19 and the pandemic’s lasting impact on our world and our industry, I am all the more concerned about freelance writers having the opportunity to voice their opinions, their worries, their problems and their solutions.
My pledge, if re-elected to Council, is to work even harder on WGAE community outreach so that freelance writers’ voices are heard — so that they have a greater say in our guild’s future actions on issues such as:
- Continuing and furthering the WGAE’s work and research on equality, diversity and inclusion within our industry
- Finding new, creative ways for writers to gain employment — to work, profit and thrive during these uncertain times
- Keeping up with, or even staying ahead of, the technology curve so that the WGAE maximizes pay and protection for SVOD, podcasts, Virtual Reality, “Choose your own adventure” episodes / series, app writing, short form series, streaming AI algorithms — and whatever comes next
- Ensuring that we stand stronger as the WGA EAST — equal to the WGA West
- Bettering communication and transparency between WGAE leadership and its members
- Continue fighting for feature writers, who are all too often overlooked and unheard
I consider it to be important that the WGAE has working writers on Council to best represent freelance issues — to fully understand a topic, to speak with fellow members and hear their opinions, to then confidently advise Council on the matter at hand. And I believe my ongoing experience in multiple TV venues — streaming, network, basic cable, premium cable, international co-production — will allow me to effectively do just that, in this ever-changing landscape we find ourselves in today.
I appreciate you taking the time to read my candidate statement, and I hope to receive your vote.
Credits: MR. ROBOT (USA Network), BERLIN STATION (Epix), COPPER (BBC America), BORGIA (Netflix), THE PHILANTHROPIST (NBC).
Guild Activities: Writers Guild of America, East member since 2009. Co-Founder WGAE Sunday Salons. MBA Captain. NY BookPals. SAG/WGAE PencilPals program. Writers Guild Initiative Actors & Writers Book Club. Active proponent for New York State diverse writers’ room tax incentives. WGAE Mentor Dinner host. WGAE / WGAW Joint / National Council representative.
I served four terms on the Writers Guild of America, East council, from 2006 through 2013. I currently serve as a WGA captain, keeping a team of members engaged and informed about both the agency action and the 2020 MBA. I also served as a strike captain during the 2007-2008 strike. I stepped down my guild service when my daughter was born in 2011, but I am eager to jump back in now to help navigate the enormous challenges WGA members are facing in the COVID age.
I am proud to be endorsed by Chris Albers, Kyle Bradstreet, Tom Fontana, Jerome Hairston, A.M. Homes, Rolin Jones, Susan Kim, Melissa London Hilfers, Melissa Salmons, Bill Scheft, Lara Shapiro, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Tracey Scott Wilson, and Michael Winship.
I earn my living as a TV writer and I came to TV writing from the theatre. I’ve been a writer-for-hire on several unproduced features, but mostly I write episodic drama.
I am running to serve our entire membership. When I served on the council previously, I was diligent about educating myself on all of the issues, not only the ones that affected me. I commit to doing that again.
To state the obvious… A number of factors have converged to make this an incredibly difficult time for all members. We are about to vote on a new MBA. Negotiated during the COVID pandemic, it doesn’t deliver all of the gains we wanted, particularly in the areas of Features and Comedy-Variety. But given the circumstances the negotiating committee faced—no credible strike threat, a global pandemic that has shut down film and television production once and likely will again—I don’t believe we could have done better. We have another negotiation in 2023 and I want to start planning for that now. I want to commit to organizing members around the issues this MBA negotiation was not able to address.
Obviously, there is nothing the WGA can do to solve the COVID pandemic, but there are things we can do to help our writers keep working.
A majority of our members are without agency representation, partly due to the agency action (imposing a code of conduct on the talent agencies). The online portal the guild launched to facilitate employment in an agentless world has not delivered on its promises. We have to address that. I voted in favor of the action. I left my agent. Over a year later, the systems we vowed to put in place to replace the function of the agencies are inadequate to the task. The concerns I had at the beginning of the agency action remain: Gatekeepers (in this case, agents) perform a useful function and it may be too utopian a goal to think we can unseat one set of gatekeepers without empowering another. I don’t know what the solutions are here, but I want to work on figuring them out.
There are specific ways that the pandemic is likely to impact our members and I want to stay on top of them. I fear that writers will likely be deemed “non-essential” on TV and film sets as part of COVID protocols. I can endorse that in a crisis, but I fear that once we make that concession, we will have to fight very hard to regain our footing. This must be navigated carefully.
We need to be aware that our members have not seen the worst of COVID’s effects on employment. I am on a TV staff. Many TV staffs are writing and I am told that the development machine continues to run. My fear is that we will have a protracted production shutdown and the companies will decide they have enough material in their coffers. So the jobs dry up. I want to help the guild navigate that.
The pandemic is going to mean more work for animation writers and that’s great, but animation is (still) not covered work. How do we ensure these writers are paid what they are worth as they see their value in the industry soar?
We are approaching a presidential election with a president who is hostile to journalists. News writers are critically important right now and they are under siege. I want to support them in any way we can.
I am proud of the relationships with guild staff and leadership that I’ve formed over my 15 years in the guild. I think I’m in a good position and a good headspace from which to serve you.
I am currently a Co-Executive Producer on the CBS drama, FBI: Most Wanted. I have written for the network TV shows Law & Order; Law & Order: Criminal Intent; Law & Order: True Crime; and Cold Case. In the cable arena, I have written for House of Cards (Netflix); The Alienist and its forthcoming sequel The Angel of Darkness (TNT); and Borgia (Canal Plus). I have developed and written two films for HBO and a pilot for CBS. As a playwright, I am a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for my plays Becky Shaw and Rapture, Blister, Burn.
Dear WGA East,
My name is Jason Kim, and I write for both television and features. While I’ve been very fortunate to have worked on a show like Barry, I do not have an overall deal, I do not have my own production company, and I have never been selected by The Hollywood Reporter for anything at any point. Along with my husband, who works in late night and narrative, I move from job to job in order to support my family. I am, in short, the 99%. And as a working class writer, I ask: what are our needs and how can we bring about real change?
HOW DO WE GET WORK?
We have been engaged in the Cold War with our agents for over a year, and during that time, it has been very diﬃcult to obtain work. It has been especially diﬃcult if you are a woman, a person of color, a queer person, a trans person, or a writer without a recent credit. With COVID threatening our industry and several major agency deals still pending, how can the WGAE better support its members during this extremely challenging time? How can we open the gates for writers who are underrepresented? For writers who are not working at this very moment?
HOW DO WE ACHIEVE RACIAL EQUITY?
In over ten seasons of television, I have worked with only one other Asian writer, one Latinx writer, and two Black writers. There is profound racial inequality in our industry. And this problem cannot be solved until people of color can start speaking up about our own lived experiences in a safe way. This problem must be solved with our voices at the table. It must be solved with transparency at every level. And it must be solved by holding the system accountable. We need real, meaningful change. And we need it now.
WHAT ABOUT FEATURES? LATE NIGHT? DIGITAL MEDIA?
There is a separation of church and state between television writers vs feature writers vs late night writers vs digital media writers. My experience as a feature writer varies wildly from my experience in television. And my husband’s experience in late night looks nothing like his experience working for the New York Times. Each branch of our industry presents unique concerns, and we must find a way to address all of them without privileging one group over another.
As a minority voice, I am passionately dedicated to serving the majority — the 99% of us who hustle, who need the guild the most, who look to the council to make all of our lives easier, better, and more equitable.
LISA TAKEUCHI CULLEN
My name is Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, and I am running for re-election as a WGAE Council member.
This year I was honored to receive the WGAE Richard B. Jablow Award for Service to the Guild. During four years on Council, one on the Executive Committee and seven on the Committee for Inclusion and Equity (now as its co-chair), I have worked hard to represent members who have historically lacked power or voice.
In my first term, I was proud to have helped add writers’ rooms and a diversity incentive to New Jersey’s newly restored Film and TV Tax Credit. In my second term, I founded the WGAE Women’s Salon, co-founded the WGAE Asian American Salon as well as the Asian American Writers of Entertainment, and am currently seeding our new Latinx Salon and Black Writers Salons. I created and maintain the Diverse Writers of the East, a database of WGAE TV writers who are women and/or people of color. I was recently featured in Adweek, am named one of New Jersey’s Most Powerful Women (go ahead, insert your Jersey joke here), and speak to marginalized groups including disadvantaged youth and the formerly incarcerated. Just in this past term, I have hosted or co-hosted close to two dozen Guild events.
I am grateful to be endorsed by Lucy Alibar, Monica Lee Bellais, Kyle Bradstreet, Cristine Chambers, Bonnie Datt, Tom Fontana, Joseph Gangemi, Gina Gionfriddo, Melissa London Hilfers, A.M. Homes, Soo Hugh, Tom Kelly, Susan Kim, Chris Kyle, Gail Lee, Warren Leight, Kenneth Lin, Jenny Lumet, Julie Martin, Alison McDonald, Derek Nguyen, Franchesca Ramsey, Michael Rauch, Courtney Simon, David Simon, Lara Shapiro, Diana Son, Tracey Scott Wilson and Michael Winship.
Following is what I intend to accomplish in my third term.
Anti-racism in our Guild and industries. I will work to see anti-racism training added to the sexual harassment training mandatory in writers’ rooms and newsrooms. I am already working with WGAE staff to bring the anti-oppression training our brothers and sisters on the Staff/News side undergo to the Freelance/Entertainment side. I have proposed that we institute anti-oppression training for Council, and will seek to make it available for members.
Showrunner Training Program for WGAE. We need more writers’ rooms in the East—and for that, we need more East-based showrunners. I was fortunate to be selected for this year’s WGA Showrunner Training Program and witness how valuable and highly regarded the program is. But because it’s based in L.A., few other East members have benefited. The SRTP’s budget is negotiated in the MBA and therefore the program ought to be equally accessible to both Guilds; the one-weekend spin-off program offered in New York (just twice in SRTP’s 15-year existence) should not substitute. I am already working with SRTP organizers, Lowell Peterson and our staff to create an equally robust way for East members to receive this important training.
Diversity in WGAE Leadership. Only two of our 21 current Council members are people of color. That’s unacceptable. One problem lies in our current election process, which asks individual members to nominate themselves or others—a demonstrably faulty way to get marginalized people engaged in leadership. I propose that our Committee for Inclusion and Equity act as a pipeline to leadership in two ways: 1) by selecting and grooming diverse members for leadership; 2) by nominating those members for elections.
Inclusion for Staff/News Members. As a journalist-turned-TV writer, I know how vastly different our two industries are—in issues, agendas, finances. Ours is not always an easy marriage. But we are one union, and we can do more to engage the news members already in our fold, particularly its diverse members. I will work with News Council members and staff to bring diverse digital news members into engagement and then leadership within the Guild. Last year I conceived of and hosted a crossover event for our journalist and screenwriter members; we can and must do more to improve unity.
About me: I am a TV writer currently in an overall deal with Universal Studios, under which I am developing a drama series at Netflix. I was a consulting producer on “Law & Order: SVU” and have developed drama pilots for ABC, NBC, CBS, A&E and Warner Bros. Previously I authored two books and was a staff writer and foreign correspondent for TIME magazine. I was born and raised in Kobe, Japan, across the street from a yakuza kingpin whose years-long gang war got my house shot—twice. New Jersey is my nirvana.
Thank you for your consideration. I am honored to serve you during these extraordinary times.
It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve our growing and changing membership for the last two years. As a writer with past lives in digital journalism and late night/variety, not to mention a present in narrative television and feature films, I’m uniquely positioned in this council to be able to understand and work with the diverse needs of our colleagues across these disciplines. I am the only councilor who overlaps these three important intersections of our membership. Additionally, I am the current writer and host of OnWriting, our in-house podcast. It’s my great joy to speak to my colleagues in this industry and to facilitate an ongoing conversation about our work in a shifting landscape.
Over the course of my first term, I’ve learned a lot about the inner workings of council, particularly our assets and our limitations as a governing body. My first term was about learning and growing in the role; my second term will be about radical change. To be blunt: This council is too white, and there are not enough of us representing our robust digital media comrades nor the late night/variety membership. At a time in our collective human history when inequities are closer to the surface than ever before, when COVID-19 threatens not just our health but our way of life — and when it adversely affects BIPOC communities at a greater rate — this is not a time for half measures. The moment demands more.
The most vulnerable members of our union and the wider labor movement need our strength. To me that means more organizing, more worker protections, and more attention paid to the working class members of our union. It means refocusing our lens on those among us whose employment is insecure and who do not have the benefits of large paychecks nor the security of their name to get by on. It means we work for everyone, not just the few of us lucky to have jobs through a pandemic, who aren’t waking up terrified every day that their workplaces — our hard-earned shops — will shutter in an ever-strained media landscape. It means we look at our membership and recognize that it has changed and will continue to change, and what worked for the few does not work for the many. This requires a shift in fundamental perspective within this council and the guild as a whole, one which I feel is long overdue.
I am fortunate to sit on the Committee for Inclusion and Equity, and I am the co-founder and co-chair of the LGBTQ Salon. Over the next two years, I will work with my council colleagues to call in more BIPOC members and LGBTQ+ members to run for council seats. That starts by making these members feel that they’re not ignored, and that they’re safe in their jobs and in their lives as writers and as people. As such, I was one of the authors of the resolution calling on the AFL-CIO, of which the WGAE is a part, to disaffiliate with the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) in the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police. I feel it’s the best work I’ve been a part of on council. My co-authors in this effort are: Hamilton Nolan, Kim Kelly, Kelly Stout (up for re-election), Ashley Feinberg (up for re-election), and Dru Johnston. I proudly stand with them today, and for the next two years if I’m lucky.
Put plainly: I am here to work for the betterment of everyone, and I do not intend to waver. Solidarity.
I’m grateful to be endorsed by: Ashley Feinberg, Josh Gondelman, A.M. Homes, Dru Johnston, Kim Kelly, Chris Kyle, Hamilton Nolan, and Kelly Stout.
** Monica Lee Bellais ** Kyle Bradstreet **
** Marshall Brickman ** Adam Brooks ** Tim Carvell **
** Lisa Takeuchi Cullen ** Bonnie Datt **
** Richard Dresser ** Tom Fontana ** Terry George **
** Tony Gilroy ** Gina Gionfriddo ** Mary Harron **
** Susan Kim ** Brian Koppelman ** Warren Leight **
**Julie Martin ** Jeremy Pikser ** Phil Pilato **
** James Schamus ** Stephen Schiff ** Courtney Simon **
** David Simon ** Susanna Styron ** Judy Tate **
** Geoffrey Ward ** Richard Wesley ** Alan Zweibel
You may not realize that the Writers Guild of America East actually has a written constitution – you know, sort of like the US version that our punk president keeps trying to pulverize.
Admittedly, a lot of it’s boilerplate and it doesn’t exactly rise to the rhetoric of the Founders, but there’s good stuff in there. It lays out the basic principles and responsibilities of our union. In Article II, Section 2, for example, it reaffirms the Guild’s job “negotiating, enforcing and administering of collective bargaining agreements.”
I especially was struck by the next part, Section 3, which really outlines an aspirational set of goals more important to all of us than ever. Our goal, it says, is:
“To promote fair dealing and to cultivate, establish and maintain cordial relations, unity of action and understanding among all writers, and to adjust, arbitrate, settle or otherwise resolve disputes relating to the work of members, their ownership of or other interests in written material, and to promote and cultivate fair dealing, cordial relations and understanding between this Guild, its members, and other professional writers, on one hand, and organizations, groups or individuals with whom they have mutual aims or interests, or with whom they work or have business or professional dealings, on the other hand.”
A little convoluted but that’s it in a nutshell, “unity of action and understanding among all writers.” ALL writers regardless of age or gender orientation, race or creed. ALL writers whether they work in film, radio, TV, or digital media. One for all and all for one. This unity and understanding are what have gotten us this far and what we must maintain to continue our success into the future.
As the union’s immediate past president, having served a decade in that position, and having been a member of this union for more years than I care to remember, I have a long memory and have seen us blossom, all the more remarkable when set against an overall decline in union membership and at a time when many of the powers that be frankly are out to get us.
I’m very happy about what we have accomplished. Executive director Lowell Peterson and the staff he has assembled continue to perform exemplary work, the number of activities and services offered to our creative community has grown and relations with our colleagues at the Writers Guild of America, West, and worldwide via the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG) are more collegial and mutually beneficial than ever.
President Beau Willimon, Vice President Kathy McGee, Secretary-Treasurer Bob Schneider and the guild council, working with the membership, have continued to build and make our union even stronger, increasing activism, growing membership and further protecting the rights of the members in the face of unrelenting anti-union pressure.
I’m running for reelection to the Writers Guild of America East council and I hope I’ll have your vote. Thanks for your attention.
Union activities: Immediate past president, WGAE, 2007-2017; Immediate past chair, Policy Review Group, International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG), 2017-19. Member, WGAE Council, multiple years; member, National Council, multiple years; delegate, IAWG annual meeting, multiple years; co-chair, first World Conference of Screenwriters, Athens, 2009; chair, WGAE awards committee, 1989-2004; member, WGAE publications committee, multiple years; current advisory board member, Hollywood Health and Society; multiple nominee for the Writers Guild of America Award, three-time recipient; recipient, Richard B. Jablow Award for Devoted Service to the Guild; recipient (with president, Writers Guild West), Sidney Hillman Foundation Founders Award.
Credits: Writer, The Power of Protest (in post-production, scheduled release 2020). Senior writer, BillMoyers.com, 2011-2017. Senior writer, Moyers & Company, PBS, 2012-2015. Senior writing fellow, Demos, 2011-2014. Senior writer, Bill Moyers Journal, PBS, 2008-2010. Co-producer, Baghdad Diary, The History Channel, 2007. Writer, New York Times Television, 2004-2005. Writer, NOW with Bill Moyers, PBS, 2003. Extensive experience as a writer and/or producer of documentaries and public affair programming, music-variety specials, made-for-TV movies and kid’s TV for CBS (My Sergei), WNET, WGBH, KCET and the nation’s other major public television stations, the Discovery Channels, National Geographic, Lifetime, the Disney Channel, BBC, TBS, A&E, ZDF German television, and Sesame Workshop (Square One TV, 3-2-1 Contact Extras), among others. Recipient of the Emmy Award, the Writers Guild Award, the Christopher Award, the Genesis Award, the Western Heritage Award and others.
– no statement posted
As an incumbent Council member, I am pleased to be running for a third term on the Writers Guild of America, East Council.
It has been an energizing experience to be part of our Union as it continues to evolve in response to the needs of Guild Members. We are at a pivotal moment in our field with regard to diversity, gender equality and working conditions within the industry and responding to social/historical crises in our country.
I am keen to remain on the council to help shape our response to the above and to continue for the inclusion of more voices, equal pay and opportunity for writers. It’s essential that we continue to actively work towards creating diverse and harassment free writer’s rooms and more points of entry into the field, along with sustained mentorship for under-represented voices.
We also need to be vigilant in our progress with the MBA and our work to resolve the agency/packaging issues. As a guild we have more happening than ever before on multiple fronts all of which demands urgent and sustained attention. We need to make sure that our contracts and minimums adapting to changes in the industry while continuing to provide for our members with quality health insurance/pension benefits.
As many of you know Activism is the fabric of my life. Growing up in Washington D.C., I helped organize events and demonstrations in Washington against Nuclear Power and in support of Native American Rights. When I moved to N.Y.C in 1985, I became active in the fight for Gay Rights and responding to the AIDS Crisis. At PEN, I served on the Board and Executive Committee and was Vice-President. I chaired the Writers Fund from 2005-2015 and remain active there. I’ve also served on the boards of The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and The New York Foundation For The Arts/Board and Executive Committee and the Advisory Council. From 2015-2020 I served as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Yaddo and remain active on the board as well as on the boards of Poets and Writers and The Elizabeth Dance Company.
Currently, I teach in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton and am active in mentoring first generation and low-income students and sit on several committees dealing with issues of race/gender in the arts as well as LGBTQ concerns.
Many of you know me as the author of Days of Awe, stories, and the novels, May We Be Forgiven, (Winner of the 2013 Bailey’s/Orange Prize), This Book Will Save Your Life, Music For Torching, The End of Alice, In A Country of Mothers, the story collections, The Safety of Objects and Things You Should Know, the memoirs, The Mistress’s Daughter and California: People, Places and The Castle On The Hill. My books are published in 22 languages, which puts me contact with writers of all kinds around the world. This exchange is enormously helpful in adding global perspective and context to my understanding of issues facing writers. In addition to my books, I am a Contributing Editor to Vanity Fair, Bomb and Blind Spot. Several times a year I collaborate on book projects with artists, among them Eric Fischl, Rachel Whiteread, Cecily Brown, Bill Owens, Petah Coyne, Carroll Dunham, Catherine Opie and Todd Hido.
I’ve been a WGAE member for 19 years; I am currently developing original projects for Shailene Woodley/Hulu and BBC America/AMC as well as working with Benedict Cumberbatch/Sunny March and Julie Bowen/Carl Beverly on developing TV adaptations of my books. My writing credits include Co-Executive Producer on David E. Kelly and Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, Co-Executive Producer on Falling Water, Producer on The L Word and pilots for ABC, NBC, CBS, FX, SHOWTIME, and HBO.
Finally, and most importantly, we are a creative community, which I am committed to growing into one that is open and inclusive and reflective of who we are as a society.
ENDORSED BY: Ayad Akhtar, Adam Brooks, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Bonnie Datt, Bash Doran, Griffin Dunne, Gina Gionfriddo, David Handelman, Peter Hedges, Tom Fontana, Kaitlin Fontana, Christina Lazaridi, Theresa Rebeck, Salman Rushdie, James Sanders, Steven Schiff, Amy Sohn, Scott Spencer, Susanna Styron, Tracey Scott Wilson.
MONICA LEE BELLAIS
2020 Candidate for Re-election
Grateful to be Endorsed by:
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen * Bonnie Datt * Ashley Feinberg * Josh Gondelman * David Hauslein * Megan Holley * Dru Johnston * Kim Kelly * Christopher Kyle * Gail Lee * Michael Justin Lee * Kathy McGee * Claudia Myers * Hamilton Nolan * Jan Oxenberg * Phil Pilato * Courtney Simon * David Simon * Amy Sohn * Kelly Stout * Michael Winship
Thank you for the honor of serving as your Council member.
My extensive entertainment industry experience has afforded me many opportunities to advocate for diversity and inclusion. I am a skilled communicator and have navigated crisis situations with strategy and grace. The principles of fair pay, honesty, and accountability form the foundation of my candidacy for re-election.
The Coronavirus pandemic is a challenging time for us all, affecting our lives in ways that none of us thought possible. Now more than ever, writers are focused on their health and livelihood. In response, the WGAE staff and Council are working in unison with state government requirements, government agencies, and other industry unions to ensure our members’ safety to establish production guidelines. Council also responded and condemned the arrests and mistreatment of journalists covering the country’s protests that erupted following the murder of George Floyd.
I am proud of how WGAE members support each other, working toward common goals, which is an excellent reflection of our unity. The success of the 2020 MBA will strengthen our position for the 2023 negotiations. The agency negotiations are on track, and we are making substantial progress for writers. Each achievement drives for a powerful union.
I am a Team Captain. I have served on Health Fund Trustee Review and Appointment Committee, lobbied Capitol Hill for Arts Advocacy, and Chaired two WGAE Washington, D.C. events, including a joint event at the Motion Picture Association.
I believe in empowering writers and asking for your vote for a second term. There is still so much more work to do as we navigate the fluidity of the pandemic and an industry that is quickly adapting to the changing world.
My continued priorities:
- AGENCIES. I will continue to advance the freelance writers’ interests as we push forward with our fight for fair representation, fair compensation, and fair recognition.
- COVID-19. I will continue to ensure writers have employment opportunities in an evolving industry and expand writing opportunities with the new production safety standards as the industry adapts to global health and workplace challenges.
- EQUITY & INCLUSION. I will continue to promote diverse voices and push for significant employment opportunities.
- PRESERVE UNION RIGHTS. I will continue to advance efforts to empower the collective bargaining of our members.
- PROTECT JOURNALISTS. I will continue to work to safeguard print, broadcast, and digital journalists from those who threaten their role in preserving democracy.
I am a writer, producer, and professor. I have worked in development at James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment; in the Office of Jeffrey Katzenberg at DreamWorks; Warner Bros. Records; Discovery Communications; Smithsonian Networks; Public Broadcasting Service; and TeleProductions International. I have extensive international production experience in Canada, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Monaco, Pakistan, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.
For ten years, I have held leadership positions with Women in Film & Video (WIFV) in Washington, D.C. I am in my sixth year as an appointed Advisory Committee member and served for four years as an elected Board member. I founded Spotlight on Screenwriters, a four-year publication under the WIFV banner that was sponsored by Washington, D.C.’s Office of Cable Television, Film, Music & Entertainment, the Maryland Film Office, and the Virginia Film Office.
I have advocated for women in the arts and lobbied Capitol Hill on behalf of WIFV and WGAE.
I have also worked to advance mental health issues, expand opportunities to veterans, and promote investigative journalism. In 2019, I partnered with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the Entertainment Industry Council to create the White Paper “Recommendations for Depicting Suicide” in television, journalism, and digital media. I assisted veterans transitioning from the military to the entertainment industry through my volunteer efforts with the Veterans in Media & Entertainment organization.
I am a professor of film production and writing at George Mason University. I hold a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications from New Mexico State University.
My professional memberships include the WGAE, PGA, SAG-AFTRA, NATAS – Documentary Programming Peer Group, BAFTA, NYWIFT, WIFV, and The National Press Club. imdb.me/monicaleebellais | www.monicaleebellais.com
I appreciate your consideration and request your vote as we continue to work for the betterment of our union.
In solidarity – Monica Lee Bellais
We’re treading water. The deluge of crises continues to rise around us, while the precarious nature of maintaining our livelihood weighs us down. It’s always been a struggle to stay afloat in the freelance world, but these are especially trying times. Looking out for each other has never been more important.
I’m running for Freelance Council on behalf of the struggling workers of the nonfiction television and film industry. The Guild has attempted to unionize us for over a decade. It’s been an uphill battle, and we continue to suffer as it drags on.
For the past six of my eight years in the industry, I’ve been on the front lines of the Guild’s nonfiction campaign. I first heard about it two years into my career as a lowly Post Production Assistant in 2014 when a coworker connected me with a WGAE organizer right before she bailed from the industry altogether. We were both barely getting by, desperate, disillusioned, and she couldn’t take it anymore. But the idea of a union gave me some long-lost hope. It opened my eyes that things could and should be better. So I dove right in and took part in as many organizing committees, campaigns, and actions as possible.
Over the years, I helped win the union election at my former employer, Leftfield Pictures, I picketed outside of networks, spoke at the bargaining table, spoke to company campaigns, phone-banked, went to organizing happy hours. But even after some unprecedented successes, the push for an industry-wide union has continually fallen short. As I moved up the ranks to my current title, Story Producer, I’ve seen companies not only averse to organizing, but brazenly circumventing union contracts against the will of their own employees who voted “Union Yes.” And yet, without solidarity, without a voice, there’s been nothing we can do except try to survive the ever-deteriorating working conditions on our own. Even the promising aspect of climbing our industry’s ladder is continually diminished by companies eliminating necessary positions, increasing everyone’s workload substantially. It was, and still is, around-the-clock work without any benefits, overtime, or job security — no matter your role. And since hiring is scarce, the hypercompetitive environment has created a brutal race to the bottom with wages, hours worked, and anything else we can sacrifice to stay above water. But the nonfiction industry keeps pulling us back under. We just haven’t realized that we could stand the whole time.
It occurred to me this Council election cycle that none of the few nonfiction WGAE members have run for a seat at the table in the years I’ve been involved. Throughout my experience, I haven’t seen or heard representation on behalf of nonfiction. The union is of course a powerful entity, but at the end of the day, the real power stems from us. And if we don’t have a leading voice in our own industry’s campaign, one of the longest-running organizing campaigns the Guild has, we’ll undoubtedly continue to struggle. Our lack of a voice has left many of us feeling disconnected and apathetic to the organizing campaign, even amongst the most involved and dedicated. I believe that in order for nonfiction to get the industry-wide union we’ve desperately needed, our voices as workers have to become a driving force in shaping how our industry is to be organized. It will help empower us and build the crucial solidarity that’s been suppressed for far too long. As nonfiction workers, we all know of our terrible circumstances and we condemn it. But many of us don’t realize the power we truly have. And the Guild’s current nonfiction campaign on its own has prevented us from fully seeing it.
I joined the WGAE’s nonfiction organizing campaign six years ago because I had finally found some hope. After campaigning arduously for all those years and suffering not only on the job, but with the barrage of organizing defeats, I’ve learned that hope is not enough. As one of the few nonfiction workers with the ability to run for Council, I’m stepping up this year to show that things should not only be better, but that we have the power to make it so ourselves, and that’s what the union is for. If I‘m elected to Council, I will unite the nonfiction workers to stand up and fight directly to be unionized under our own transparent vision that’s led by one another through our collective voice. I will also help do the same for all of our adjacent industries in the Guild — digital media, news, scripted, and any others who are in the process of being organized or who have suffered themselves.
I encourage you to reach out to me through my website at http://www.benjamin-rosenblum.com to discuss any issues or ideas you may have about how we can all work together to get through the struggles that may lie ahead.
I’m grateful to be endorsed by Hamilton Nolan, Kim Kelly, Ashley Feinberg, Josh Gondelman, Kaitlin Fontana, David Dayen, Susan Kim, and Jonathan Grupper.
Candidates for Staff Seats
In 2018, when I first ran and was elected to represent digital media on the WGAE council, my aim was simple: to organize more newsrooms. I was fresh off a wrenching but ultimately successful buyout negotiation with the management of Gizmodo Media Group which I viewed as an unalloyed triumph of the power of solidarity.
Difficult as it was to imagine two years ago, conditions have gotten even more complicated in our industry. We face managers who know little about our work or our families, who answer heartfelt calls for genuine inclusion with hollow “diversity initiatives.” The specters of private equity and economic inequality haunt our newsrooms; layoffs hit with no warning, often hurting the most marginalized–people of color, trans and nonbinary people, people with disabilities, older workers, those raised in poverty–hardest and first. Covid-19 threatens the jobs that are left.
And yet, I feel filled with hope. In the time I’ve been on council, Vox, Thrillist, Fast Company, The Dodo, Refinery29, The Ringer, Slate, and more have won union contracts. Hearst, where I work as an editor at Esquire, is in the midst of an inspiring campaign. I ask for your support in seeking another term to continue prioritizing this work.
The labor movement is at its strongest, though, when we concern ourselves not just with contractual gains, but with a far-reaching focus on fairness itself. The work of this union should not stop at the newsroom door, nor when we leave the writers room. The challenges we face as people are those we face as workers, perhaps none more pressing that that of racial injustice.
Following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, our members expressed profound disappointment in the conduct of police–conduct which doesn’t comport with the values of the labor movement. So Josh Gondelman, Ashley Feinberg, Kaitlin Fontana, Dru Johnston, Kim Kelly, Hamilton Nolan, and I authored a resolution calling on the AFL-CIO to disaffiliate from the IUPA, one of the strongest cop unions in the United States. The resolution passed unanimously, and made this union a progressive leader. This is work that simply must continue.
I’m a member of the Committee for Inclusion and Equity, and the Organizing Committee, and I’ve collaborated with the Freelance Solidarity Project, a group of freelance labor leaders in media who eventually affiliated with the National Writers Union. Last summer, I attended the United Association for Labor Education women’s summer school alongside women leaders from the American Federation of Teachers, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, the Transportation Workers Union, and so many more. I have the honor of being endorsed by my fellow council members Monica Lee Bellais, Josh Gondelman, Ashley Feinberg, Kaitlin Fontana, Dru Johnston, Gail Lee, Kim Kelly, and Hamilton Nolan. I would be so grateful for your vote.
I’d only been working a few months at CBS News back in 1987 when the WGA went on strike. I was scared. I had no other income. But I was there on the picket line, every day.
In 2007 the MBA writers went on strike. Though it wasn’t my contract, I was again out on the picket lines at every opportunity, before or after working my own job.
That more or less summarizes who I am. I show up when there’s a fight to be waged.
Here’s what I’ve been involved in the past few months: Trying to soften the blow of WGA layoffs in my company; Working to make CBS offices and studios as safe as possible during the Covid-19 pandemic; And coming up with strategies to promote diversity in news shops.
I am thankful to belong to a union that has my back on all these problems.
I am also grateful that the WGAE sees its mission in broader terms than just bread and butter issues. The guild’s efforts to promote social justice and equality remind us why the labor movement changed the course of U.S. history.
Over the past 2 decades I’ve served the Guild in numerous ways, in elected positions and on committees. But I have to say that some of my most important work has been as a shop steward. Because I believe all politics is local and all organizing begins at the shop level.
Staying engaged with our membership is the most basic step in creating a strong union
Thanks for listening.
Union Activities: 7 terms as Secretary-Treasurer, Council Member (multiple terms) Served on numerous WGA-CBS negotiating committees. Member (past and present) of Finance, Real Estate and Awards committees.
Awards: WGA, Peabody and RTNDA awards for writing.
Richard B. Jablow Award for Devoted Service to the Guild.
Endorsed by: Monica Lee Bellais, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Bonnie Datt, Ashley Feinberg, Kim Kelly, Kathy McGee, Hamilton Nolan, Phil Pilato, Courtney Simon, Kelly Stout
I was first elected to Council less than year ago. It was a special election, and frankly, I had no idea what to expect. Despite having worked at three different WGAE shops over the years and sitting on Gawker’s bargaining committee, I don’t think I had any real understanding of exactly what WGAE Council did. Now, with just a little more than half a year under my belt, I’m beginning to see what’s possible, and just how much more I can do to support and fight for my fellow union members in the years to come.
Most recently, I helped spearhead the resolution that saw the Writers Guild of America, East become the first member union to call on theAFL-CIO to disaffiliate from the International Union of Police Associations. I think there’s so much more the WGAE could be doing to support the labor movement as a whole—what’s good for workers is good for our members, and I cannot wait to continue advocating for our industry’s future.
There’s still much more we need to do in terms of supporting potential union shops in their effort to organize. I also want to help open the lines of communication between our digital newsrooms and Council, so that we can quickly respond and direct our attention to members when they need it most. Especially now (in these unprecedented times etc.), when newsrooms are so fractured and likely will be for the foreseeable future, we need to make sure our members have a support system in place and are able to get their concerns heard. The single best way to push back against inequality and advocate for our members is through solidarity, and it’s an honor to be a part of that. I’m endorsed by Kaitlin Fontana, Josh Gondelman, Dru Johnston, Kim Kelly, Hamilton Nolan, Kelly Stout, Gail Lee, and Monica Lee Bellais.