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Below are the Candidate Statements for the 2015 Writers Guild of America, East Council Election. Click on the name of the candidate to go directly to his/her statement or click on the first name and scroll down to read them all.
In this election, there are three (3) Officer positions and nine (9) open Council seats (six (6) Freelance seats and three (3) Staff seats).
The three (3) candidates for Officer positions are:
The 16 candidates for the six (6) open Freelance seats are (in random order as chosen by lot):
- Frank Pugliese
- Courtney Simon
- Kenneth Lin
- Henry Bean
- Susan Kim
- Richard Vetere
- Andrea Ciannavei
- Lucy Alibar
- Maria Agui Carter
- Bill Scheft
- Bonnie Datt
- Marygrace O’Shea
- Timothy Michael Cooper
- David Angelo
- Marin Gazzaniga
- Tom Jennings
The five (5) candidates for the three (3) open Staff seats are (in random order as chosen by lot):
Voting will begin on Wednesday, August 26 and end on Thursday, September 17. Only active, current and provisional members are eligible to vote. The term of office begins September 18, 2015 and runs for two years. The results will be announced on Friday, September 18. The WGAE does not endorse or recommend any candidates.
Candidates for Officer Positions
Michael Winship – Candidate for President
This will be my last term as president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and I thank you for the support you have shown since I first came to office in 2007.
Vice President Jeremy Pikser and Secretary-Treasurer Bob Schneider also are running unopposed this year. Each has proven to be stalwart and dedicated, committed to the wellbeing of the membership and the growth of our union as a force in the creative community. I thank them for their service and especially their friendship.
Many well-qualified candidates are running for election to the council this year. Each would be (or already is) a worthy addition to the council, championing your interests. I urge you to carefully read their statements before you make your choices.
We all should be proud of the progress we have made as a union. We still have far to go, but we all can be pleased with the many advances achieved through the work of the Guild’s officers, council, Executive Director Lowell Peterson and our remarkable, talented staff. Organizing has worked with success in the fields of non-fiction “reality” television and such digital media as Gawker and Salon. Diversity outreach is growing and our system of caucuses in independent film, digital media, animation and non-fiction – caucuses that include both members and non-members – is ongoing and productive.
We continue to expand the number of events and educational opportunities for our members, and increase our visibility and political involvement in Washington and Albany, as witnessed by our active support of net neutrality and against the Time Warner-Comcast merger at the FCC and our fight to expand New York State film and TV tax incentives to include women and minority writers. You can read much more about all these and other Guild activities in Lowell Peterson’s annual report.
During my tenure, we also have experienced successful contract negotiations with ABC News, CBS News, public television and Hello Doggie (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore) among others. Further, we have survived three national MBA negotiations and our historic and successful 100-day strike, for which we and the Writers Guild West received the Sidney Hillman Foundation Officers Award.
As the 2017 MBA negotiation approaches, we will marshal our resources judiciously and work to solicit the opinions and address the concerns of our members as we prepare to go to the table once again with executives from an industry the operating profits of which have doubled in just the last decade to $47 billion. You read that right — $47 billion.
Credits: Senior writer at “Moyers & Company” and senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy organization Demos, 2011-15. 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. Delegate to the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG) and World Conference of Screenwriters – ongoing. Member, AFL-CIO General Board. Member, advisory board, Hollywood Health & Society at the Norman Lear Center, USC.
Jeremy Pikser – Candidate for Vice President
I am running for a third term as Vice President of the WGAE.
During my current term I have continued to work with the Organizing Department to continue our campaigns to bring union contracts to “reality” TV and to create more Guild work in independent film and internet writing. None of these campaigns are easy to win, but, I believe, are necessary to secure a future for writers in the east. I can’t claim a single shred of credit for the explosion of organizing success we’ve recently experienced in digital news (Gawker), but it serves to show the way forward. The future of all writers depends on expanding and redefining our membership as the media in which we work continue to change.
In the past year the Guild has taken on another crucial, and extremely difficult task—to try to address the gross inequality faced by women and people of color in our industry. As a member of the newly formed Diversity Coalition, I have, and will continue to work hard trying to find new and more effective ways to enhance opportunities for the underrepresented writers who don’t happen to be white males. I not only believe this is right and long overdue, but I am convinced it is necessary for the health and strength of the Guild.
Although not directly involved at the committee level, I will also continue to strongly support new efforts to increase the number of TV writing rooms in the East.
Also, I believe it will be important to use the coming term as a time to mobilize and educate the membership in preparation for the next round of MBA negotiations. New technologies of production and distribution require us to develop new and innovative approaches to negotiations and contracts.
I am running unopposed this time, so I guess I’m going to be re-elected, but if you would take the time to vote for me anyway, I will greatly appreciate your support. Thanks.
Bob Schneider – Candidate for Secretary-Treasurer
Thanks to the committed staff headed by Executive Director Lowell Peterson, a hands-on Council, and the leadership of Pres. Michael Winship and Vice-Pres. Jeremy Pikser, the Guild is in better shape now than at any time since I’ve been a member. Fiduciary responsibility has now become part of the genetic makeup of our Guild. Thanks to Lowell’s skilled management, we now consistently run in the black; mid-six-figure surpluses at year’s end have enabled us to put money into, rather than draw down on our rainy-day kitty. Being financially prudent hasn’t stopped our gung-ho organizing department, ably supported by the New Members Committee, from making great strides in getting the huge, mostly East-based non-fiction universe organized. Just last month the staff at Gawker voted to unionize, in what we hope will be the first of many online news shops to do so; new members on the cyber side of the news universe will be a welcome shot in the arm to the staff side of the equation. Council-driven initiatives on diversity, and on getting more writing jobs for East-based writers on shows that call New York their home, while still nascent, look like they may soon pay dividends for all of us. Tax credits for diverse writing rooms based in our burg passed the State assembly this year and should (fingers crossed) pass the Senate and be signed by the governor in the next legislative session. The one constant throughout this renaissance has been the quiet, steady, strong leadership of Michael Winship, and I for one am greatly relieved that he has decided to take another turn at the helm.
Candidates for Freelance Seats
I have been a member of the Writer’s Guild for most of my adult life. My family has supported, worked for and represented Unions on both sides of the Atlantic. And I speak from the time spent when I say the Guild has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. The Guild has consistently been there for me, and rescued me and I suspect others on more than one occasion. My goal if I am fortunate enough to be elected to the Council is to work towards sustaining the advancements we have made as a Union, as well as working towards creating new opportunities for our members, while fortifying and encouraging the collegial aspects of our community; and of course to work towards ever more ownership of the product we create in the industry, as media, distribution and consumption evolves and changes. In my opinion the Guild has been and is a success, an organization that survives as it fights to survive. And in these times when collective bargaining is under attack worldwide, my promise is to serve the Guild with dedication, tenacity and time.
I retired from writing soap operas a couple of years ago. Or perhaps I should say, they retired from me. Once the number of daytime dramas dwindled to four, I decided maybe it was a sign that I should find another focus for my creative energies. Luckily, the Guild was there to provide exactly that.
Eight years on the Council has offered me a generous menu of worthy initiatives. I went to Albany three years in a row to lobby for a production tax credit providing an incentive to hire women and people of color to write for television. I spoke to potential new members about the incalculable benefits of having a strong union behind them in the workplace. I continued to be on the awards committee where we’ve all been proud of our successful mission to fashion an ever-more-appealing show each year without breaking the budget.
Still, I felt I could do more. And fortuitously, an opening cropped up, to co-chair the newly-formed Diversity Coalition with my friend and former colleague, Judy Tate. The Coalition, dedicated to making our Guild a more diverse place, is a working group that is long overdue. In our first year, we have reached out to our diverse members for their input in crafting an ambitious agenda. We are partnering with other diversity-based industry groups like the Kaitz Foundation and the Black List. We are making it a priority to sponsor more Guild panels and workshops with a diversity component. And we are increasing cooperation with other entertainment unions to create more opportunities for women and people of color.
This is not simply a matter of social responsibility. As a creative community, we owe it to ourselves to present stories that have real relevance in the real world. And how can we do that unless the people who have lived those stories get a fair chance to tell them.
The creative landscape needs to be more inclusive. I hope you will elect me to another term so I can enlist the Council’s help and cooperation in doing whatever we can to make that happen.
As a minority who is actively working in new media and developing production opportunities on the East Coast, I am on the front lines of important areas of growth for our Guild and our industry. As such, I believe that I’ll be a valuable member of the Council, identifying opportunities to deepen our presence and amplify our voice.
I believe that the Guild’s most important calling card is the writing of its members. Thus I will focus on ensuring that writers on the East Coast have access to the best professional opportunities and feel sufficiently protected to create great and vital work.
To these ends, I will serve as a steward of the ever-changing dynamics of healthcare and health insurance, anticipating and preparing for challenges that lie ahead; I will advocate for initiatives that develop new audiences and make room for diverse voices; and I will seek out opportunities that make New York and the rest of the East Coast a place where one can expect to find the best writers and the best opportunities to fulfill rewarding projects.
Endorsed by: John Auerbach, Walter Bernstein, Adam Brooks, Kyle Bradstreet, Bonnie Datt, Tony Gilroy, Peter Hedges, Susan Kim, Marc Kristol, Chris Kyle, Richard Lagravanese, Gail Lee, Kathy McGee, Jeremy Pikser, Phil Pilato, Melissa Salmons, Stephen Schiff, Courtney Simon, Susanna Styron, Cath Twohill, Raphael Yglesias.
I have served two terms on the WGAE Council and was ready to step down when I became involved in a project called The History of the Negotiating Committee. It brings together writers who’ve been involved in past negotiations to discuss their experiences, their accounts of the tactics used by both sides, what worked, what didn’t, and their ideas and advice for the future. We’ve held one session so far, and it was eye-opening. Over the next two years, as the Guild gears up for the 2017 negotiations, we want to bring in as many former participants as possible and use their thoughts to help shape both demands and strategy. I very much want to see this project to conclusion.
I am also interested in:
Agencies. There is an inherent conflict of interest between packaging agents on a TV show and the writer clients they supposedly represent. If the agency participates in the show’s profits, the less money “its” writers are paid, the bigger the profit pie the agency gets to divide. Hollywood literary agencies are licensed by the State of California and operate under an agreement with the WGA. The Guild should negotiate this issue with the agencies and, if necessary file for arbitration against them.
Free drafts. The shortening of television seasons (from 22 episodes to 12 or 10) means that TV writers are being paid for fewer episodes, but over a more or less a similar number of weeks. They are now being asked for the kinds of free drafts feature writers have been doing for years. Accordingly, there is a proposal to pay writers by time, not by draft. I don’t love the concept (drafts are meaningful units of work for a writer, time is not), but it might solve an issue than no one else has figured out how to address.
Profit participation. All writers of films and television should have a serious equity stake in the shows they work on. Winning this will be a long, slow, painful struggle, but it will be worth it. And we should begin now, on the margins of the business, demanding gross positions for, say, the writers of extremely low-budget independent features. These writers, who now receive, at best, very small upfront fees (and often none at all), should share in the profits when those little movies make big money. If we can establish this foothold, we can expand from there.
Diversity. The WGAE Diversity Coalition wants to find more writing work for women and minorities (I hate the term “people of color”). I’m dutifully interested in making the Guild membership “look more like America” and excited about finding writers who can tell different kinds of stories unfamiliar worlds. I want a diversity of art and of artists.
My name is Susan Kim and I’m running for my sixth consecutive term as a freelance Council member.
I’ve always been freelance: I’ve written documentaries, specials, live action, and hundreds of episodes for children, for broadcast, cable, and PBS. Since I know how much better covered work is than uncovered, organizing has always been my top priority. I strongly believe we need to expand our jurisdiction, grow our membership, and thrive as a union so we all have a better shot at a decent standard of living. This comes from painful experience. These days, I mostly write animation; yet because it’s a “non-mandatory subject of bargaining,” it’s tossed out of every single MBA negotiation before the real dealing even begins. The hard fact is, we can’t “bargain to organize”; we must “organize to bargain.” Organizing animation has so many obstacles, it often seems impossible; just ask any animation writer, who has struggled with this injustice for years. Yet recently, the Guild has had huge organizing victories in nonfiction and new media, wins that would have seemed impossible even a few years ago… and this gives me hope. And this is where I promise to continue putting my efforts.
I first ran for a Council seat ten years ago as part of a slate of candidates. We came together because at the time, our challenges seemed insurmountable: we were at war with the WGAw, newswriters at CBS were in a drawn-out contractual battle, digital rights in the MBA were nonexistent, organizing was dead, staff morale was poor, and membership apathy was 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. Under the leadership of Justin Molito, the organizing staff has pulled together an astonishing run 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, staff, leadership, and beyond; the writers at Gawker and Salon recently mounted their own organizing drives and approached the Guild for recognition. Yet huge challenges remain and the last thing we can afford is complacency. We must continue to win and enforce contracts, identify new targets, organize, mobilize… and above all, stay vigilant.
During my five 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, a committee that actively supports the Guild’s organizing drives. I also served on the Constitution Committee, was a picket captain during the strike, and currently serve on the Council, National Council, and Executive Committee. With fellow Council member Bonnie Datt, I co-chair the Animation Caucus, which provides professional training and networking opportunities for both member and non-member writers and animators. I am also a member of the Diversity Coalition, working with staff to bring mentoring, networking, and professional development opportunities to our members while also supporting legislature in Albany that could have a real effect on jobs for writers. If I am re-elected, my priorities will be to continue supporting internal and external organizing from both my seat on the Council and via committee work, while also working to meet the needs of current members.
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 husband, fellow WGAE member Laurence Klavan, I wrote Wasteland, a young adult fiction trilogy currently in print from HarperCollins. Prior to that, we wrote two graphic novels, City of Spies and Brain Camp. I also wrote the non-fiction Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, with graphic designer Elissa Stein. I teach creative writing at Goddard College and NYU/Tisch, two rare union jobs in the adjunct world.
As a playwright back in 1989 getting into the WGA East was the coolest thing for me. I started writing movies and TV and felt like I had found a home. I was a part of a community that had my back, had shared experiences and made sure my health and pension was paid for. I could name numerous times when a studio or network was either lax or very late in doing so and one call from the Guild and the corporate suits were put in line.
In 2010 to my surprise I got a letter in the mail from the Guild telling me that I was made a Lifetime and Current Member and in 2012 I was nominated for a Freelance Council Seat and was elected and served a two year term.
Once again I am nominated and once again I would be honored to serve. Two years on the Council made me see first-hand how focused and dedicated those serving on the Council are and I would be happy to be among them again.
If you aren’t aware of my work I wrote the novel The Third Miracle (Simon & Schuster) and I co-wrote the screenplay adaptation starring Ed Harris, produced by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by Agnieszka Holland released by Sony Picture Classics. I wrote the teleplay adaptation of my stage play The Marriage Fool for CBS TV Films starring Walter Matthau, Carol Burnett and John Stamos which is CBS’S most watched TV movie ever. I wrote the screenplay adaptation of my own stage play How to Go Out on a Date in Queens with Jason Alexander and the teleplay adaptation of my own stage play Hale The Hero! starring Elisabeth Shue for the General Motors Playwrights Theater on A&E.
My first produced original screenplay was Vigilante and it recently named by BAM as one of the best indie movies of the 1980’s with a special screening July 30th and I have written TV pilots and have written on TV shows for George Clooney, Warner Brothers, ABC and CBS.
I have written screenplays for Paramount, New Line Cinema, Disney, Warner Brothers to name a few studios.
My stage plays include Caravaggio (Silk Crossing Theater in Chicago) where I was a guest of the Chicago Humanities Festival; Machiavelli (Off-Broadway at the Archlight Theater in NYC); Gangster Apparel (The Old Red Lion in London); and One Shot, One Kill (Primary Stages in NYC).
My play Lady Macbeth and Her Lover was accepted into the New York International Fringe Theater Festival this summer. My most recent novel is The Writers Afterlife published in 2014 (Three Rooms Press) and my new novel Champagne and Cocaine will be released in May 2016. I have three books of poetry published, four novels and over twenty published plays. I hold a master’s degree in Contemporary English Literature from Columbia University and was born, raised and still live in NYC.
I have three main beefs with our industry as I see it:
- A shameless unwillingness to put people of color and women in writers’ rooms with equal measure, I find it creatively limiting and ethically reprehensible;
- Net-neutrality. By controlling all the content and limiting who gets to see what based on prices paid for internet speed, corporations are limiting future opportunities for writers and consumers. The political implications of this kind of sliding scale censorship are outrageous as well; and lastly
- The fearmongering that goes on between producers, agents and writers that allows producers to ask writers to perform duties outside of their contracts, or bring in written material to pitch meetings. They do it essentially with impunity. There is not a single suit who will do a stitch of work for free in this life and yet writers feel obligated to do so out of fear of being blacklisted and in effect cut the power of the union off at the knees.
Professionally, I’ve been working theater for 15 years and in TV for 4. In 2011, I traveled on behalf of Marsha Norman to Thailand, India, South Africa, Kenya, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Egypt, Haiti and Ecuador to conduct interviews and research on human trafficking, sex slavery, gender violence and socio-political and economic issues that impact women and their families. I’ve written over 6 plays, most notably, Pretty Chin Up which received a development production at LAByrinth Theater Company (Artistic Directors: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Ortiz) at The Public Theater. I made my beginning in TV in 2010 on Tom Fontana’s Borgia for three seasons and season 2 of Copper on BBC America. Most recently, I was a staff writer NBC Universal’s American Odyssey helmed by Peter Foster, Adam Armus and Kay Foster. I completed undergraduate studies at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Dramatic Writing Program and went on to Juilliard’s Lila Acheson Playwriting Fellowship 2008-2010.
In addition to writing for theater and TV, I have also worked for the Writers Guild Initiative as a project coordinator for the Helen Deutsch Writing Workshops: free writing workshops for wounded warriors returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as their family caregivers) in Colorado, Ohio, Texas, New York, Los Angeles, and the American Military Hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. I’ve also spent the last 3 years heavily involved in social and political activism: I am a co-founder of InterOccupy, Occupy Sandy, and the Million Hoodies for Trayvon Martin movement. I also work for The Yes Men as a content writer and am a coop member of Glocal, a tech and organizing cooperative that seeks to use free and open software to bridge the gap between online to on-the-street activism for groups who work to affect social, political and economic change, most notably the Movement for Black Lives.
I’m honored and grateful for the opportunity to run for a seat on WGAE’S Council. Writing and activism have been the two major forces at work in my life for a number of years, and I view this as a chance to meld both. Writers are a community I care very deeply about and I hope I get the chance to serve you.
My candidacy has been endorsed by: Chris Albers, Rick Dresser, Tom Fontana, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Elliot Kalan, Susan Kim, Chris Kyle, Willie Reale, Jackie Reingold, Liz Tuccillo, Michael Weller
It’s been a joy to belong to Writers Guild for three years. I’ve learned so much about solidarity, community, and inclusiveness.
I’d like to work for more of that.
I want women in the Guild to have the ability to sustain both a career and a family. I want to find ways to make writers rooms representative of our greater humanity. And I want to work to create more jobs on the east coast.
I’m looking forward to working with and for you in the coming years.
Maria Agui Carter
I am honored to be nominated for the WGAE Council. I have been a member of the WGAE since 2000, as a staff producer and writer at WGBH in Boston, and as an writer, director, and producer of independent films including my most recent, a documentary with dramatic scenes called REBEL. I have greatly benefitted from my WGAE membership and wish to give back by joining the Council.
I am eager to serve the needs of our existing membership, and to help increase opportunities for diverse writers as well as help increase the ranks of diverse members at WGAE. I serve on the WGAE Diversity Coalition and look forward to advocating for the needs of our members.
I have been a committed board member and Chair of organizations that fight for and benefit filmmakers for over a decade. As Chair of the Filmmaker’s Collaborative, a fiscal sponsor and member services organization in New England, I helped grow our membership from a regional group of 20 documentary film companies to a national group of over 50 film companies with a yearly conference. As Chair of NALIP (The National Assoc. of Latino Independent Producers) an organization that serves Latino writers, producers and directors, I secured support from companies such as Google and AMC theaters, led our board through a strategic planning process to respond to our rapidly changing industry, strengthened alliances with stakeholder organizations, collaborated on advocacy campaigns with over sixteen of the country’s national Latino civil rights organizations, and collaborated in strategy and operations for numerous robust filmmaker’s service programs and labs, including our annual national conferences. I continue to serve NALIP now as a Trustee.
I also founded the Artist Retreat Center, a residency for writers and directors on a 100-acre private VT estate in the Northeast Kingdom as part of a NALIP Diverse Women’s Initiative.
After many years in Boston, I am now living part time in NYC where I grew up, and I look forward to seeing much more of my fellow WGAE writers in town.
Comedy-variety writers are an influential and vibrant slice of the WGA membership. Especially in the East. That slice should have a seat at the Council table. I won’t lie to you. I am 58-year-old Jew gag writer with a flip phone and zero knowledge of contract or labor law. What I bring is my experience and enthusiasm in carrying the Guild’s message and my passion to fight for my fellow workers.
For 21 years, I was the shop steward at Late Show With David Letterman. During that time, with the help of people like Ruth Gallo, Geoff Betts, Steve King and Gary Wesalo, I aggressively pursued and won favorable rulings that returned almost $2 million in overdue residuals and disregarded payments. Despite an undergraduate degree in Latin and Greek, I came up with the formula that fairly proportioned “combo rerun” pool payments (when multiple episodes are used to create a rebroadcast) and increased those residuals three and four-fold.
During the 2007-2008 strike, I served as a Strike Captain. The Late Show writers were a constant presence on the picket line and online. When Worldwide Pants worked out an interim agreement with the Guild and we (and The Late Late Show) got to return to work a month before the strike was settled, our writers donated a percentage of our salaries to the strike fund and fed those who continued to march until that glorious day at the Crowne Plaza when Terry George announced “We have defeated a tradition of rollbacks that began with the air traffic controllers.”
In the fall of 2013, I was honored to be asked to join the committee that negotiated the current MBA. I sat in on meetings where I understood no more than 7.4 percent of what was said, but I believe it was important to have at least one active late night writer in the room. I still believe.
I am running for Council because I made a promise to myself that when my time working for David Letterman ended, I would give back to the organization that has taken such great pains to take care of me and my brethren. An organization in which I have untold faith. “Faith without works is dead.” And you know when a Jew quotes the King James Bible, he is serious. I’m ready to work. So, if you’ll have me, I’m in.
In this 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 two terms working to protect writers’ rights and welfare. Although I’d always been an active Writers Guild East member, serving on the Council and becoming the chair of one Guild committee and the co-chair of a caucus has afforded me even more opportunities to be of service to my fellow members.
I am honored to have my candidacy endorsed by Fred Armisen, Chris Albers, Henry Bean, Tim Carvell, Tom Fontana, Terry George, Gina Gionfriddo, Susan Kim, Gail Lee, Jenny Lumet, Pippin Parker, Jeremy Pikser, Phil Pilato, Charlie Rubin, Courtney Simon and Steve Young. These WGAE members’ long-term dedication to their fellow writers has acted as an inspiration for my own Guild activism.
I believe that it is vital for the WGA to protect and continuously improve upon the rights of the writers we’ve traditionally represented in television, film and news, making sure that the studios and networks can’t erode the progress we’ve already made in our coverage of these areas.
But I also believe that the more types of writing the Guild represent, the better it is for all writers and the more clout we’ll have in negotiating for every one of our members. So for the past ten years I’ve diligently worked with the WGAE’s organizing department to expand Guild coverage. I’ve strategized and participated in extensive outreach to help organize new media, non-fiction, basic cable, independent film, animation and digital media. The ultimate goal of this work has been to strengthen the Guild’s power and ensure fair treatment for all writers. The advances we’re making in areas like non-fiction, new media and digital media—such as our recent Gawker victory—are expanding the Guild’s reach to new frontiers, giving much needed WGAE protection to writers who’ve never been able to benefit from it before.
During my Council terms, I’ve taken part in multiple 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. I was also a WGAE Delegate to a 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 an International Affiliation of Writers Guilds to learn how our sister unions around the world attempt to combat the economic issues that we all face.
In 2012, my fellow Council member Susan Kim and I resuscitated the long dormant Animation Caucus. Since then, as its co-chairs, we’ve more than double 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, negotiating contracts, 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 approximately ninety 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 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 was a regular contributor to the digital media fashion site Racked.com for five years. 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.
In my personal life, I am very active in Democratic politics and have been in a position to talk to politicians in Washington about issues that are of importance to the WGAE including Net Neutrality, the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership and our nonfiction organizing campaign.
If reelected, I promise to continue building on my history of devoted WGAE service, working with members and staff to try to protect the rights of all my fellow WGAE members.
Endorsed by: Kyle Bradstreet, Sinead Daly, Maggie Greenwald, Jerome Hairston, Darnell Martin, Charlie Rubin, Syd Sidner.
If elected, my primary focus will be to broaden our efforts to increase the number of television writers rooms in New York, and in other regions covered by the Guild East.
The number of rooms is already on the rise in New York. New stages are being built. On council, I will continue to lobby government for tax credits that incentivize local writers rooms and to seek solidarity with other production guilds. That’s part of our external work.
Internally, I will push to increase the number of Guild initiatives that cultivate community and that help to grow talent locally in an effort to increase employment opportunities for both seasoned, veteran writers and the wide array of members whose voices are currently underrepresented in the film and television workforce.
The more local talent grows, in experience and exposure, the more new work will grow out of it. Without local work, the brain drain westward will be the same as it ever was – inevitable.
As was clear from the recent NY showrunners weekend, there is an increasing number of experienced writers of all backgrounds working locally on high profile projects across the television spectrum – broadcast, cable, streaming – from prime time to kid’s TV. The more proactive the Guild can be in fostering relationships, conversation and community among our membership, the more momentum and confidence will build to create future opportunities for local jobs. If elected, increasing this momentum will be my primary focus.
I’m honored to have been nominated, and appreciate your consideration.
Guild Activities: Member since 2007, lobbied Albany and locally for NY State tax credit, spoke on Guild panel regarding representing characters with disabilities, volunteered with Wounded Warrior Caregivers writing workshops, volunteered for Writers Guild Initiative’s Online Student Mentoring, participated in Guild forums on diversity, and roundtables on increasing writers rooms in New York.
Timothy Michael Cooper
If you’ve attended any Writers Guild event over the past six years, you’ve probably noticed me there. Not just because of my stunning looks and powerful typing fingers, but because I attend so many WGAE events each month. As an active Guild member, I’ve been a constant advocate for our union by inspiring, teaching, and learning from my fellow writers.
Whether I’m crafting jokes for the Writers Guild Awards, mentoring young filmmakers on behalf of the Writers Guild Initiative, meeting with new shops that are considering unionization, teaching other members about writing for digital media, or recruiting new members to our Digital Caucus, I have and will continue to demonstrate how influential the Guild has been in my life and career.
I’m eager to serve you, and plan to do so by continuing to listen to members’ needs and anticipate the most helpful actions. Some of the issues I’m most passionate about include:
- Bringing more television writers’ rooms to NYC
- Increasing membership diversity overall
- Adding more reality and digital news shops, now that Gawker’s unionization has opened that door
- Improving our mentorship programs, particularly among underserved and newer writers
- Fighting against producers who take advantage of us during revisions and contracts
I’m a Brooklyn-based filmmaker and comedy writer. My web series, Concierge: The Series, was nominated for the first-ever Writers Guild Award for new media. I was among the first dozen people to be accepted into the Guild for digital content, and I was one of the founding members of our groundbreaking Digital Caucus.
My first feature-writing credit, Away From Here, was released a couple years ago. It was written before I was an official Guild member—although I wish I’d understood the WGA’s ability to organize low-budget projects even then. I’ve written and directed various digital pilots, including one that was a nationwide finalist at the New York Television Festival. Plus, I’ve written tons of shorts, commercials, and industrials, including five Super Bowl spots last year for Google.
Throughout my time in the Guild, I’ve also:
- Written jokes for Colin Quinn and Larry Wilmore, for the 2014 and 2015 Writers Guild Awards
- Mentored underrepresented and student writers through the Writers Guild Initiative
- Taught classes about writing and shooting digital media at the WGAE offices
- Represented the Guild by speaking at the Women in Film & Television International Summit in D.C.
- Brought in dozens of new writers to the Digital Caucus
- Managed the almost-award-winning WGAE softball team for five years
It’s easy for writers to believe that we’re lucky whenever we find a potential job—but it can be hard to convince us that we have genuine value. Yet we most certainly do; nothing creative moves forward without us. So let’s not back down with the upcoming MBA negotiations. Let’s protect and serve all writers.
The WGA has been a tremendous force in my life. Now I want to expand my role in helping us grow in influence, respect, and power, particularly by capitalizing on the vast promise of quality digital-specific content. I ran for Council for the first time last year, and am excited to do so again in 2015. No matter what happens, I’ll continue to serve my fellow writers—and fight for what we want and need in order to tell our stories to the world.
I’ve been working as a TV writer for the past six years, so while I am not as expert or experienced as many I think I know a lot of ways to make things a little better for us. For example, it seems that, given our unionization, there should be some collaborative way to hear about and submit to jobs without 20% of our gross pay going to commissions. That’s something I would like to work with the WGAE on; streamlining things. No one without conflicting interests has ever explained why pure writers, with no performing side, need managers and agents to apply to staff jobs at signatory shows. No traditional union would funnel members through that financially exhausting commission process. There has to be a better way!
I’d also work for stronger contracts and policies that reflect the changing industry and workplace. I have many ideas on how to do this, but not a lot of space here. So please trust me; I’m at my most creative when advancing my own interests!
Not having seen the other candidates’ statements, I can’t say for certain if I will even vote for me (maybe they’re all great?). But the reason I am running is because I think the WGAE could use someone a little unorthodox like myself to mix things up. Thank you.
Endorsed by: Stephen Belber, Keith Bunin, Cristine Chambers, Cusi Cram, Peter Hirsch, Don P. Hooper, Howard Korder, Scott McGehee, Anslem Richardson, Lara Shapiro, David Siegel and Michael Slade.
I’m honored to have been nominated to run for Council twice now. As a writer, I’m used to rejection, but I believe I have something to offer and so I’m back to ask for your vote.
I joined the WGAE under the New Media contract as a writer for the Hulu reboot of One Life to Live. I’ve written for the children’s animated show Arthur, created a web series for IFC, and written and produced digital “content” for HBO and Turner Networks.
That “c” word is why I feel compelled to run for Council again. “Content” is usurping all forms of storytelling in the new media world, and I am passionate about protecting writers’ value and income.
I was a writer at HBO Digital for seven years and I now cover entertainment for Fortune; here’s my concern for writers in our current industry:
With more over-the-top streaming services, soon everything will be considered new media. Comparing today’s ratings and box office numbers to those of ten years ago reveals it is getting harder to get eyeballs when people have so much to choose from and so many places to watch. While companies like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are spending money for original content, many predict this is a bubble that will burst. These places are investing in their brands; their shows are not making back the money they cost. And that model can’t last.
Meanwhile, many writers are giving away their work for free as a way to get a foot in the door. Sometimes this results in a breakout hit. But mostly it means a lot of free content, which by its nature can’t always be of the best quality. This becomes a vicious cycle. As quality erodes, pay erodes. As our soon-to-be-WGAE members at Gawker can attest, digital has made it harder than ever for writers to make a living wage. There are now websites that offer $50 per article. And I have been told “we can get videos for cheap, people want their stuff online.”
I want to expand and preserve jobs and benefits for working professional writers. I want to advocate for enough union work in NY for a majority of our membership to qualify for health insurance.
In addition to negotiating contracts and decent minimums, I believe we should find creative ways to assure producers, distributors and audiences continue to recognize and value professional writing. How, I’m not sure yet. But I’d welcome the opportunity to figure it out with fellow Council members.
Finally, I attend Brooklyn WGAE events, have served as a judge for the WGA awards, and am a member of the Digital caucus. I attend many Guild functions, and value the community, advocacy and continued professional development the Guild provides.
Thanks for your consideration.
I’m a documentary producer and writer, primarily working for public television. PBS FRONTLINE has been my outlet for the past six years.
I stand for three primary issues: organizing, the ownership of our digital work, and mentoring.
Perhaps you’ve noticed, too: WGAE has quietly and with purpose been ignoring the popular meme in the press (and on the campaign trail) about the demise of the American labor movement. Dramatically successful drives to organize reality television production (Jane Street), non-fiction outlets (Lion, Optomen), and most recently web-based media producers Gawker and Salon prove how dynamic WGAE organizers have been and just how significant the need out there is for representation.
This momentum needs our strong support. As important as representing all traditional writing interests at WGAE – film screenplay writers, comedy writers, news broadcast writers, and my own colleagues in the public television writer-producer trenches – I believe that bringing new members into our union is the issue upon which all other priorities depend. I’m in accord with our continued pressure against studios like Peacock and ITV, including the filing of unfair labor practice grievances and public campaigns backing writers and producers wanting to organize. I favor providing even more financial and technical support to the organizing efforts, expanding public awareness of the Guild’s continuing successes, and creating programs that help the new members access health and pension benefits quickly and efficiently.
Digital distribution of content is here. Actually, it’s past here. As Lowell Peterson has said, this is not “new media” anymore – it’s simply media, whether Netflix pioneering binge-watcher distribution of “House of Cards” or PBS streaming all its creative content in perpetuity. That being the case, I’m a strong proponent for clarifying our ownership of what we do in the context of web-based distribution. We cannot allow our rights to be diminished by virtue of corporate owners segmenting audiences with web and mobile distribution strategies favoring their own interests. Additionally, I support and wish to reinforce rights established in the 2014 MBA for “made for new media” shows, realizing that going forward these productions will simply be standard content.
I teach documentary writing at NYU and am proud to be partaking in WGAE’s new non-fiction training program to pass on higher-education level mentoring to young writers. I believe that training our newest members and would-be writers is simply for the betterment of our craft and future security. Passing on our knowledge is also just one of those right things to do.
To conclude, I’ve been a WGAE member since 2000, have served on negotiating committees and have actively lobbied representatives on issues of interest to us all. Amidst the vicissitudes of our creative lives the Guild is our solid center. I would be honored to serve on the Council, advocating for our collective best interest.
Candidates for Staff Seats
It is without hyperbole that I say this is a critical time for us.
It is critical because we are now at the center of a revolution in content production.
… “content production”
We’re not writers anymore. Sure, we write words. We write them better than just about anyone outside of the Guild. But that’s not all we are anymore.
Our employers and our readers and viewers expect more from us nowadays. Our work isn’t simply read on paper or recited to a camera. It’s repurposed into a Facebook-friendly clip. It’s mashed into a Tweet. It’s Instagrammed, YouTubed, Snapchatted, and broadcast over whatever other app du jour captures the national consciousness.
We face unique pressures to provide content for a much more distracted audience than ever.
Worse, that content is also being provided by upstart social media “stars” who, while finding niches in the system, have also changed everyone’s expectations.
Our bosses want us to be like them, and not just in the style of content.
They want us to take unfair splits of the money our content generates.
They want us to be happy with “exposure” as a form of payment.
They want us to sacrifice quality in exchange for clicks.
We live in an era where Buzzfeed listicles are king. Clickbait headlines are more valuable than the content the click delivers.
What does this mean for us?
It means we need stronger protections to ensure our craft thrives in this environment.
One of my favorite phrases to use is “adapt, or go extinct.” That’s true of us in today’s changing environment. What my goal is, should I be elected, is to vigorously fight for the protections necessary to allow for that evolution.
Companies are making a lot of money because of us. They see this era as a way to maximize the bottom line because they can take advantage of the young, overly aggressive individuals hunting stardom and take a disproportionate share of the revenue they generate. They pad their bottom line by hunting down the naive and exploiting them.
This leaves us in positions to be eliminated, or to have our work radically altered.
We can evolve and produce great, highly consumed content. What we can’t do is let the conglomerates get comfortable with this being the norm.
This needs to be an anomaly. The only way to make that happen is to aggressively fight for our rights as writers and content producers.
I say all this not to be the “we’re all going to die unless you vote for me” candidate. These are things I truly believe are true of our industry. I will fight them regardless of my status within the union because these are, to me, the most pressing problems we face.
But this will be how I serve the union if elected. Unions were formed with the specific purpose of fighting overzealous employers for our rights as individuals. We are the ones who create the product they sell. Whether we are writing words or fitting pipes, the concept is still the same; we toil for money, so we just want our fair share and to be treated fairly. I am aggressive when it comes to fighting for these protections. I take pride in this approach.
This truly is a critical time for us as a union. Our choices as a union could change the course of our industry. It is a responsibility I take quite seriously, and it would be my honor to serve this union as one of those making those choices.
It seems our labor relations never stop; nor should they as management on the other side is constantly looking for any weakness, on our part, that would be tested at the start of actual negotiations. It’s why the Council meets throughout the year; guarding and improving our hard-earned rights. This union will continue to be fair but ever watchful as management seeks to marginalize our gains. We have to be constantly on our guard. I was asked to run for the Council and am asking for your vote as I’ve accepted the challenge. My background goes a bit before 1987 when we picketed broadcast operations for over 7 weeks, 24-hours a day. We were angry at CBS, in particular as the “bean counters” were sacrificing quality for dollars. Just feet away from freezing West 57th Street the lights were on throughout the nights as executives were debating who would go and who would stay. We had no idea whether we’d ever get back inside. Yet we decided, we wouldn’t cave. We’d rather not work there anymore had the company erased our effective union bargaining unit. Just before CBS would have been forced to start paying New York State for unemployment, the network gave in. Negotiations every 3 years since have been tough and often threatening, but they’ve always stopped short of another strike, thanks to the backing our union has given us.
Dear Fellow Guild Members,
Hello, I’m David Keller and I’m running for the WGA Council as a staff member. I have been a Guild member for over 30 years and have been actively involved with the WGAE in contract negotiations, in various pickets, rallies, leafleting, and served as a shop steward for the Network Graphics Department. My association as a graphic artist with CBS began in 1985, and I was made staff in 1995. In 1992 I received an Emmy for Graphic Design for the CBS Evening News, along with my department. I began working with CBS News Graphics and have worked with CBS Sports for over the last fifteen years.
As a Guild member, here are some key issues I care about:
Language: Much of the language in our contracts refer only to “broadcast” as a content delivery system. Other delivery systems need to be included in our contracts, and our jurisdiction to internet, social media, cable and satellite should also be expanded. More and more content that we provide are streamed on computer devices and delivered through other mediums and this should be reflected in our future contracts.
Maintaining what we have: Many of the other unions in our industry are offering givebacks to the entertainment corporations in their contracts. For example, the IBEW and NABET have almost no seniority and jurisdictions left in their contracts with their respective networks. This comes at a time when the entertainment business is doing extremely well and does not need to ask their workers for sacrifices. We need to address the issue of wage stagnation. After all, why should the workers in our industry contribute to the growing economic disparity between us and the executives who are reaping most of the profits?
Building our union: To make our organization survive it is important that we recruit more members into our ranks, especially those who are doing similar work but are contracted outside the Guild. For example, there are non-union graphic artists creating graphics for CBSN (internet streaming) and CBS Sports Network (cable) who are doing the same work as Guild members and making far less than union scale. There needs to be a concerted effort to get these folks unionized!
I’m 60 years old, married, and have two daughters. I have a BFA from School of Visual Arts in NYC, and have worked as a graphic artist in television since 1984. Our contract with CBS is up for renewal this April, and I look forward to being on the negotiating committee as usual. If I win your vote for Staff Council, I promise that I will serve to the best of my ability. Thank you, and I appreciate your consideration.
Sue Brown McCann
I’m Sue McCann and I’ve served on the Council since 2007 and represented the WGAE through two MBA negotiations and CBS negotiations (beginning in 2001 to present). I am so very proud to run again and represent all of you!
I’m also proud to say that I’ve been a part of the council to help membership grow in Chicago, New York, and Washington DC.
As the industry continues to move and change I’m energized to make sure our members are part of that change. As the company moves to streamline jobs while adding MORE work on the news writer, I will make sure we are all protected.
I am asking again for your vote and trust in me to fight to preserve our contract, preserve our jurisdiction, and increase our pay.
I’ve been a member of the WGAE for over three decades, and a Council member representing news writers now for eight years – and in all that time it’s always been the same song from management. They want higher profits and less cost, writers need better pay and benefits.
More jobs have been created in the news and entertainment industry than any other industry however many 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.
That is why we’re to stop the bloodletting – and beginning 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 – writers at Gawker-dot-com voted overwhelmingly to unionize – with the WGAE as their union. Having the Gawker writers finally brings the worldwide web news writers into our unionized world, strengthening our numbers to fight management.
More gains came from non-fiction writers, who up to this point have been working 50 and 60 hour weeks with no overtime and no benefits. They now have a union fighting for them – the Writers Guild and 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 Committee is devoted to getting already existing shops organized and active, not just waiting until a contract is up. The News Committee 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.
Another major concern I and many of my fellow Council members have is diversity. We all agreed the union is sadly not diverse enough. So rather than just doing lip-service to this issue, we formed the Diversity Coalition, of which I am a member. We are trying to find solutions to help women writers and writers of color and other minorities become members and get work in our industry.
We’ve also gotten a bill into the state legislature to expand opportunities for New York writers – expanding the current tax incentive for film and TV productions to now include women writers and writers of color if the writing rooms are based in New York. With the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, and other unions supporting our bill, we’re pushing hard to get the full legislature to vote for this bill.
Over the past eight years, 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 Diversity Coalition, helped work on the rewriting of the Guild’s constitution, and served on other committees, 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 its members who run the Guild, the members who are the Guild.
I also ask you to vote for Sue Brown-McCann who has done fantastic work representing news writers in Chicago.
I also urge you to vote for Bonnie Datt, Susan Kim, Courtney Simon, and Henry Bean – four of the most active MBA members on the Council. Bonnie represents New Media writers, Susan represents Animation writers, Courtney represents Daytime writers, and Henry represents screen writers. Your vote for them will be rewarded many times over by their diligent and informed work on the Council.