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Below are the Candidate Statements for the 2016 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.
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 digital media, and Staff members work in television, digital and radio news shops under the Guild’s jurisdiction.
The sixteen (16) candidates for the seven (7) open Freelance seats are (order determined by lot*):
- Timothy Michael Cooper
- Christopher Kyle (i)
- Kyle Bradstreet (i)
- Tracey Scott Wilson
- Tom Jennings
- Lisa Takeuchi Cullen
- David Angelo
- A.M. Homes
- Jack Helmuth
- Stuart Zicherman
- Theresa Rebeck
- Marygrace O’Shea
- Joseph Mazzarino
- Melissa Salmons
- John Auerbach (i)
- Beau Willimon (i)
The six (6) candidates for the three (3) open Staff seats are (order determined by lot*):
*The order of listing candidates is determined by a drawing of candidates’ names by lot, conducted by two members with a WGAE staff member acting as witness.
*(i) denotes incumbent
Voting will take place online beginning on August 24, 2016. Voting instructions will arrive in August in a Guild envelope marked “Election Material.” The WGAE does not endorse or recommend any candidates.
Candidates for Freelance Seats
Your time is valuable, so please know that I’d love to fight for you as a Freelance Council member. Here’s who am I, what I’ve done, and what I believe in:
WHO I AM
I’m a writer of features, digital content, and more, including:
- Wrote/directed the digital sitcom “Concierge: The Series,” starring Kate McKinnon (nominated for a Writers Guild Award)
- Wrote the feature “Away from Here,” starring Nick Stahl and Alicia Witt
- Just directed the Lincoln Center reading of WGAE writers’ feature scripts for our regular Screenplay Readings at Lincoln Center series
- Wrote jokes for Colin Quinn, Larry Wilmore, and Michael Ian Black as a writer for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 Writers Guild Awards.
As a founding member of our Digital Caucus, and one of the first Writers Guild Award nominees for New Media, I’m a passionate proponent for our rights in all online mediums. Digital rights, residuals, and unionization are the future of our Guild and our livelihoods, and will likely be the leading issue in the upcoming MBA negotiations. As someone who’s been in this space from the beginning, that’s my area of expertise, and it’s our most pressing and important fight right now.
The Guild has made some thrilling leaps into diversifying our membership by bringing every writer on every platform—news, reality, editors, doc, and more—under the same umbrella. Pushing the writers’ room tax credit is another urgent issue. In short, increasing diversity within our union is inextricably linked to increasing our digital membership.
I’ve also mentored and taught underrepresented writers through the Foundation and other WGAE outreach programs, spoken on our behalf at summits and panels, and even led our softball team to occasional victory for five years as its erstwhile manager.
Nearly from the moment I joined the WGAE six years ago, I’ve been advocating tirelessly for our members. Now I hope to listen to and represent even more of our voices by serving on the Council.
Please vote in this vital election! Incidentally, I’d be especially honored if you voted for me.
I am asking for your vote for a second term on the Council. Over the past two years I have served as a liaison to the Writers Guild Initiative, the charitable foundation of the WGAE (where I am a member of the board and of the finance committee), worked to educate myself about ways to strengthen our health fund, and participated in the early stages of planning and preparation for the 2017 MBA negotiations. I hope you will give me the opportunity to continue on the Council.
This year it is vitally important that members be engaged in the MBA negotiation process and aware of what’s at stake for us. Despite the fact that this is an era of record-setting profits for the companies—$49 billion last year—we can be sure they won’t be in a mood to share. Among other things, we need to sustain our pension and health plans, increase minimums, and improve digital residuals. To accomplish any of that, we have to be unified, determined and, most of all, informed. I urge you to pay close attention to communications from the Guild about the MBA negotiations and to speak up when you have concerns and suggestions.
I have been a WGAE member since 1995. In addition to the past two years on the Council, I have served the Guild on the picket lines during the strike, as a credit arbitrator, and as a board member and volunteer mentor for the Writers Guild Initiative. Over the past eight years I have worked with dozens of other member writers as part of the WGI’s Veterans Writing Project, mentoring Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who want to write about their experiences in the war. Under the leadership of Tom Fontana and Michael Weller, the Veterans Writing Program has expanded enormously from our humble beginnings in 2008, and has now helped hundreds of veterans tell their stories. The work I’ve done with fellow writers on the VWP inspired me to join the board of the WGI in 2012 and to run for the Council two years later.
Endorsed by Chris Albers, John Auerbach, Henry Bean, Craig Carlisle, Andrea Ciannavei, Bonnie Datt, Richard Dresser, Josh Fagin, Tom Fontana, Gina Gionfriddo, Elliott Kalan, Susan Kim, Phil Pilato, Willie Reale, Susanna Styron, Michael Weller, Beau Willimon, and Andrew 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.
Endorsed by: Tom Fontana, Julie Martin, Michael Weller, Thomas Kelly, Anya Epstein, John Markus, Bonnie Datt, Richard Dresser, Bradford Winters, Kate Erickson, Chris Albers, James Yoshimura, Marygrace O’Shea, Brant Englestein, J.T. Petty, James Lawler and Gina Gionfriddo
As an incumbent council member, I am grateful to have been nominated for a second consecutive term on the Writers Guild of America, East Council.
Looking back on my first two years on the council, I realized I was adjusting to a learning curve — absorbing a new vocabulary, getting the hang of union duties, understanding the wants, needs and ambitions of our Guild. Now that I have a stronger knowledge of the workings of the WGAE, I feel confident that I’m able to greater contribute in a second term. And I’m excited to do so.
Currently writing for a television series that employs WGA members from both the East and the West has provided me with an insight into the two Guilds: the similarities, the differences, the concerns and — importantly — the goals for the upcoming 2017 MBA negotiation. This understanding further evolved when I attended the 2015 Joint / National Council meeting in Los Angeles with both WGAE and WGAW representatives. Having spoken with fellow writers and being part of the WGAE council, I am aware of the challenges ahead. I believe my experience in multiple TV venues — network, basic cable, pay cable, international co-productions — will allow me to advise on the issues we’ll face in the coming months and years.
On a local scale, later this summer I will be introducing a new program called WGAE Sunday Salons to the New York region. The focus of these quarterly gatherings will be to introduce East Guild members who have not yet crossed paths — an effort to further build the community that is the Writers Guild of America, East.
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. NY BookPals. SAG/WGAE PencilPals program. Writers Guild Initiative Actors & Writers Book Club. Proponent for New York State writers’ room tax incentives. Joint / National Council representative, Los Angeles, 2015.
I am a co-producer on The Americans.
I have been a member of the Guild since 2007 when I sold my first pilot to NBC. I came from theater and knew very little about TV writing so I was surprised and very pleased when I suddenly found myself in a union with health benefits and a pension.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to see how hard the Guild works for its members. I want to give back and help makes things better. Specifically, I want to increase the number of women and people of color in the industry.
As a member of the Diversity Coalition, I helped lobby State Senators and Assembly members to modify the revenue-generating Empire State Film Production Tax Credit to include television writers and directors who are women or people of color. According to the latest surveys, only 29% of television writers are women and only 13% are minorities.
During these turbulent times, I believe artists have an essential role to play. While entertaining, we can open up the world and allow people to see and understand cultures and lives they would not otherwise be exposed to. We can’t do that unless we have diverse people in the room who can help create and tell those stories.
Please consider electing me to the council so I can continue to do my best to make that happen.
Endorsed by Sarah Colt, Rachel Dretzin, Marcela Gaviria, Atul Gawande, Barak Goodman, Edward Gray, David Grubin, Frank Koughen, John Maggio, Sam Pollard, Bernardo Ruiz, Martin Smith, Annie Wong, Pamela Yates and Rick Young.
I’m an independent documentary producer and writer, with PBS FRONTLINE my primary outlet for the past seven years. I teach at NYU’s Tisch film school and am an artist in residence at NYU’s graduate school of journalism.
More importantly, I’ve been a member of the WGAE for 16 years, served on the public television negotiating committee and participated in WGAE’s education programs for younger writers. I’ve appeared at public forums on behalf of the Guild and lobbied public representatives on our collective behalf.
I am running this year for the council to be an advocate of two primary issues as we prepare for new contract talks in the coming years: organizing new members and expansion of diversity in our ranks.
Admittedly, it’s not a controversial position to support WGAE organizing efforts these days. But I’m incredibly proud of the collective bargaining staff in New York. Their work – the success of Vice Media, the hard-fought battle to get a contract at Leftfield Pictures – contradicts perceptions of a moribund union movement.
Equally important, their efforts are bringing real change to economic inequality through collective bargaining: in April, a three-year Guild contract for 80 Vice Media editorial staff resulted in pay raises of at least 14 percent, among many other benefits. This expansion of our ranks translates into more security for these new members, but for the rest of as well. I support this work and favor expanding financial and technical development of these programs.
I’m also an advocate for strong action to encourage equality in pay and opportunity in our industry. A prime example: The TV Diversity Bill to modify the Empire State Film Production Credit by earmarking $5 million for the diversification of writing staffs in New York. In an epic effort, the Guild instituted a member outreach campaign while administrators and volunteers lobbied to get the legislation through the state Assembly. It stalled in the Senate, but the work set the stage for battles to come that we all need to support and I will advocate.
Finally, all of us need to be clear-headed and cognizant of what, as of this writing, is the potential existential threat we face this political season – as union members, as citizens. I’m motivated to serve on the WGAE council because it is an agent of security in politically unstable times. On behalf of all members, I want to be part of its work.
My name is Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, and I had no plans on running for WGAE Council. As an original member of the current incarnation of WGAE’s Diversity Coalition, I felt I was doing my part on an issue I care so much about: the push to improve representation of minority and women writers in TV and film. Then came #OscarsSoWhite. And #starringJohnCho. And #whitewashedOUT. And the latest WGA/UCLA diversity report. And finally—despite our impassioned lobbying and our crack staff’s tireless hustle—the failure of the New York State Legislature once again to add a diversity-hiring amendment to the production tax credit.
I write this in the immediate aftermath of the killings of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and the police officers in Dallas. Like so many people, I have despaired over what I can do. And then I saw a Facebook post by a white friend acknowledging all the reasons behind his privilege, and the very first was: “I am privileged because I have always seen faces like mine on TV.” I appreciated his acknowledgment, all the more because it opened my eyes. As a writer who develops TV pilots, I thought: this is something I can work on. This is something I can try to change. And so when I found myself with a nomination for WGAE Council, I realized that I not only could do more but must.
When Jenny Lumet invited me to join the Diversity Coalition upon its creation almost three years ago, I jumped. Led by co-chairs Courtney Simon and Judy Tate, we have over monthly meetings and member brainstorming dinners coalesced into an activist team. In May I got to participate in my second lobbying trip to Albany, where I talked myself hoarse pleading our case with legislators. As a former journalist, I’ve used my connections to write op-eds for or get quoted in articles about the WGAE’s diversity efforts in Fortune, the Albany Times Union, the Los Angeles Times, IndieWire, Bustle, NPR, Politico, Quartz and more.
There is strength in unity, and I believe in the ties the Diversity Coalition is forging with SAG-AFTRA, PGA and DGA. Our interguild meetings are productive and proactive. Our parallel aims were underscored for me at a recent panel sponsored by SAG-AFTRA, on which I got to speak alongside Tom Fontana and Carol-Lynn Parente about the importance of diversity in creating television. The actors in attendance fully supported our message that when diverse writers create, diverse actors get on screen. It all starts on the page.
So how do we get there? I believe our legislation is a first step, and we will work ever harder to get it passed in 2017, when the entire tax credit is up for renewal. Once we get more diverse writers into rooms, I believe an important next step is for those writers to become creators. If this sounds far-fetched, consider my own unusual path into this business. I was born and raised in Japan, and English is my second language. I had spent my career as a staff writer and foreign correspondent for TIME magazine and as the author of two books when I pitched my first TV drama. My spec drama pilot was produced by CBS, bringing $6 million in jobs and spending to New York state. I have since made my living selling drama pilots to CBS, A&E and Warner Bros., most of them set in our area with the aim of bringing production here. I believe with all my heart that if this minority mom in New Jersey gets to make up television, others should have that chance, too.
I am honored to be endorsed by Henry Bean, Maria Agui Carter, Cristine Chambers, Bonnie Datt, Tom Fontana, Joe Gangemi, Susan Kim, Kenneth Lin, Jenny Lumet, Jeremy Pikser, Phil Pilato, Courtney Simon and Judy Tate. If elected, I hope to use my passion, energy and unique background to serve effectively on the WGAE Council. Thank you for your consideration.
First of all, thanks for the nomination. I’m really quite honored even though it was probably done sarcastically.
I’ve worked for a few years in TV on shows ranging from “Emmy winner” to “can we get another space heater in here?” I’ve also NOT worked for a few years so I can tell you with sincerity I appreciate the security that comes with WGA membership, and I want to make sure we preserve it as best we can.
I joined the WGA at a fairly young age and expect to put in at least another 20 years in the industry (or burn out next month… haven’t decided yet). What I can offer the guild is my own personal commitment to the future as well as my knowledge of both traditional television and streaming content (my Comedy Central web series, “Nothin’s Easy,” recently wrapped season 2. Check it out, I need the clicks. Badly.).
Very glad to have this opportunity and to be running against such esteemed writers— I mean, the creator of “House of Cards?” (If I turn up dead in the desert, demand an autopsy!). Thanks for your consideration.
Jonathan Ames, Steve Bodow, Adam Brooks, Griffin Dunne, Tom Fontana, Jonathan Franzen, Gina Gionfriddo, Josh Klausner, Warren Leight, Marsha Norman, Adam Rapp, Salman Rushdie, Ira Sachs, James Sanders, Stephen Schiff, Scott Spencer.
Activism and Community Service have been part of my life since I was a kid growing up at the edge of Washington D.C. My early memories are not of vacations my family would take but rather marches we’d go on, taking to the streets of Washington. In our passionately political family, taking action wasn’t the exception, it was the norm.
While growing up, I helped organize events and demonstrations in Washington against Nuclear Power and in support of Native American Rights. In 1985, I moved to NYC, lived on Christopher Street and became active in the fight for Gay Rights and a response to the AIDS Crisis. I got involved with the PEN American Center, working to ensure free expression for writers. At PEN, I served on the Board and Executive Committee for multiple terms and was Vice-President under Salman Rushdie. I chaired the Writers Fund from 2005-2015. The Fund, which I continue to serve on, provides grants to writers at all stages of their careers in times of medical or other crises.
Currently, I serve on the boards of The New York Foundation For The Arts, Poets and Writers, The Elizabeth Dance Company and Co-Chair the Board of Directors at Yaddo, the 100+ year old artist colony in Saratoga Springs.
Many of you may know me as the author of 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—several have been made into films, others are in development in both the US and Europe. And I regularly write non-fiction and art criticism for magazines such as Art Forum, Bomb, Blind Spot and Vanity Fair where I am a Contributing Editor.
But I’ve also been a WGAE member for 16 years; a writer/producer on The L Word and developed shows for ABC, NBC, CBS, FX, SHOWTIME, HBO. I’m Co-Executive Producer of Falling Water, which will air on USA this fall and Co-Executive Producer on David E. Kelly’s adaptation of Steven King’s Mr. Mercedes and am currently developing a project for NBCUniversal based on a NY Times article on Prison Reform. Additionally, I teach in The Writing Program at Princeton University.
The unique range of my service and experience along with my background as a writer working in multiple formats and activist brings a unique perspective to the table. I’ve been fortunate to be part of many communities and on all sides of the equation and have a deep understanding of what working writers need. During my years as a board member of numerous organizations I’ve learned a lot about the process of negotiating and have been able to advocate for voices not often heard. It is this experience, which will be an asset in the upcoming negotiations along with my relationships with writers and executives on both coasts.
Among my goals for the Writers Guild Council are to take an active role in bringing new voices into the Guild. I see mentoring as a key part of the process in helping new writers find a path into the system. And I will work to bring more writers rooms to New York City. There is an enormous part of the American experience that is not yet represented on television and which New York Writers are exceptionally qualified to bring to life on screen. As we bring more writers and more diverse experiences into the Guild, we need to embrace new forms and ensure that as formats and platforms emerge, the Guild is out front advocating for compensation and protection of writer’s rights.
And finally, and most importantly, we are a community, a creative community and I want to help that community grow, to become more open and inclusive and reflective of who we are as a society.
My name is Jack Helmuth, and I’m a writer and producer at The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. I am honored to be nominated to serve on the WGA Council and hope to have the opportunity to advocate for the best interests and rights of writers.
As the WGA union representative for the talented writers at The Nightly Show, I’ve been deeply involved with issues regarding residual payments, back pay, and other various protections.
I also had the opportunity to serve the Guild by speaking to the writers of Gawker during their organizing phase, answering their questions, and speaking about the ways in which the Guild stood up for the writers at TNS. Additionally, I helped organize Nightly Show writers and on-air talent to lobby the New York state legislature for the Diversity Tax Credit Bill.
I love being a writer, and I enjoy seeing my fellow writers succeed artistically and financially. I’ve seen firsthand the great work that the Guild does on behalf of its members. I want the opportunity to give back, grow our membership, and promote increased rights and protections across all platforms.
I recently realized I was approaching my 20th year in the Writers Guild of America, East. It brought me back to the first time I got my WGAE card in the mail. That one that used to disintegrate in your wallet (before they went to real plastic!). I was so excited and proud and honored to simply be in the Guild.
Now, after all these years, I understand what it really means to be IN the Guild. The innovation, guidance and protection that comes with being a member has had a huge impact on my career, and now I want to bring my experience to help other members by serving on WGAE Council.
I was going to list a number of issues I’d love to tackle as council member, but I feel like we all know the big ones. Yes, we need more writers rooms in New York, something that should be addressed in Albany, but also aided by encouraging more New York writers to write pilots. Showrunners put their shows where they live. The more shows local writers get on the air, the more rooms there will be in New York. I also want to see new strides in pay being commensurate with our work. The advent of shorter television seasons (especially in cable and new media) that are stretched out over more months means less money for the time we put in. I have a ton of ideas, but for the purpose of this election, here’s the TWO things I’d like you to know about me:
One, I have had the opportunity to work in virtually every part of movie and television writing— Big budget features, indie features, network television, cable television, one-hour, half-hour— and feel like I have seen virtually every situation a writer can face.
Two, I have done all of this writing from New York City. I started out as a p.a. in New York, and am still working here, with no plans on leaving. In the past two years alone, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on THE AMERICANS and THE AFFAIR – two writers rooms that I can ride my bicycle to. I am 100% committed to helping New York continue to grow as a place writers can build sustainable careers.
I would like to start by acknowledging what a terrific honor it is to be nominated for a council position at the Writers Guild East. I have been a member of the Writers Guild, both East and West, for more than 25 years. During that time I think the Guild has done a tremendous job protecting the interests of writers in a complicated and challenging industry.
During that time I’ve also seen a lot of changes in our industry, some of them wonderful, and some of them not.
While women writers and writers of color have been articulating their frustration at the marginalization of their voices for a long time, it is only recently that this inequity has begun to gather the attention it warrants. This is good news but the inequities are extreme, and we have to acknowledge that there has been an entrenched systemic resistance to so-called “diversity.” There are many members of our guild whose voices are being silenced, their stories untold.
This is not merely an issue of social justice. It is a financial issue and an artistic issue. The best stories are not being told, and there’s money that’s being left on the table. But there is enough for all of us.
With the recent explosion of new outlets for writers, there’s a tremendous opportunity to rally for more equity behind the camera. I’d like to see the WGA East at the vanguard of this movement. It’s important that we, as a powerful force in the industry, lend our influence to bringing women’s voices and writers of color to the front of storytelling in America. If we embrace that, we also embrace our identity as a union of writers and continue the work that defines the WGA East.
It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story. We’re a writer’s union. We need to stand at the forefront of the movement to celebrate all those voices, and make sure that America’s story is told in all it’s grace, vigor and complexity.
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 recent NY showrunners weekends, 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 multiple years in 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.
Hello fellow writers,
My name is Joey Mazzarino and somehow I have found myself running for council office. I am still trying to find out who nominated me so I can shake his or her hand, and/or kick him or her in the shins.
Want to know a little bit more about me? Of course you do, otherwise, why would you vote for me?
I joined the guild back in 1992 when I started writing for Sesame Street. I then spent the next 23 years writing for them. And from 2008 -2015 I had the honor of serving as Sesame Street’s head writer. Sesame was a great place to work. Where else can you write for the First Lady of the United States and a talking head of lettuce on the very same day? Maybe a very strange episode of House of Cards, but that’s about it.
Sesame Street is a WGA show, but we have our own guild contract, separate from the MBA, that is negotiated every three years between the writers and Sesame Workshop. During my time at Sesame, I served on 4 negotiating committees and learned a lot by doing so. I was meticulous with each contract point and would do the real math on every proposal presented by management so that the writers knew what we were giving up and what we were gaining on each point over the life of the contract. My reputation at the bargaining table became such that whenever the Sesame Workshop lawyers introduced me to anyone they would always say, “This is Joey Mazzarino, you don’t want to be at a negotiating table with him.” I wear that as a badge of honor. Every time I went into a negotiation, I fought hard to bring back the best and fairest deal for my sister and brother writers.
Recently, I completed work on a new Netflix live action kid’s series. I am very thankful that it was a guild-covered show. If not for our strike back in 2007-2008, I am pretty sure that this show and many others would be non-union. So I am grateful to the WGA, to our leadership, to all who served on the negotiation team and to every one of you who walked a picket line. It is because of your foresight that we are covered in this new media world. That being said, I think now that these streaming services are becoming the new networks, we can do even better going forward. Better on initial payments and better on reuse. That is why I would like to become a member of the council. I feel my experience in negotiating in the past can help us all in the future.
Thanks so much for your time!
All the best,
Last February I had the honor of receiving the Richard Jablow Award for service to the Guild. That occasion gave me the opportunity to look back over the past ten years at what we’ve all accomplished as a union and I found that, rather than feeling feted and done, I wanted to dig in more.
The first time I served on Council we were in the midst of a huge shift for the Guild – we became more member driven, we navigated the 2007 strike and aftermath, hired a new executive director, moved our offices, beefed up our organizing staff, rewrote our constitution and became more forward looking, determined to embrace changes in the industry instead of playing catch-up. I’m proud to have been part of our leadership at that time.
Now we’re in another time of transition at the Guild. As part of the Future Members committee for the last 8 years I find it gratifying to see how our organizing department has steadily built campaigns in the area of non-fiction TV, and now digital news, that are adding many new members to our fold. We’re expanding in ways we only imagined when I first became involved, which is welcome news, an opportunity and a challenge. We need to make sure that the Guild serves all our needs and provides a real professional home for all of us. My experience over the past decade would serve me well in helping us strike the right balance. Our caucus system has provided real connection for people in different genres to both other writers in their field and to the union. They could use some revitalizing at this point and I am committed to helping that process.
We’re also about to enter another round of MBA contract negotiations in 2017. My previous experience on negotiating committees would help me make a useful, informed contribution to the deliberations and choices we’ll need to make. My work as a Trustee on the Pension and Health Fund would add valuable context and information on those issues, which will no doubt be a major part of the gains we need to make in this round. And we need to not limit ourselves to preserving our benefits. With profits of $49 billion last year, the companies we bargain with can certainly keep their commitments to our pension and health fund and still address issues like the disparity between network and basic cable rates and updating our digital formulas to keep pace with how work is being financed and delivered in that arena.
I’ve enjoyed and been inspired by the work I’ve been able to do in the union over the years. I hope you’ll give me the opportunity to return to the Council and serve again.
Pension & Health Fund Trustee (2011-present)
Future Members Committee (2009-present)
4 years on Council (2007-2011), numerous committees including 2007 MBA Negotiating Committee, 2011 MBA Negotiating Committee, Constitution Committee, Election Committee, Committee for an Informed Membership
Guiding Light, As The World Turns, Another World, Young & the Restless, One Life to Live, Days of Our Lives – over 1500 hours aired, 5 Emmy nominations, 2 awards, 14 WGA nominations, 4 awards. Segments for Liquid Television (MTV). Currently writing/developing movies for Hallmark Channel (first airing September 2016).
I am proud to have the support of the following writers with whom I have worked to further the cause of WGAE members:
HENRY BEAN – WALTER BERNSTEIN – ADAM BROOKS – TOM FONTANA – TERRY GEORGE – GINA GIONFRIDDO – CHRIS KYLE – JAMES SCHAMUS – STEPHEN SCHIFF
Now, let me cut straight to the chase –
$49 BILLION A YEAR IN ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY PROFITS
Meanwhile, health insurance benefits costs per member have climbed by nearly 30% between 2012 and 2015. With no change in expenses and/or revenues, the Health Fund risks running an operating deficit.
As it has in the past whenever the Health Fund’s finances appear threatened, management thinks more benefits costs should be shifted onto the writers. And that’s exactly what happened in 2003.
That shouldn’t happen again, especially when you consider…
$49 BILLION A YEAR IN ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY PROFITS
Not only should the companies pay more into the Health Fund to make sure members pay no more for healthcare but the companies’ increased contributions should not in any way relieve them of our need for improved cable residuals, a better share of digital revenues and an end to the ceaseless free rewriting that has now crossed over from features into TV.
The companies can certainly afford it thanks to the efforts and talents of all our members who create their movies, TV shows and streamed entertainment that allow the companies to bank…
$49 BILLION A YEAR IN ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY PROFITS
To achieve these goals and more in next year’s MBA Negotiations, it will take a dedicated Writers Guild, East Council, a determined Negotiating Committee and, perhaps most important, an engaged membership.
Like many of you, I have been a working writer, scrambling for assignments at such studios as Columbia, Warners, and TriStar and at the cable networks, HBO and Showtime, among others. One of my prouder Council achievements was the establishment of the Guild’s Writing Room which offers a comfortable Wi-Fi writing space, all the coffee you can drink and a place for writer camaraderie.
I have served on the Council since 2006 and represented the WGAE through three MBA negotiations (2001, 2004, 2007-08). I am a Trustee on the Producers Writers’ Guild – Industry Health Fund and Pension Plan and a past recipient of the Richard B. Jablow Award for devoted Service to the Guild.
I’ve had the great privilege of serving on the WGAe Council for the past two years. I’m grateful to the Membership for electing me to my first term, and I’m asking for your vote again, so I can continue to serve.
Since joining the Council, I have focused on the following:
NYS DIVERSITY TAX CREDIT AMMEDMENT:
For several years, the WGA has been working to incentivize the hiring of writers in NY State – specifically female writers and writers of color – in an effort to diversify our industry and bring more writing jobs East. To that end, I have:
- Worked closely with Guild leadership and staff on government lobbying and free media strategy.
- Met with industry leaders to advocate for the amendment.
- Met with legislators and their staffs in Albany to push for support of the bill.
- Conducted outreach to Guild members to inform and encourage participation in our efforts.
- Met with White House staff and lobbied for their support of the legislation.
Despite status quo resistance in Albany, last year, the amendment was passed in the Assembly but not the Senate. This year, we got different versions of the bill through both the Assembly and the Senate, though we did not get a uniform bill to the Governor. Albany is a tough nut to crack, but we’re making good progress. We need to continue the work, build upon our successes, and get the bill passed and signed by the Governor in the next legislative session.
In order to bring more work to the East Coast, it’s important to nurture and facilitate the careers of east coast writers. One way to do this is to mentor writers who are just starting out and provide assistance to those who are already mid-career. I have worked to this end by:
- Speaking with government officials about how to secure government funding for mentoring programs.
- Discussing with WGAe staff ways to make sure any such program has a diversity focus so we increase opportunities fairly.
- Meeting with WGAe showrunners to encourage mentorship so that when we get these programs launched, we have a deep bench of mentors.
I want to continue my work in this area so we can continue to build the careers of our members and ensure a robust, growing Guild in the years to come.
THE BLACK LIST:
The Black List (the most comprehensive extant database of unproduced scripts and writer information) has recently created a tool which allows writers to create personal profiles. This tool will give participating writers enhanced visibility in the industry and could help us to combat the problem of diversity by bringing increased attention to the work of underserved writers. I have worked with WGAe staff and the Black List to:
- Make certain that this tool is available for FREE to all WGAe members.
- Assist with feedback on the beta version of the tool so it’s best suited to what writers need.
- Encourage WGAe members to sign up for the tool in order to increase its impact on the industry.
So far, hundreds of WGAe members have already signed up. I want to continue working to increase that number and further improve the tool.
WHAT’S AHEAD – NEGOTIATIONS:
The WGAe and WGAw will soon begin formal negotiations on the future of our Minimum Basic Agreement with the AMPTP. This is the Guild’s most important function. It’s what ensures that writers are paid fairly for their work, are protected by industry standards, and have affordable healthcare and pension plans. This next round of negotiations will be key in safeguarding our future in the midst of a quickly changing industry.
I have discussed negotiating strategy at length with the current Guild Leadership and Executive Staff. Should I be re-elected to Council, I plan to be very involved in the negotiation process. Having worked for almost a decade with major film studios and TV networks and having been at the forefront of launching streaming television, I have a unique on-the-ground perspective that I believe will be a useful voice in making sure we remain strong as a union moving forward.
I’M ASKING FOR YOUR VOTE…
…Because serving my peers has been a great honor, and I want to continue the work I’ve begun. The Guild has accomplished a lot in the past two years – increased membership, pushing for more diversity, and creating more opportunities for writers – but we still have a lot of work to do. I want to do my part in making sure that work gets done.
Thanks for taking the time to read my candidate statement. Please consider me for re-election as you cast your ballot.
Candidates for Staff Seats
We got a CBS News deal this past March after only two weeks of negotiations.
When I told my shop about it, they asked: “How did it get done so fast?”
As someone who spent two weeks cooped up in a windowless room with stale air and tasteless sandwiches, time did not seem to move that quickly.
Still from a historical level, they had a point. We got a new contract before the old one expired. More importantly, we achieved most of our demands and made no concessions.
So how did we do it? By unity. Bargainers from four cities, representing tv, radio, graphics and promo shops came together.
Though we had different needs and interests, we all had each others’ backs.
That’s what union members do. We look out for each other.
And that’s what we’ll do again next year during the MBA negotiations.
I’m running again for Council because I believe I can make a contribution.
Essentially I want what we all want: More money, enhanced job security and – no less important – greater respect.
** Writer/Producer at CBS News
** 7 term WGAE Secretary/Treasurer
** Current WGAE Council member
** Recipient of 2007 Richard B. Jablow Award for Devoted Service to the Guild
** Member (present or past) of Finance, Awards, Real Estate and 7 WGA-CBS News Negotiating Committees
** Winner of WGA, RTNDA and Peabody Awards
** Graduate of Cornell University’s Union Leadership Institute
The unique value of talented writers is threatened by a business climate that favors low cost over quality, by an ocean of social media content, and by a mistrustful public that every day must judge for itself whether what they’re reading, seeing or hearing is the product of a pro or a hack. Companies have demonstrated they are willing to tolerate high turnover if it means low overhead. And they push the envelope on what constitutes payable work and adequate staffing levels. Standing together is the key to achieving agreements that include acceptable pay, and protections against overwork. After more than 25 years as a WGA member, this is my first run for Council. I hope to help writers who have paid their dues…to get their due.
Seasoned professional. New perspective.
I recently celebrated my first anniversary as a WGA member working as a writer/producer for WABC-TV, but have spent nearly two decades in the communication industries. Recently, I served as a member of the contract negotiation team at ABC. The fantastic learning and growth experience allowed me to interact as a representative for my colleagues. It gave me a closer look at the media employer mentality in 2016 and the inner workings of WGA. I defended the values and conditions that make WGA membership so crucial. I was not afraid to lend my voice to discussions that included top-level management. Being so new to ABC and WGA, why did I do it? I firmly believe in acting on what is right for my colleagues. I will bring that conviction and solidarity to the council.
My diverse background includes previous membership in SAG/AFTRA and management positions in both news and a multi-billion dollar company. That broad understanding of both our industry and the mindset of corporate America will move us forward by keeping WGA strong and relevant.
WGA is full of creative professionals. Bringing members the best opportunities and shaping our future is my passion.
Jay A. Alpert
I’m a working long-term member of the Guild of average success, representative of many, who’s worked long enough to be vested in the pension plan and qualify as a lifetime member. In my career I’ve worked freelance on shows from “3-2-1 Contact” and “Puzzle Place”, to working staff and freelance for WNET/Thirteen writing and producing on-air fundraising for over a decade in total.
I spent ten years in Los Angeles from 1991 to 2001 watching changes in the industry due to new technology, as the paradigm shifted in and out of our favor, and learning how to handle the developing new technology on the Internet and in digital editing. The Guild that greeted me when I returned to New York two weeks after 9/11 had changed as well, into an organization that worked more for its members, offered useful training, information and many options for members it never had before. Unlike the organization I left, it had become a union I could get involved in. I’ve taken classes, attended panels, and joined the WGAE Diversity Committee to add my voice to that conversation. I don’t know the person who nominated me for the Council or those who backed my nomination, but when notified, decided to run after the orientation meeting because I think I could be of benefit to my fellow members.
I don’t have political ambitions beyond this. I am not an authority in union issues, but in the decades that I have been a member I have seen it all, through some of the hardest negotiations we have had. I’m in the last decade of my television career, which has given me the freedom to try anything, and the experience to handle it. If I don’t get elected this time, I want those who support me to let me know what I should know to run again. My interest in this position is to act as a new voice that can ask the questions and bring up concerns and issues of interest to the majority of average working Guild members. I want to contribute to the positive changes I’ve seen happen here in the last decade, to leave an even better, more useful Guild for the next generation. I look forward to learning more about how the Guild functions as I progress, and learning from you and with the rest of the Council how to keep improving it.
As a devoted member of the Writers Guild of America East, I am seeking your support. For the past two years, it has been an honor to serve on the council. In addition, I am a member of the council’s Diversity Coalition, joining a team of writers committed to making our union stronger. It’s important work as we strive to make sure all members have an opportunity to tell their stories. We need more voices, more participation.
Since 1997, I have encouraged other WGA East members to embrace the importance of union membership as well as leadership. As a shop leader at WCBS-TV, I help members understand our contract, including how to resolve pay discrepancies. The changes in our news and entertainment industries can be challenging while also rewarding.
Strong membership is not just a numbers game; It’s also about making sure we are positioned to take advantage of opportunities.
Thank you for your consideration.
My candidacy for WGA, East council is a homecoming of sorts; I served four consecutive terms in the mid-‘90s and into the ‘00s, along with being active on several committees and organizing efforts.
Since then, our union – along with the industry – has changed dramatically over the past decade and a half. We’ve become a more diverse, dynamic, and active organization, with a fresh infusion of “new media” talent to complement and even buttress our core membership of screen and television writers.
But moving forward, redefining what “television” is will be at the core of how – and WHO – we organize today and into the future. I’ve served on several negotiating committees for the WGA/CBS National Agreements, and for decades CBS (as well as ABC) has been dancing around the contract language of what is and is not “broadcast” (and therefore, which writing is WGA jurisdiction and which is not). The companies cling to their narrow 1970s notion of “broadcast” as being content beamed from a radio or television antenna, through the sky, and captured by our “wireless” radio and television receivers. For decades they’ve conveniently avoided classifying cable (for news contract purposes, at least), as being “broadcast”, and they certainly don’t consider anything streamed online or via mobile devices as being “broadcast”, either.
These games of semantics will only continue to take on an ever-urgent significance for our representation as we also redefine the meaning of “television”. In its purest sense, “television” has always meant a system for transmitting visual images and sound that are reproduced on screens. Indeed, streaming videos on mobile devices and computers are just as much “television” as was The Mary Tyler Moore Show on my parents’ Quasar.
Nearly ten years ago, Silicon Valley was confident that its “digital revolution” was going to overtake television and change the way we all consume information and entertainment. Unfortunately for them (but good for those of us in the “traditional” media), when no one was looking, the digital revolution was over before it ever really began. And television won. This is why we’re seeing so many “internet” companies (Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc.) transforming themselves into “television” networks; television itself didn’t change, what changed is the way it’s being distributed.
Where does that leave us now? In my “other” life outside of ABC, I consult for radio and television stations and groups, and I can tell you that I believe the future of both television and radio has never been brighter. Don’t get me wrong — how it’s DISTRIBUTED will be anybody’s guess over the next decade. But as I tell my clients, there will always be a solid demand for a well-told, well-researched, well-written NARRATIVE. Whether news or entertainment, humans always have, and always will flock to a good story. It’s how our brains are wired; by and large we have a linear capacity for consuming information. We prefer a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even Internet stalwarts like BuzzFeed and Gawker are realizing they can’t sustain a loyal viewership without substantive programming (and all the more reason why their writers belong in the Writers Guild!).
How we as a union not only continue to hang onto our existing jurisdiction but stake our claims on future programming will be our most important focus in the years ahead. In our digital information age, WRITERS have never been more important and essential. And yet, sadly , in the marketplace outside of the narrow scope of entertainment, we have never been more devalued; the prevailing attitude is that anyone who can type can “write”.
It’s time for us to lead the charge across ALL media – entertainment, news, social, advertising – and organize ALL writers who write for the moving image on the screen (and the voice through the speaker).
I would be deeply privileged to help our union lead that charge.
Thank you for your consideration.
Matt Nelko has been working in radio and television for nearly 30 years, having written, produced, and/or anchored more than 32,000 newscasts since 1988. His anchoring and writing credits span six radio networks, including CBS News/Radio, NBC Radio News, CNN Radio, AP Network Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio, and Air America Radio. His television writing and producing credits include the CBS Evening News, The Early Show, CBS News Up to the Minute, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, World News Tonight with David Muir, Good Morning America, World News Now, and Nightline.