Geri Cole: Today, I’m pleased to bring you a third installment of the on writing guide to crafting scripted podcasts. In the first two parts, Kaitlin Fontana spoke with podcast writers and producers about the industry’s business side. What the market looks like, how to break in and how to protect yourself once you’re in there. And about the creative side of the industry, from recruiting talent to necessary skillsets, to creative satisfactions and beyond. For today’s episode, I’ll be joined by three guests to talk about the WGA Audio Alliance, a new initiative of the Writers Guild of America East, that aims to let writers know that they can and should ask for their podcast to be Guild covered. For this discussion I’ll be joined by Lisette Alvarez, the owner of Storm Fire Productions, an independent podcast production company. They are the writer, producer, and lead actor of the urban fantasy audio drama Khalila Stormfire’s Ecological Magick Services.
Matt Klinman is a writer, director, and performer for television, digital and scripted audio. He is currently developing a new scripted audio series with Audible, and was most recently a staff writer on the Spotify series, the last Degree of Kevin Bacon, produced by Funny or Die. And the audible series 64th Man, produced by Broadway Video. He is the co-creator co-director of the scripted story, Smarter, produced by Team Coco for Luminary. And Lowell Peterson, the executive director of the Writers Guild of America East. Under his stewardship, the Guild has organized nonfiction podcasts companies, Gimlet, the Ringer, and Parcast, which are all now owned by Spotify. The Gilt represents 7,000 members in film, television, news and new media Lisette, Matt, Lowell, thank you for joining me. Let’s jump right into this discussion. So for those who don’t know, what is the Writer’s Guild of America East? Lowell, you want to take that one?
Lowell Peterson: Well, we are a union, first and foremost. Our job is to do collective bargaining and organizing, but we also do a lot of cool stuff for our members. We represent the folks who write TV shows, network primetime, pay TV and streamers, Netflix and Amazon shows are all Guild covered. We do late night comedy variety. We do things like Sesame Street, near and dear to your heart. Our members write feature films, all the major feature films are writers Guild covered. Our members do some other public broadcast work like Frontline and Nova and et cetera. And we have a lot of people who do news, both broadcast news on TV and radio, and increasingly, in digital news. So we have thousands of members, we’re based in New York, all of whom share a passion for the craft of writing. All of whom are hired to create stories, both fiction and nonfiction stories, funny and serious stories. And our job is to make sure they get the best deal possible and to make sure they are engaged in the life of our union as much as possible.
Geri Cole: Awesome. And so what is the WGA Audio Alliance exactly?
Matt Klinman: Yeah, I can jump in here. So the WJ Audio Alliance. So I’m a WGA East writer and I started along with some other people who I know started getting more and more into the scripted podcasting scene and getting hired to write for scripted podcasts and sort of finding that one, it was a really wonderful craft. It’s a very cool product. It’s a burgeoning and exciting scene. But also noticing that just when I would get into these writers rooms, despite them being basically the same amount of work and time as a lot of television writers rooms that I would be in, they were not Guild covered.
So me and some other people started talking to the guild about this, asking if this was something that they were interested in. I also heard some of the podcasts that the Writers Guild had put out about this very subject, seemed like they were getting interested. Basically through some other WGA members, some other non WGA members and some indie creators, like Lisette. We’ve all kind of banded together with the writers Guild to start this conversation about getting Guild coverage in the scripted audio space and the entity that has been formed and group of people of collaborators who have joined together to make this have, we’ve decided to call ourselves the WGA Audio Alliance. And so that is who we are.
Geri Cole: And so what kind of podcasts are we talking about? They are scripted and fiction, it is essentially storytelling, just like you would find in any other medium.
Lisette: Yes. So actually part of the conversation of the WGA Audio Alliance has been around the definition of what does it mean to be an audio writer? And this is something that is interesting, even within the indie sphere, there’s a variety of different ways that we define what we do. Audio drama, fiction podcasting, audio fiction, scripted podcasts. There’s a variety of ways to address this, but I think one of the big things that we’re really trying to focus on here is the podcasts where there is a writer involved. There is a script involved, there is some kind of direction and storytelling that is either on paper or digital paper. And this includes the high fantasy fiction, sci-fi, comedy, in some ways, even role-playing storytelling podcasts, really the door is kind of open. And that’s kind of the exciting part of this medium too right now is that it is very broad.
Geri Cole: So why organize? What is your particular interest in doing this work?
Matt Klinman: So I think there were two main things in my mind. One was a way to get health insurance, I mentioned in the space, just practically. We live in America and free for all hunger games America, where the only way to get health insurance is through something like the guild. So practically.
Geri Cole: Sounds like a joke, but sadly it’s true.
Matt Klinman: So practically, that was one of the reasons. And then the other, I think is basically they start pulling together this space for other reasons. One to provide resources and kind of potentially a career path for people who are wanting to get into this space to a professional career in scripted audio, which it seems like is something that’s happening. And also to resources to people who want to get into the space. Diversity and inclusion, and I think Lisette can speak to this more than I can, has been something that’s been baked into the, especially the independent scripted audio scene from the beginning.
And for us, we sort of saw the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new industry that was kind of forming. And to see if we couldn’t kind of also try to start it in the right place. Whereas having so many other aspects of the entertainment industry are now doing a lot of rethinking and making apologies and we didn’t think … all of these things that they’re doing, we were wondering if there could be an entity that forms an alliance that forms the not only could fight for rights for its members, as far as IP, pension, health insurance and things like that, but could also provide resources to really do all these things right from the start, if we can.
Lowell Peterson: Yeah. From the Writer’s Guild institutional perspective, organizing makes a great deal of sense also. We have a lot of members, people like Matt, who are working in this space. It’s an important way to create characters in stories. It’s an important way to do work that’s meaningful in its own right. And some members have also talked to us about crafting fiction for the ear as a way to create ideas that might wind up someday being on air or include the visual component of the medium. And so they want to make sure that they got the maximum protection for that work. And just by and large, we have a lot of people members and non-members who are doing the work of storytelling, of crafting stories, of crafting narratives or creating entire series with narrative arcs, professional writing. So from our perspective, it’s in the interest of the writers to have union coverage. Because we can do that important nuts and bolts stuff that Matt identified, make sure that you get pension and health contributions on it.
We can negotiate protections for the characters you create. We have a thing called separated rights in our contract. We can protect your right to have the appropriate credit for your work. And those are important. All of those things are really important. Getting a Guild contract to cover the work locks in protections that people deserve, and that enable people to protect the value of their work. But organizing also is in the DNA of the Writer’s Guild and the sense of bringing people together to create a community of professional creative folks. So that they can talk about craft, so that they can talk about standards, so that we can make sure that the industry is creatively viable as well as economically viable. So we’re down with the organizing and for all of those reasons. And all of our members are very excited by this project.
Geri Cole: So Lisette actually, I was going to go to talk a little bit about the landscape of scripted podcasts, especially as an indie creator.
Lisette: Yeah. And the interesting thing I’ve been kind of in the indie podcasting world for the past three years. And I was inspired, I’ve never really created a work of my own until I started listening independent fiction podcasts, audio dramas. And I started working on my own initially, single narrator fantasy script. And what I noticed is that in the past, especially in the past three years, and there’s been a couple of small commentaries around the development of, and the resurgence of audio drama from radio drama. But there has been a real push and a realization that the growing field of fiction and scripted podcasting is really accessible to a wide range of people. And even though it is very difficult, quite a few people have talked in the past of a lot of us indie creators are not just the writers were also producers, directors, voice actors.
I voice act, I direct, I produce, I market. I have all the hats for my show. But the writing aspect of it in terms of audio drama, the indie community has been incredibly crucial in the growth of the medium. And that’s something that I think speaks to the wide range of stories that are coming out. I think it’s also to the real deep passion of the fans of these types of stories, and also the accessibility of the medium in terms of the consumption of it. The way that people consume media now, I think audio fiction is starting to kind of align very well with that. And I think that as a writer too, the reason why I was specifically interested in organizing, obviously, I learned about this organizing effort through other indie audio drama people.
So the idea is, at least for me, I’ve always been really, really interested in community building, and what it means to build a community with strong foundations. And I’ve also been interested in what does it mean to do that within a creative community too? And it’s been a conversation, especially in indie audio drama spheres, of what that might look like for us. And it is very, very new, and it’s very interesting to see, what does it mean to actually enter in a new medium? This isn’t something that you see every day, and you’re not in the middle of an influx of a new medium very frequently. And so, yeah, it’s pretty exciting.
Lowell Peterson: I want to drop a footnote about guilt organizing also, and point out that we do represent a lot of nonfiction podcast creators, including scripted nonfiction. We were at the bargaining table with Gimlet and the Ringer. We just got recognition at Parcast. We have a lot of people at the sort of digital native companies like Vox and Vice and et cetera, who craft podcasts as well. So this is exciting and scripted and non-fiction. So we have experienced with it, we’re pumped about it and our members are doing this work already. So, we continue to learn how this industry is developing and that’s exciting to us as well.
Geri Cole: Yeah, it does seem like this is a platform that has just grown exponentially in the last however many years. And so it really is of course, yes, let’s organize and get everyone on the same page. So Matt, could you speak a little bit about this growth, about how the changes in the industry are affecting-
Geri Cole: Speak a little bit about this growth, about how the changes in the industry are affecting writers working in this space and other mediums. And also, if you could talk a little bit about how you got into this space.
Matt Klinman: Yeah, absolutely. So I started in digital comedy. I was a writer for the Onion News Network for Funny or Die for a whole bunch of Onion video projects and web series when web series were booming. And I think actually that very much informs why I’m in the space. I feel like I’m always at the vanguard of experimental technology and comedy thing.
Geri Cole: Nice.
Matt Klinman: I think because I make really weird things, that’s like where my audience is and that’s where people are willing to like fork over risky amounts of money for the really crazy things that I like to work on. So I think that’s why water finds its own level or whatever. I feel like that’s why I’m always in these things.
But also, I think part of it is that, to give a little context, the digital video sort of landscape, as far as being paid to make high quality web series, that was kind of a 2010s thing. And it kind of died away. Platforms like Facebook and YouTube basically cratered the economy as far as what you could get paid to make those kinds of things. And that was a realm of a lot of IP generation that should be noted. Broad City, Issa Rae, you could kind of go on with the number of like really amazing television projects and movie projects that-
Geri Cole: Workaholics? Yeah.
Matt Klinman: We have workaholics yeah. Things that jumped from web series into television, but now that that scene doesn’t really exist anymore, I think I’m finding that same desire, both from people making these things as creators, but also producers and people wanting to generate IP or just try and make new, exciting things. I think that energy is going into scripted fiction right now, because it has the same things that those digital web series had in the past, which was access to an audience that’s available, people who can just make their own show from the ground up on your own, well, a lot of work as [Liset 00:13:52] points out, but you don’t need a ton of outside investment. You just need the skills, and the desire, and the idea.
So I think that there is sort of that like Wild West quality. And so for me coming from this other, I really loved the digital comedy landscape and sort of seeing that this was popping up, it also made me realize how quickly that something like this, a fragile and really wonderful thing, that’s a crystal that’s being just formed, how it can be wiped away by a huge wave of big tech, or industry, or things like that. And so to me, getting the union involved from the beginning, and I have a little story that I won’t get too much into, which was that they were there also when I was at the Onion. They were trying to unionize that shop. Trying to do these things, and I just feel like a lesson I’ve learned is that building from the ground up, building that strong foundation with something like the Writer’s Guild, and then something that also is so inclusive and includes the NDC, and is trying to kind of create not only a professional layer, but also create a really rich and wonderful and supported indie environment. Like that’s how you get a great creative scene. So that really kind of inspired me and got me into doing this. So yeah, if that sort of answers your question.
Lisette: There’s I literally just saw one of the folks that are also in the indie audio drama sphere who I’ve interacted with, Willie Williams recently tweeted about how influential the writers’ strike in the… was it, ’07, how influential it was to Will’s kind of perspective in creative organizing. And that’s another thing I think is actually resonant with me as well. Being able to understand what does it mean to be in professional creative space. I think actually quite a few writers in the audio fiction sphere were also impacted and have seen the influence and what does it mean to be a part of organizing together as a creative community. And because we’re starting to see more and more organizing across industries, I think the audio fiction sphere, in particular, especially the indie sphere, is by kind of default more open to these types of collective organizing. If you want to say it’s more liberal leading, or progressive leaning. I think that is a part of it too. And I think that also kind of, it’s also about equity, and especially equity across race, gender, sexuality, and class within an ability, within the sphere.
These are conversations that indie organizers, or indie podcasters, we’ve recently in the past couple of years, we’ve had a couple of events that we’ve kind of met together and have these conversations regularly. So I think that having these conversations over the past couple years has really given scripted podcasts an opening to make sure that this foundation of community support, organizing, professionalization of the medium, I think is really ripe. And there’s quite a few podcasts that talk about the evil, fiction podcasts have certain tropes, and one of those tropes is the evil conglomerate.
Geri Cole: I’m sure.
Lisette: Private conglomerate. It is one of those things that it’s [crosstalk 00:17:01] one of tropes, a tone of love. Right? And no, that’s exactly it. And I think there’s a willingness to engage with each other and making sure that equity, inclusion, and diversity is upholded and brought forward as the industry continues to evolve.
Geri Cole: Guys, this is so exciting. I’m getting so excited.
Matt Klinman: I know, isn’t it? Yeah. [inaudible 00:17:20] We’re really pumped about it too.
Geri Cole: Yeah.
Matt Klinman: Just for listeners, practically also kind of what does this look like? Or maybe, how has this kind of impacting maybe you, yourself out there are somebody who’s creating an audio podcast, or you’re thinking about it, or you’re a professional writer who has an idea and you’re like, “I might want to get into this.” Those are all also aspects of this. So we were kind of hearing stories from the indie sort of scene, and also, of people who had made a scripted audio project, and then being approached by a bigger company, a production company, or a larger streaming kind of platform like Audible, or Spotify, or Luminary approaching you, and basically wanting to either acquire the IP, or license it, or make a new show, or all the things that are really great and what we all want, but then those people would then turn around and have no idea what to do next, where to go. Even if you had representation, representation I think, a lot of agents and things had no clue what Guild was about.
Lisette: They don’t know how to approach in some ways too. Sometimes it does feel like the Wild West. I’ve also talked with agents and it does really seem like there is trying to figure out what the translation needs to be between mediums, or within the space. It’s a very interesting conversation I think. I don’t want to demonize. I forget Matt, what did we want to call the beings from out? Like the beings, the entities. The entities that have been coming down.
Matt Klinman: We did this other [inaudible 00:18:43]. These entities come down, you don’t know who they are, where they come from, and they have some sort of interaction with you.
Geri Cole: Wow.
Matt Klinman: You don’t fully understand. They beam you up to their mothership and then they leave us more confused than ever.
Lisette: Both of us are confused, I think in some way, because we’re both aliens to each other, but I think that’s something that’s very much a part of this conversation too. Is the, in some ways the legal and financial literacy of people who are either like myself, I work full time, and in a completely different industry, and I want to have the professionalism associated with being a writer and producing work. However, when I was first approached, I had no idea where to turn to, what resources I had, what I needed to keep in mind. Like none of this was necessarily taught to me and a lot of people, even though I have various forms of education, a lot of people in the indie sphere don’t have that. Even that.
Matt Klinman: Yeah. And just to say, it’s not even like the three of the projects I was hired onto recently that were scripted audio, just the very legal frameworks of those contracts and how I was paid was completely different. The way that the lawyers at each of those companies decided to categorize what we were doing, and how to do it. I’m with Audible right now, I’m licensing something with, I don’t know, this Luminary project. It was like a work for hire, a W2. And another one, it was like a W9 situ… Like even the people within this, the professionals on it, there just hasn’t been these conversations about standardizing how to think about, even from a legal framework, and a contractual framework, what you’re doing. And then you just get in these situations where, yeah, it’s neither fish nor fowl to a lot of people, and it’s just not clear.
So anyway, I think for us, this effort is, I think will be as helpful to us writers as it will be to the executives and the professional people who are also, I think, on their side, trying to figure out exactly what’s going on and how to frame it. Something I, you know, also to speak to like legitimizing, and professionalizing, and kind of like this indie space here, but also, we think that a company like Audible or Spotify, they want to have access to the best possible pool of writers, and when they get those writers, for those writers to have a really good experience with them, and not to feel like they were taken advantage of simply because nobody knew what anybody was talking about. And we want there to be a perfect example.
I mean, and this is to me, as like a Writer’s Guild member, just because you’re working on a television project at the beginning of the year, and then you have a great idea and you want to make a scripted fiction podcast with Audible for your second half of a year. You should still be able to make your year as far as health insurance and pension contributions, right? Like that’s what you wouldn’t necessarily want to work on a scripted audio project, simply because by jumping over to that project, which to you as a writer, very similar in terms of work and things like that, but you do it, and then suddenly you’re just coverage has gone. You don’t exist anymore to the framework that currently exists for freelance scripted audio, and scripted television, and scripted movie writers to work in.
Geri Cole: This drives me crazy, in a lot of ways, the value of creative work. Like how you determine the value of creative work, and why suddenly, especially as a writer, where it’s like, why is the value here somehow less, or more than over here? I am still doing the same work of creating for TV as I would be in this case for an audio fiction podcast.
Lisette: Yeah. That’s something that we’ve talked about in the capacity of, especially in the audio drama sphere, indie audio drama has a lower barrier of entry. However, it’s interesting of how that sometimes communicates is it’s easier to do. Which I think as creators, we know that any kind of creation is hard.
Geri Cole: Yeah. It’s not easy.
Lisette: It’s not easy.
Matt Klinman: Yeah, everyone in this space has a story of like some giant company coming to them and being like, “Hey, yeah, we would love a full 10 episode, fully sound produced thing for, I don’t know, what do you think? Like 10 grand?”
Geri Cole: Wow.
Matt Klinman: It’s like it’s just a couple of micro… It’s like there is…
Lisette: That’s exactly what I raised for my final season.
Geri Cole: Wow.
Lisette: But I raised that to cover everything.
Matt Klinman: But that’s you doing it yourself, and you did, right. And also not being owned by a massive company.
Geri Cole: Yeah.
Matt Klinman: I should also just jump in. I don’t know if this is okay for me to talk about, but we have a lot of people who have been interested in this who are radicalized animation writers. A lot of animation writers. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, Geri, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Geri Cole: I feel you there.
Matt Klinman: That is not a WGAE covered. The Animation Guild or whatever, and I don’t know, Lowell, if I’m getting you in trouble by the talking. Talking shit about [inaudible 00:23:19].
Lisette: This is my question every year. Like why is this the case?
Matt Klinman: Yes, that’s right, but a lot of animation, and especially because now there’s split in animation where some are being covered by the Guild and some are still being under these other… But yeah, but it seems like the same animated show to me, but the people who made it under the Animation Guild, they’re getting paid a lot less, and will have a lot less productions and things like that.
So anyway, so there are members of this who are also coming out of that and being like, we need to figure this out now because otherwise…
Geri Cole: We’ll end up with this ridiculous split.
Matt Klinman: Right?
Lowell Peterson: Yep. Well, let me just say this. I mean, it is in the interest of these big entities that beamed down from outer space, who, by your work, by your creativity, by your scripts, by your complete podcasts, to try to talk you down and make you feel like it’s really not worth that much, but there’s a reason that they’re hiring you.
Matt Klinman: I feel like its not really worth that much, but there’s a reason that they’re hiring you, there’s a reason that they are buying your IP, there’s a reason that they’re exploring the space and that’s because it does have an enormous amount of value and I think that two main themes, the two main dynamics have unionized. The number one is people talking to each other and learning more about what the actions are and collectively making it clear to this alien spaceship corporations I found about on Spotify and Warner Brothers and Paramount and whoever else is commissioning this staff, that in fact there is value.
But the other thing is, the fact that we have great arguments about the value is one thing, but actually organizing and exerting collective pressure is even more important in a way. So that’s why we are more keen to have people get their work covered because at the end of the day, having contractual protections, having lots and lots of podcasts writers go to their company and say, “you know what, I want this to be a Guild project”. That’s where the rubber hits the road and that’s where we can actually protect the value that you really bring not withstanding the fact that you sometimes hear from the companies, “well, it’s not nice. $10,000 dollars out to cover the four years worth of work”. So unionizing is the way to object, as well as to learn more into making the powerful arguments.
Geri Cole: See, let’s talk a little bit about the strategy to get peace projects Guild cover, what can we do?
Lisette: First get the word out there. That’s what we’re doing right now. I think that’s something that is really where we just essentially… so I’ve been part of the social media organizing part of this, as a way of course to get the word out and the big thing around, specially the Indie-Fiction podcast, is also the community of fans because I think this is also the audiences for fiction podcast and scripted podcast exist mostly on Twitter. So, that’s actually how I got kind of keen into the audio-drama community was through, three years ago, Twitter.
And the big thing is letting people know what we’re doing, specifically the work. Of course questions for people who are unaware, what does this mean to the Indie? Our projects sometimes are on a strict budget, if anything, do we have to try to be Guild covered in order to participate and making sure that this is supposed to be a space for understanding the media as a whole, providing resources for people who do want to take this professional track? But also resources for people who want to professionalized their productions and to get a better source and link into a community of professional writers? And I think that’s something really important, something that’s been lacking in the Indie Audio Drama Sphere. The way that we’re doing it is through doing this interview-podcast on social media making sure that we’re sharing the word, we’re supporting other efforts as well and we’re doing events. So we have an upcoming event, “The Art of Audio Drama”. That is going to be hosted and paneled by a variety of Indie Fiction Podcasters, well initially Indie Fiction Podcasters. That is going to be on October 26th at 8:00PM EST.
The things like that when we’re really trying to kind of spread the word or at least understanding that this exist and specially since there is a cross section of the rest of WGAE work and this work to also tap onto the rest of WGA. To make sure that the people in there at all interested in podcasting or anything like that are aware
Geri Cole: So someone like me
Matt Klinman: I know right, that’s the thing we want anybody who’s a little bit, audio curious to jump into it, know that there’re people here in all aspects of the industry. That’s there is a really welcoming ind. If you just want to self produce something and put it out there that’s what the ind is there for and then if you want to ladder that out to something bigger or some sort of outside production company wants to give you money to make it a bigger or more ambitious whatever and you’re down for that, then we want to be able to make those frame works available. I think for us is about getting people to know about this. I also really can’t oversee how early on in this process everything is. I think we named ourselves, maybe, two weeks ago. So you’re all really getting on the down forward, which is really exciting that we have this first event. But I think if you really on the NDC we want you to kind of know about what’s going on and be thinking about this.
If you are already making a show, if you are already into the middle of maybe negotiations with Audible or you’re in the writers room or you’re writing something over the phone, over this summer with your writing partner just the two of you guys on zoom, which is what I’ve been spending my summer doing, whatever it is. Again, is early on, is not like there’s been… you know we’re still defining what this is, so we’re asking this companies to joined the Guild and maybe you’re going to get turned down or maybe it’s going to be an understated as part of your contract negotiations.
All that is sort of find the stage because we’re right now kind of announcing the presence of this being something that’s going on and the hope is that this places sort of see it as an inevitability and also something that, on their side, makes sense. It worked for the first time, we have this minimum basic agreement that the writers of Guild just put together in like a basic way to get covered, which I think we’re going to talk about and what that means. But is a pretty low barrier to entry as far… there’s no minimum for payment and things like that. We want basically to make something that fits the space where it is right now. Which even in a high budget professional area is still the wild western, is still unknown and is still… does this industry work? We want to really be good partners, as far as it’s going, because we really want this industry to start of on the right foot in so many different ways.
Sometimes will just be asked about Guild coverage, ask if something can be and something that people who are working on this projects might also be noticing as I did is that they all offered SAHD contracts. This are already conversations that are going on the other side of the wall there. But there are ones that we want to be having on the writers side as well.
Lisette: The other thing to know here to is the audio lines is also providing essentially a form for writers to enter in also as a resource for other writers that are in this field. There is a table that you can enter all your information. You can also notate yourself as part of a various marchandilized identities or under representative identities and I think Matt used this phrase in another interview, which is “we don’t want to give any organization an excuse that they can not find a black writer, trans-writer, a disabled writer, a veteran writer. We want to be able to make sure that it is out to for friend and that the people involved in the community also know that this resources exist and if they hear tendentially an organization saying “we can’t find something” to be able to say “hey, there is a table””
Geri Cole: There is a resource
Lisette: There is a resource and it’s publicly accessible and available for people to… even if they wanted to reach out to other writers in this space.
Geri Cole: Can we talk a little bit about Guild Coverage of independently produced projects? Because, I feel like that’s where… it makes sense to me how you put pressure on the larger audio production companies to make a Guild covered. But for people who are trying to make that jump into self producing in any project in like a small production company and they wanted to be Guild covered but how do they make that jump?
Matt Klinman: We can cover any project. I think to be fair, the greater the budget, the greater the value of, for example, pension health contributions to the writer. I don’t want to to over stated but we cover for example, Indie Films, we have a low budget agreement in the future forum arena, for example and an ultra low budget agreement. But we can cover Indie Scripted Audio, Scripted Fiction Podcast right now. But I will say, the value comes more if you’re hired by big company with a higher budget. But the nice thing about getting your Indie project covered right now is you can sort of cement your participation of Guild members doing this work. If you decide that it doesn’t make sense for this current Indie project then you can wait for another Indie project that comes along and it does make sense.
The thing about Guild coverages is not only about the money currently, it’s about protecting your rights if something happens later, for example, if you make your first series Indie and it gets picked up for a second and a third season or a Netflix or HBO decide, “hey there is something here and we want to transform it” you’ve got certain Guild protecting rights, separated rights, etc. That you already lock in and they have to honor. So there’s lots of good reasons for it and the line between an Indie project and a third-party funded project I suspect it’s going to continue to blow
Lisette: It is
Matt Klinman: A lot of people are creating new projects and getting money from big houses so we’re open for all that. Not to mention sponsorships and funding your own thing through advertising that you, yourself, are funding and getting. Which might up your budget to level that you, yourself, want to then tap into the Guild resources. I think it was the Wanton Guys, right or that production company with a…
Lisette: Yeah. Because they got a Facebook show
Matt Klinman: I think they’re projects are now, I’m not totally sure, I’m a little bit speaking for them, but it seem like the model that they have an out production company with their finance and their own things but they, I believe, have Guild coverage for their production company that they’ve created. So even though… and for potentially, I think, for projects that they are showing in general but basically one thing you can do is if you’re making a production company on your own and you have multiple different projects going and things like that.
Again, you just practically need health insurance and pension that the Writers Guild is there for you. The other practical thing is, I can over say it enough, don’t be scare of the Writers Guild as far as what you’re doing and we’re kind of, in someways, also just a place to send a contract that you’re not sure about.
I think that’s one of the resources that Audio Lines is trying to provide is if, whatever sort of contract anyone is giving you, even if you’re like, ” I don’t know if this is worth because of the amount of money but I want to work with this people”. I’ve been in that situation a lot where it’s like, “I know this is a bad deal but I won’t be able to make it without the resources that this company is providing and they’re going to be good partners in other ways, should I be ashamed of this contract I’m sending? I know they’re be Guild contract, are they going to be mad at me?”. No one will be mad at you, in fact, there are people who are sworn to secrecy or confidentiality things, where the writer is going to be send to a bye bye.
Will take a look at that contract, kind of give you advice, tell you how it compares to other contracts on this base, just kind of, provider resource for you. Whether or not you go off and are able to make that project Guild will cover. Right now the lightly thing is that you will not, it is not… this is a very new thing, this are the kinds of resources that we want to be here to provide.
Geri Cole: To be honest I use that all the time. I’m always like “I’m not sure”. I’m not sure if this is the responsibility of the Guild but I’m constantly sending contracts and saying “can you look at this?”. I don’t know. It’s like, “should I get a lawyer? Probably” I don’t know
Matt Klinman: That’s the point of the Writers Guild. You’re a lawyer, if you get in a car accident you guys, call me. You can call.
Geri Cole: I will call everyday.
Lisette: Whether, you can get anything out of it. No
Matt Klinman: We do have legal professionals. I’m personally am a recovery attorney
Geri Cole: Wow. So I want to end talking a little bit about, because you guys again, this is very exciting, I feel very inspired. This dream landscape, can we built this industry from the ground up with this beautiful foundation?
Lisette: Yeah. This is something that I think about a lot as if…
Lisette: Yeah, this is something that I think about a lot as a creator and as someone, again, who’s interested in, “What does it mean to create a creative community?” I have my own production company, actually. A lot of what Matt was talking about in terms of indie production and seeing if you get to a level to try to be WGA covered, that’s something that is on my mind because of the nature of the support that my show has been getting and the additional work that I’m going to be doing in the future.
And for me, I really want to see audio fiction to blur various lines of what is considered a professional versus a indie production. There’s a really rich up and coming writers who are creating these audio stories and because it really is, a lot of them are kind of DIY, I have a special place in my heart because that’s where I started with this three years ago, all those years ago. It does feel like 10 years. But for me, I really want an area where there’s still this level of support and engagement and interest in the burgeoning efforts of audio writers, but also that people like me, people who I’m just finishing my show, but I’m going to be working on other projects within my production company. I want to be able to kind of raise that level of project work up.
I also want to potentially be willing to work with these entities, but in a very informed and supported way. I will also want those up and coming indie producers to see that there are pathways to a career in writing that is supported and is financially viable and reflects what I currently see in audio drama, which is more diverse stories than other mediums that are professionalized right now.
I think that’s things like institutionalizing the need for diverse voices and also acknowledging where the growth needs to happen and always acknowledging where the growth needs to happen within that. That’s really important for me as a writer, but also as a human being. I want to because creative mediums are… It’s been a really tough year. I think even for-
Geri Cole: That’s an understatement, but yeah.
Lisette: … creatives. It’s hard to create when you’re under stress. For me, even regardless of everything, of the world burning, I started to have an idea for a new story and that’s really hopeful. I want that to be kind of driven through the rest of the storytellers that are in my creative community. I want that to be maintained regardless of what happens after the election, whatever happens after negotiations for WGAE or where the Audio Alliance goes. I really want that value for storytelling to continue through because, honestly, audio fiction changed my life and I think I want to keep that. I want to keep that possibility for others too.
Geri Cole: Hmm.
Matt Klinman: Yeah. I mean, yeah, I don’t know how you can not listen to [Lizette 00:39:08] talk about this stuff and not be inspired by it. I was like, “Yes. Yes, jump in. All of your jaded hearts, all the television writers stuck in some sort of development hell right now.”
Lisette: Listen, I’m an audio fiction evangelist.
Matt Klinman: I mean, this is the dream of the… This is what broke my heart about web series and things like that is it felt like there was this everybody wins scenario where if you have a really vibrant indie community where people do have to bootstrap and they have to scramble together and make things, which is what creators love to do anyway. We complain about wearing all these hats, but it’s awesome to be 2:00 AM editing your fucking thing and wanting to go to bed. And then, you finally do it. You go to sleep and you feel great. We like this kind of shit because we’re masochists or whatever. Whatever it is, the psychological problems we all have that led to us being on this Zoom call with each other.
We all have that and we want that and to have that rich and supported space and indie environment, but also to know that if you are doing this, there is value there. You got to get lucky. You got to make something that is great, and for whatever reason, we all know this. The spark has to ignite with lots of other people, but you want to know that if it does, that you’re not going to just get that spark taken away from you by somebody else, or you’re going to get screwed. Nobody wants to get screwed by those things.
But also at the same time, we want to create the framework where other people… These bigger companies aren’t the enemy. They’re the ones that want to make this thing that give you the resources to get an incredible cast and get an original score produced by, I don’t know, Hans Zimmer or whatever. You know what I mean? It’s really exciting to have this little idea get blown up into a massive thing. And so, we want to be able to create the framework for that to happen so that everybody can capture the value all and up and down the food chain, but in a way that we’re all informed and also that supports new people coming in and at the same time, that funnel, that giant convection cycle of new talent coming in is more equitable and is coming from a more thoughtful place and diverse place than ever has before.
Geri Cole: Mm. Well, guys, I feel like we’re about out of time, but thank you so much. I feel like I’ve been converted.
Lisette: Yes. we’ll get more AD evangelists yet.
Geri Cole: Yeah. I’m down for the cause.
Matt Klinman: Yeah. You feel that way now, Geri, and then when you’re on the fifth hour of trying to get one sound effect to sound correct-
Lisette: Oh god [crosstalk 00:41:32].
Matt Klinman: … it’s like, “The bone crunch isn’t exactly. I mean, like they say celery, but you know what, in audio-”
Matt Klinman: “… it’s got to be more specific than that.”
Lisette: You get the moist.
Matt Klinman: Yeah.
Lisette: It’s too moist.
Lowell Peterson: Well, I can say this. One of the reasons, right, that the Guild is so pumped about this work is that this is the spirit that drives all of our members. I talk to members all the time, people who’ve never been within a thousand miles of a microphone to do a podcast say, “Wow, I think it’s so cool that the writers of audio fiction and audio comedy and audio nonfiction are joining the Guild because I really want to talk to them. They have that same spark, that same passion that informs my career.” So this feels right, this feels like this is something that all of our members are really excited to have you all be part of and I know our members are feeling very welcoming right now, and they’re very happy that the Guild is supporting this project.
Geri Cole: And so it sounds like the one thing that other non audio fiction writers can do at the moment is to help spread the word.
Matt Klinman: Definitely.
Lisette: Absolutely. And feel free to also join into these events.
Matt Klinman: Yeah. If you want to learn more, the WGAeast.org/wjaudio, or follow us @WJaudio on Twitter. We do have this event coming up on the 26th, which is a great entry point. We have a bunch of great podcasters, scripted audio people from WJ members who work on television to people who have started from the indie space and then grown and grown and grown what they do coming from all different areas. We have a playwright who’s now doing scripted podcasting. We have TV people who’ve gone now doing, all these things. That’s a great place to start.
In addition to the staffing, sort of the talent table Excel sheet that Lizette was talking about, where if you have made an audio production and you want to connect with other people, you can put your name up there and connect with other people. But we also have just a general email list that you can also join from there where you’ll find out about our events, I don’t know, we just kind of like say stuff on the chain sometimes.
Lisette: We have a mixer coming up too, don’t we?
Matt Klinman: Oh yes.
Lisette: We have a mixer for all.
Matt Klinman: Yeah. We have a mixer. We have lots of mixers. We’re trying our best to make them not depressing and other [inaudible 00:43:40] things, but I don’t know. We can just be charming. That’s the most that we can hope for.
Lowell Peterson: Serve quarantinis.
Geri Cole: Yeah.
Matt Klinman: Yes, yeah, yeah. On the day when quarantine happened, we were supposed to have a WJ Audio meetup and that was the chain I was on of people being like, “You know what, maybe we shouldn’t do this today.” So, all of this has been a Zoom in quarantine effort and we’ll resume. But also just to say it, since this is the obvious thing that we somehow managed not to say, a lot of audio productions are going on right now, because it’s one of the few things that you can have, which has been exciting. And so, you can make a show right now.
Lisette: Oh yeah.
Geri Cole: So now’s the time.
Lisette: No, I’m right in the middle of that right now.
Matt Klinman: Yeah, which is super cool.
Lisette: Yeah, it is my second job.
Geri Cole: So, now is the time. Not only is it the sort of community coming together, it’s also like, “Hey guys, it’s one of the few things we can produce.”
Matt Klinman: I don’t know what else you’re doing, but yeah, you might as well. Drop the TikTok and get onto [crosstalk 00:44:34].
Lisette: Get on Libsyn. That’s not a plug for Libsyn, but yeah.
Geri Cole: Guys, thank you so much for joining us today to talk about this. I can only imagine everyone who listens to this is going to be just as inspired as I am.
Lowell Peterson: Oh, thank you, Geri.
Matt Klinman: Thank you so much for having us.
Lisette: Thanks so much for having us. Thanks.