Writers choose Block as interactive liaison

With interactive media phone numbers filling up Hollywood Rolodexes, the Writers Guild of America West has hired attorney Joel Block to dial it into the brave new world of interactivity.

As director of industry alliances, Block will focus guild efforts on the fast-growing fields of interactive multimedia, animation and non-dramatic programming, the WGA said Wednesday.

“Joel’s priority will be to demonstrate to producers in these new industries how easy it is to find and hire the best writers for their projects,” said Brian Walton, exec director of the WGAW. “(His) background and experi-ence will bring a creative and innovative focus to the guild’s programs.”

Block said in a statement that the guild has a one-page interim agreement for any interested companies, which “makes it easy to hire writers for interactive multimedia programming.”

The former labor lawyer said the deal simply requires a health and pension contribution from the employer on behalf of the writer and designer. No other minimums would be applicable.

“The industry must have time to grow,” he said. “We see ourselves as an integral part of that growth.”

The WGA already has contracts with several interactive outlets, including Phillips Interactive Media, Electronic Arts, Broderbund, Knowledge Adventure and Media Vision.

In addition to dealing with new technologies, Block will help develop programs to aid animation writers and those working in non-traditional, non-dramatic TV programming.

He said the WGA would soon announce a new program for animators but did not provide details.

The move is a strong step toward aiding animation writers, who have had little representation from the WGA. About 70% of toon scribes are repped by the Cartoonists Local 839 of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

Gordon Bressack, a writer for Steven Spielberg’s animated productions “Tiny Toons” and “Animaniacs,” told Daily Variety last month that most animation writers would prefer to be handled by the WGA.

“We would love to be represented by the Writers Guild,” Bressack said. “There are none of the usual protections for writers in Local 839. There are no separation of rights, no residuals, and minimums are constantly eroding.”

Block has been affiliated with the WGA since 1991 as associate counsel in the legal services department. Before that, he practiced as a labor lawyer.

He was the first staff attorney for the Newspaper Guild in New York, representing journalists at the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, Reuters and other Gotham print and electronic media outlets. A former journalist, he also worked for the Chicago Daily News and United Press Intl.

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