HOLLYWOOD — Members of the Writers Guild of America West chose board member Victoria Riskin as the new president over secretary-treasurer Michael Mahern in a low-key election to succeed John Wells.
Results were announced Friday following three weeks of balloting. Turnout was relatively light, with about 21% of the WGA’s 8,400 members voting.
Riskin, daughter of Oscar-winning scribe Robert Riskin and thesp Fay Wray, garnered 916 votes to Mahern’s 737. “I feel very honored and quite happy,” Riskin said. “I will give my all to the job.”
Since there will be no contract expiration during her two-year term, it’s unlikely that Riskin will receive as much attention as Wells, who decided in June not to seek re-election. Wells spent most of his term as public point man for the guild’s contract campaign and negotiations in addition to being showrunner for “ER,” “The West Wing” and “Third Watch.”
Riskin, married to former WGAW prexy David Rintels, said Friday her reaction to winning the election was tempered by the lingering sadness and shock over the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “I know the entire West Coast membership sends its thoughts and best wishes to our colleagues in the East,” she added.
Because of the disruption from the attacks, the WGA East extended the deadline for its election until Oct. 4.
Riskin becomes the first female to head the org since Mary McCall held the post in 1951-’52. The campaigns had been devoid of personal attacks, in sharp contrast with the 1999 campaign, in which Beth Sullivan attacked Wells — who had warned of a possible 2001 strike — for not being aggressive enough.
Riskin and Mahern both served on the WGA negotiating team this year, but Mahern, who had been co-chair, was generally perceived as being more of a moderate.
Campaign over contract
Riskin had positioned herself as somewhat less enthusiastic about the WGA’s new three-year contract, saying she had “serious regrets” about what was not achieved in video/DVD, animation and creative rights and stressing that younger members should have been included in negotiations; Mahern has called it “a very good deal” without breakthroughs in basic cable and video/DVD that might have come had the ad market not tanked.
Riskin said Friday that key concerns expressed by members during the campaign included tougher contract enforcement, improving the work environment, more emphasis on creative rights and organizing writers in TV animation and cable not covered by the WGA. For her win, Riskin credited her emphasis on inclusion and support from former WGA prexys John Furia Jr., Ernest Lehman, Frank Pierson, Brad Radnitz and Melville Shavelson.
Mahern was endorsed by Wells and former WGAW presidents George Kirgo, Dan Petrie Jr. and Del Reisman.
Board member Charles D. Holland, who chaired the negotiating committee with Mahern, easily won the VP slot over board member Don Mankiewicz by a margin of 1,135-400. Petrie, who has been VP for the past two years, had decided not to seek re-election.
No internal rancor
Holland also noted that the WGAW has been able to operate without internal rancor.
“We have a united guild,” he added. “I’m too superstitious to say that the next two years will be easier because there’s no contract coming up. We still have plenty of challenges.”
Board member Patric Verrone was decisively selected treasurer over Babs Greyhosky by a 968-494 vote.
The eight open board seats, all for two-year terms, were won by Peter Lefcourt (1,057), Terry Curtis Fox (915), Irma Kalish (850), Tim O’Donnell (801), Ann Marcus (732), Melissa Rosenberg (711), Elizabeth A. Hunter (711), Philip LaZebnik (684). Fox, Kalish and Marcus were incumbents.
Other board candidates were Jeff Melvoin (664), Star Frohman (521), Peter Iliff (509), Polly Platt (473), Tom Blomquist (455), Tom Rickman (387), Robert Roy Pool (338) and Gregory Widen (307).