WGA board races more cordial

Candidates warn that issues remain

A year after the Writers Guild of America rattled Hollywood to the core by nearly going on strike, the campaigns for eight WGA West board seats have taken a notably quieter approach.

The 16 candidates have waged cordial campaigns with no attacks on each other and an emphasis on their commitment to the cause of advancing the interests of the 8,500 members. Ballots were mailed out Friday and will be counted Sept. 25.

Several candidate statements, which offer guidance to overall sentiment within the guild, warn of the need to prep for the next round of negotiations.

“Our current contract expires in less than two years, and we will have to deal with many of the same issues that were not resolved in the last negotiation,” said Michael Mahern, former secretary-treasurer and co-chair of last year’s film-TV contract negotiating team. “Two of these, creative rights and a just formula for videocassette/DVD residuals, are generally considered screenwriter issues, but in a writing world where the career crossover between TV and features is at an all-time high, they are more wisely considered simply ‘writer’ issues.”

Other key issues that emerged from campaign statements include the following:

  • Free rewrites. “We need to make it unacceptable for producers to even think about asking for free work,” said Dennis Feldman. “Putting writers to work for draft after draft, month after month, without paying them has got to stop.”

  • Market clout for writers through PR efforts. “This has to become the beginning of a drive to make the names and credits and even the faces and voices of our members recognizable to the public,” said Ron Bass. “When people know the names of their favorite writers, and take us into account in choosing films, there will be the first real sea change in the way we are viewed by our employers.”

  • Erosion of WGA coverage in cable and features. “As we face negotiations in 2004, our bargaining position is immensely strengthened if the major companies don’t have non-guild programming to fall back on in the event of a strike,” said Joan Owens Meyerson.

  • The possessory or “A Film By” credit. “Unless that person wrote, produced, directed, acted, edited and scored the film, the credit is a lie,” said Dennis Leoni. “And even then, it’s arrogant and embarrassing and should be immediately abolished.”

  • The possibility that agents may seek deregulation of their franchise agreement with the WGA, as they did unsuccessfully with SAG in seeking to ease agency ownership regulations. “Let me be blunt,” said Greg Strangis. “I don’t think so!”

Bass, Feldman and Leoni are incumbents, as are Carl Gottlieb, Jeffrey Melvoin and David Rintels. Other candidates are Chris Abbott, Jeffrey Fiskin, Lee Goldberg, Luisa Leschin, Lisa Seidman, Pam Veasey and Valerie Woods.

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