Verrone and Winship tackle new challenges

A year ago, the Writers Guild of America was in the final stages of ending its three-month strike, and WGA West president Patric Verrone and WGA East prexy Michael Winship were in the public eye nearly every day.

Both have become far less visible since then, but no less busy. Verrone has signed on with more than a dozen other TV comedy writers to create Web series for, and Winship is senior writer of the public service program “Bill Moyers’ Journal.”

“It’s part of an ongoing effort to make a living,” Verrone quips of his new roles with “It’s encouraging to me that new technologies have allowed us to become creators and producers. I think we are seeing a major change in the basic pattern of TV development.”

Verrone notes that he fielded a burst of interview requests about the strike late last year as part of year-end wrap-up stories. “And I’m still called upon a lot to speak about entrepreneurship and new-media distribution,” he adds.  

Verrone, who has specialized in animation writing for shows such as “Futurama,” has remained upbeat amid the economic downturn. “We’re in an auspicious place with difficult economic times, but we’re also in an industry that weathers that heroically and successfully,” he notes.

Both Verrone and Winship believe the strike has had a profound influence in engaging members on both coasts and has helped increase the number of members actively involved in guild politics.

“The members are very committed and there’s still an enormous interest in our activities,” Winship notes.

And both are looking forward to the simultaneous awards ceremonies Saturday. The WGA West’s gala was canceled last year; instead, thousands of members met at the Shrine Auditorium to hear details from Verrone, exec director David Young and negotiating committee chief John Bowman about the tentative deal.

WGA East held both its member meeting and a scaled-back “recognition reception” that evening at the Hudson Theater. “It was what it must have been like the night that Prohibition ended — a combination of excitement and relief,” Winship recalls. “We are going to be a little more formal this year. It’s the theater where Jack Parr and Steve Allen did ‘The Tonight Show,’ so there’s a lot of history there.”

Verrone and Winship say that monitoring the contract remains the top priority. The WGA filed a grievance in November over how the film and TV companies are interpreting the effective dates of the provisions of the contract, alleging that residuals for programs sold as electronic downloads cover feature films produced after 1971 and television programs produced after 1977; the companies are taking the position that only programs produced after Feb. 13, 2008, are covered by the provision.

They also cite ongoing efforts to organize reality and animation along with an increased presence in Washington D.C., with a political action committee launched a few weeks before the start of the Obama administration.

Verrone admits he probably won’t be as front and center when he’s termed out of office at the end of his second two-year stint as president in September. “I will have more time to make a living and devote to my three kids,” he deadpans.

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