Matthew Weiner, Glen Mazzara Win WGA West Board Seats

Patric Verrone Matthew Weiner Writers Guild
Verone: AP Images; Weiner: Rex/Shutterstock

“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner and “The Walking Dead” executive producer Glen Mazzara have scored the most votes in winning two-year terms to seats on the Writers Guild of America West board.

Incumbents Marjorie David, Jonathan Fernandez, Chip Johannessen and former WGA West president Patric Verrone also won seats along with “Grey’s Anatomy” exec producer Zoanne Clack and Courtney Ellinger. Keenen Ivory Wayans, who issued no campaign statement in the official campaign material sent to members, was one of five candidates not elected.

Turnout was typically low with results announced Monday evening. The number of eligible voting members was 9,120, with a total of 2,440 valid ballots cast, representing 26.75% voter turnout. Mazzara had the most votes with 1,732, followed by Weiner with 1,597, David (1,525), Fernandez (1,480), Johannessen (1,394), Clack (1,393), Ellinger (1,281) and Verrone (1,175).

The three-month campaign focused largely on money issues at upcoming negotiations with calls for solidarity — but with only a few mentions of a potential strike.

“As a Board member, I promise to approach the future in unity with all writers,” Weiner wrote in his campaign statement. “My lesson from 20 years of work (and negotiation) is that we must never let our love for our work be used against us. We are strong together. And it’s never been more important to educate all of our members, new and old, that with solidarity, we are very powerful.”

Mazzara noted in his statement that he’s been a showrunner four times and opined that the “complex” relationship among studios, networks and agencies is one that he still doesn’t understand.

“I believe the business model is designed to be as opaque as possible to keep writers from getting their fair share of the pie,” Mazzara added. “Throughout my career, the entertainment industry’s earnings have broken record after record and yet writers’ fees and opportunities appear to shrink. This is what I hear in my meetings with working and non-working writers. If elected to the Board, I would give voice to their experiences as well as my own.”

Verrone, an animation writer best known for leading the 2007-08 strike, said the negotiations won’t be easy.

“There are already issues that will be on the table for this negotiation which are fundamental to the financial well-being of our membership, including our health insurance and pension plans. Maintaining those benefits, as well as improving salary and residual rates (especially in cable and made-for-internet writing) will be a driving force of this negotiation from the writers’ side,” he said.

The WGA’s current deal expires May 1, two months before the June 30 expiration of the master contracts for the Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA. No negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have been set by any of the unions, but the DGA is widely expected to go first, setting a template for the WGA and SAG-AFTRA deals.

But the WGA has been by far the most public about what it will look for, with its board telling its 8,000 members in May that it plans to seek a bigger cut of the $49 billion in 2015 profits from the top six media conglomerates. Johannessen co-chaired the 2014 negotiations with Billy Ray.

Clack pledged that she will work on increasing diversity among writers.

“Finding those hidden voices that are straining to be heard can help us tell more interesting, complex, and diverse stories that reflect the world we live in and keep Hollywood relevant,” she said. “We need to have less of the ‘diversity hires’ and more hires who are valued for their singular voices, writing and contributions. We can increase diversity by making it an important issue, by keeping it in the forefront, and by acknowledging the unconscious biases we carry and making them conscious.”

All the winning candidates were endorsed by WGA West President Howard Rodman, who succeeded Christopher Keyser a year ago.

The WGA West jointly negotiates with the WGA East on the guild’s master contract with producers.

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  1. Mike M says:

    Congratulations to both gentlemen – truly great additions despite the typically lackluster voter interest. I’d love to see AMC try to pull another major Network-Studio profit debacle that affects west writers over the next term with you guys now on board. Really nice result for the scribes.

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