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WGA Update: Scribe Tribe Focuses On Organizing New Media, Reality TV

WGA Awards won't expand eligibility, East Coast prexy says

Seven years after a bitter writers strike over new media, the Writers Guild of America reached a historic deal last spring with minimum terms covering “high-budget new media made for subscription video-on-demand” — such as Netflix.The successor deal, which runs into 2017, also modified the option and exclusivity requirements for TV writers amid seasons that have become shorter than the traditional 22 episodes.

“It’s a remarkable time in TV,” says WGA West prexy Chris Keyser. “It really is a world of expanding opportunities, and that is obviously good for writers. The companies are making a lot of profits, so we’re trying to be cautiously optimistic as we get ready for the next talks.”

Keyser acknowledges that feature film writing continues to slide as major studios make fewer movies. The WGA West’s 2014 report to members showed a decline of 24% between 2009 and 2013.

WGA East president Michael Winship agrees that the expansion of TV writing has heartened his 4,000 members. The branch has been attempting to expand that by organizing reality-TV production companies — Sharp Entertainment, Optomen Productions, Lion TV — in recent years. “It really is a burgeoning industry,” says Winship.

Winship says there’s no plan to revise the guild’s policy on awards eligibility, which disqualified Oscar-nommed screenplays “Birdman” and “The Theory of Everything.”“We view the awards as a celebration of the membership, so we’re not going to change the rules,” he says.

Keyser is working on making sure that the announcement of the winners will take place concurrently in Los Angeles and New York. New York invariably announces results first.

“It’s tougher than it sounds because there are so many people involved.”

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