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‘Band of Brothers’ Writer John Orloff on Writers Guild: ‘Why Are We Fighting Yesterday’s War?’

Band of Brothers” writer John Orloff has called into question the tactics of the leadership of the Writers Guild of America in its long battle with Hollywood agents.

Orloff, in an email to the 10,000 WGA West members, said Wednesday he’s disappointed by the acrimony that the dispute has produced and by the strategic mistakes of the WGA leaders.

“This leadership has asked for our ‘#solidarity,’ but it has not offered it back,” Orloff wrote. “It seems, at least from where I type, this is a case of all animals are equal — but some animals are more equal than others. And this could be toxic for our future collective actions.”

Orloff, whose credits include “A Mighty Heart,” urged members to vote for the Writers Forward Together slate, which is running on a platform that highlights the need for the WGA to resume negotiations with the major agencies after staying away from talks since early June. Phyllis Nagy is heading the slate and challenging current WGA West president David Goodman. Ballots went out Aug. 29 to about 10,000 members with results announced Sept. 16.

WGA’s Code of Conduct, which bars agencies from taking packaging fees and engaging in affiliate production, was imposed on April 13 and required members to fire their agents if the agents had not agreed to the ban. The WGA then sued the four largest agencies — CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners — over the legality of packaging, resulting in countersuits alleging antitrust violations. A trio of smaller agencies (Verve, Buchwald and Kaplan Stahler) agreed to follow the WGA’s Code of Conduct.

Orloff, a 21-year member of the WGA, asserted that attempts to ban packaging fees for agents are misguided since streaming will soon dominate the entertainment industry.

“It is last decade’s war,” he added. “A war that could have been won by simple enforcement of then-existing rules, rules that were not enforced in years past by current leadership. Ultimately, this fight no longer really matters; packaging will cease to exist in a very short time of its own accord. And everybody seems to know it — except the WGA.”

Orloff said the real issue for writers now is the “imminent” loss of residuals, noting that he was recently offered a buyout that was a much smaller fraction than the amount he made from residuals on a very similar project.

“So why has leadership decided to put our energies and financial reserves — as well as our careers — into a fight that clearly has divided a large group of intelligent people who would otherwise be in true solidarity?” he asked. “Why are we fighting yesterday’s war? Why are we calling each other names? Fascists? Mobsters? Why are Captains sending out electioneering emails? Why are we threatening — of all things — tribunals? And why are we calling each other scabs, for God sakes?”

The WGA’s current master contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expires on May 1. No talks have been set.

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