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Screenwriter Nicholas Kazan Warns: Writers Guild Could Be Torn Apart

Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nicholas Kazan has warned that the leaders of the Writers Guild of America may tear apart the union.

Kazan, who is running for the WGA West board, issued the prediction in an email Monday to members following the Aug. 16 announcement that the WGA would start holding tribunals to punish writers who are not following the guild directive to fire agents if the agents have not agreed to follow the WGA’s Code of Conduct — which bans packaging fees and affiliate productions.

“This disaster was both inevitable and avoidable,” Kazan said. “Inevitable once the Guild embarked on its present course…and avoidable if the same legitimate issues had been dealt with in a different, less confrontational and more reasoned, manner. If trials are held and hundreds of writers are punished…or they abandon the Guild to avoid a nasty trial…the WGA will be defanged, its power diminished, and a true union, a remarkable unity of brothers and sisters, will have been torn apart. All from a self-inflicted wound.”

Kazan said that agency practices must change. “I want to help achieve those changes.  Pitting writers against each other won’t do it.  Only genuine sustained negotiation will.  That’s the only thing that will keep us strong and united as we prepare for the more financially vital negotiation – with the AMPTP, in 2020.”

Kazan, who is the father of actress and writer Zoe Kazan and the son of Oscar-winning director Elia Kazan, is part of the WGA Forward Together slate. His group is contending that the WGA needs to get back to the bargaining table after two months of staying away from bargaining. WGA West president David Goodman declared on June 20 that the guild would no longer negotiate with the Association of Talent Agencies and instead hold individual negotiations with nine agencies.

One of those nine, Kaplan Stahler, subsequently signed a deal in which the agency agreed that it would not take packaging fees or engage in affiliate production. Two other mid-size agencies — Verve and Buchwald — have signed agreements with the WGA that ban packaging fees and affiliate production.

The Forward Together slate is headed by Phyllis Nagy, who is challenging Goodman. Nick Jones Jr. is also part of the slate as a candidate for secretary-treasurer, and board candidates Kazan, Jason Fuchs, Ayelet Waldman, Ashley Miller, Sarah Treem, Marc Guggenheim, Courtney Kemp and Rasheed Newson have expressed opposition to Goodman’s approach. Election results will be announced on
Sept. 16.

“My mother was a writer (plays),” Kazan said. “My father was a writer (novels, screenplays).  My older sister is a writer (children’s books).  My brother was a writer (novels, screenplays).   My wife is a writer (screenplays).  Both our daughters are in the WGA…making a total of six of us: immediate family, past and present, in the Guild.  I love writers.  I want to reunite us. I’m running with some very smart, very dedicated people who share my concerns about the Guild and want to change its tactics.”

Kazan, who received an Academy Award nomination for “Reversal of Fortune,” has said the disagreements are dangerous due to the anger, acrimony and the moral veneer that has been cast over what is largely an economic action. Goodman recently brushed off the complaints, noting that with 8,000 working members of the WGA West, unanimity is never a possibility.

“And the fact that there’s some disagreement, or that passions among individual members runs high, does not mean that the Guild is ‘fracturing,'” he added. “In every communication in this difficult campaign to fix a broken agency system, I and the rest of Guild leadership have sought out and encouraged those who dissent; there is nothing wrong with the word, it just means you disagree with the leadership on the strategy and/or goals.”

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