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William Schmidt Drops Bid for WGA West Presidency, Supports Phyllis Nagy

William Schmidt has dropped out of the race for the WGA West presidency and support Phyllis Nagy against incumbent WGA West president David Goodman in the upcoming election.

Schmidt, whose credits include “Yellowstone,” “Outsiders” and “Charmed,” has campaigned for the past two months in opposition to Goodman’s directive for members to fire their agents if they had not signed the WGA Code of Conduct. At least 7,000 agents have been fired.

Schmidt made the announcement Wednesday night at the guild’s candidates meeting at the Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills. He admitted that he and Nagy did not receive a positive response, adding, “It was pretty ugly.”

Schmidt, a 37-year member of the guild, and Nagy are running against Goodman in an election that’s widely seen as a referendum on the WGA’s hard-nose tactics versus a more accommodating approach. Ballots go out Aug. 29 and results will be announced Sept. 16.

“We have a candidate who is brilliant, bold, rational,” he said. “A good and decent person who can lead us out of this quagmire, and back to unity and full strength. Who started a Go Fund Me page and raised $50,000 to get some of those casualties, six young families, their health care back, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. I’m talking about a born leader. Phyllis Nagy.”

Nagy is leading the Writers Forward Together slate, which has campaigned on a platform that the WGA needs to re-launch negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents. She’s warned against the guild going into negotiations next year with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers without an agency franchise deal.

“She is conversant with every issue facing film and TV writers,” Schmidt said. “And there is no daylight between what she believes and what I believe. I deeply admire her quiet strength. She has the goods to knock out great deals with the ATA and the AMPTP.”

Goodman announced on June 20 that the guild had called off negotiations with the ATA in favor of pursuing individual talks with nine top agencies as it enforces a total ban on packaging fees and affiliated production for agents representing guild members. A trio of mid-size agencies — Verve, Buchwald and Kaplan Stahler — have signed agreements in recent months.

Multiple guild members who attended the candidates forum Thursday night told Variety that Schmidt’s endorsement of Nagy came as a surprise to many in the room. More than 750 guild members attempted to RSVP for the event, which was held at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. The crowd gathered was larger than those assembled for similar events in previous elections, according to sources, with the 473-seat theater near capacity, and a large group of members watching the event on monitors in the guild lobby, which had been set up as an overflow area.

The four-hour meeting was described by those in attendance as a mostly civil affair that became more raucous in the last hour, when the presidential candidates gave brief remarks and fielded questions. Goldman was said to have received the only standing ovation of the night for a speech recounting the guild’s accomplishments from the time of the writers strike a decade ago to the current standoff with the ATA.

Nagy, in her speech, reiterated her intention to reopen negotiations with the ATA and teased a proposal for revenue sharing from packaging fees — but declined during the question-and-answer portion to reveal details of the revenue-sharing plan, which she said would be posted on her slate’s website at a later date.

The meeting reached its most contentious point during the question-and-answer session for presidential candidates when multiple attendees began shouting down Schmidt as he attempted to speak after having announced that he would drop out of the race.

Board candidates Nicholas Kazan and Courtney A. Kemp, both members of the Writers Forward Together slate, did not attend the meeting. Also not on hand was Carl Gottlieb, who dropped his bid for vice president of the guild several days ago for health reasons. The move leaves current vice president Marjorie David running effectively unopposed for reelection.

— Daniel Holloway contributed to this report.

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