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Nicholas Kazan Tells Writers Guild He’s ‘Trying to Stop a Trainwreck’

Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nicholas Kazan has asserted he’s trying to prevent the potential destruction of the Writers Guild of America over its bitter dispute with Hollywood agents.

Kazan, who is running for the WGA West board, issued the statement in an email Friday to members. He’s part of the dissident Writers Forward Together slate, which is running on a platform that the WGA needs to resume negotiations with the major agencies after staying away from talks since early June.

“I have friends who aren’t speaking to me because I’m running and advocating a change in tactics,” Kazan said. “They think I’m being disloyal, harming the Guild.  All I can say is: Loyalty does not mean blind obedience.  Sometimes it means trying to stop a trainwreck.”

Kazan’s missive came a day after ballots went out to about 10,000 WGA West members. Results will be announced on Sept. 16. The Writers Forward Together slate, led by Phyllis Nagy, has asserted that the WGA will be at a disadvantage should it go into negotiations next year with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers without an agency franchise deal.

Kazan said in his email that the strategy of negotiating deals with smaller agencies — Verve, Buchwald and Kaplan Stahler — isn’t working. That trio has agreed to follow the WGA’s Code of Conduct, which bans packaging fees and affiliate productions. He also said that replacing WGA West president David Goodman with Nagy would address the failures of the present leadership.

“What have they accomplished so far?” Kazan said. “They’ve pissed off and confused a lot of writers. They’ve fractured the Guild right before a crucial MBA negotiation. They’ve spent our dues on an expensive state lawsuit they dropped. They walked out on the ATA. Twice. Didn’t negotiate.”

“They thought smaller agencies would sign quickly,” he added. “Didn’t happen. Many in leadership thought this action would be over by now. It’s not.”

Kazan also warned that retirees could lose health coverage; the health plan may convert to an HMO; pension payments to current retirees could be reduced; and payments to future retirees may be less than we’ve been led to expect. The WGA’s health and pension plans are overseen by a joint board of companies and guild reps.

“These are critical issues to be dealt with in our negotiation with the AMPTP,” he added. “It will be hard to be united and forceful if we are without our agents and many members are angry about it.”

Kazan, who received an Academy Award nomination for “Reversal of Fortune,” is the father of actress and writer Zoe Kazan and the son of Oscar-winning director Elia Kazan. He said screenwriters have “no dog” in the fight over packaging.

“We don’t even have a flea in it,” he added. “And we need our agents. That’s a big problem. The longer this goes on, the more severe that problem will be.”

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