It’s going to be a busy year for the Writers Guild of America, as the org will enter negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to finalize a new deal between writers and producers. At Saturday night’s WGA Awards, talk of negotiations — and the potential for a strike — were among topics of conversation.
WGA West president David Goodman addressed the elephant in the room during his speech, presented midway through the awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. “The whole town has already lost its mind,” he quipped.
Goodman told the audience of a conversation he had with a television executive, who left a notes call with “The Orville” showrunner early in order to attend a meeting about preparation for a writers’ strike.
“I said, ‘oh is there going to be a strike?'” Goodman recalled. “He said, ‘yeah, that’s what we’re hearing.'” Goodman said he told the exec that it was “ludicrous to think we have already decided to go on strike when negotiations haven’t even started.”
“So everyone seems to think a strike is happening,” he added. “In part, it’s an effort by our employers to put us on, to force us to calm everyone down and say we won’t, and thus give up our greatest leverage. Well, I’m not going to say that. It’s dangerous and naive to think that a strike is never necessary. I’ll point out that 30% of the nominees tonight are working on shows and features that wouldn’t be covered work if we hadn’t gone on strike in 2007.”
Goodman said he believed the WGA was entering negotiations with the AMPTP in “a very strong position… because we used our strength and made a huge change in how the whole town does business, and because we’ve shown in the past we’re always ready for a necessary fight.”
Meanwhile, Goodman also addressed the WGA stalemate with the Association of Talent Agents after the two sides failed to reach a new franchise agreement last year, leading to thousands of writers firing their agents.
“Writers understand that sometimes sacrifice is necessary,” Goodman said. “Last year we shined a light on corrupt practices in the talent business. When presented with the facts, the overwhelming majority of the writers wanted to take action. It took longer than we thought, but almost everything we said would happen has happened. We’ve challenged agency packaging fees, which everyone else in the business hated for decades but were afraid to take on. But we said we want this fixed, and we’re fixing it.”
Goodman also discussed the WGA’s mission, and expectations from its members — including improving representation and diversity among its ranks. “Individually we will often accept less than we deserve,” he said. “We feel very lucky that we get to do this for a living, especially those of us whose parents worked unforgiving jobs just to make ends meet. So we’ll often put up with employers that undervalue, discriminate and in some cases abuse us. As a group, and especially in the current political age, writers expect the guild to address these inequities. Our board’s current makeup reflects this. When I was first elected to the board in 2006, it was entirely white. And there were only two women. This year, there’s five people of color and there are nine women. They outnumber the men.”