I was traveling last week when the WGA ballots were mailed out. Now that I’m back, I’ve had a chance to look through the candidates’ statements and endorsements. I want to explain my priorities for this election.
The future is important. The present is essential.
The guild has focused so much of its energy on new frontiers — organizing reality television, political action committees, new media residuals — that we’re doing a lackluster job of providing basic services to our members: the boring but essential stuff like collecting residuals and enforcing contracts.
We’re running a deficit. We’re laying off staff members. We rail against “management,” but the fact is that our guild does not feel particularly well-managed. I want a president, secretary/treasurer and board of directors who will focus first on getting our own house in order. When I call the guild with a question, I want an answer. I want follow-up.
This may mean hiring more people, and firing some under-performers. This is a business. The guild needs to operate like one.
Groupthink is nothink
I want a diversity of opinion and experience throughout the board. I’m leery of slates. I’ve endorsed several candidates who disagree with each other.
Rebuilding burnt bridges
During a strike, it’s natural to demonize any person or organization that seems to be standing in the way of our goals. But the strike is over. DGA, SAG, AFTRA and IATSE aren’t stumbling blocks; they’re peers. We have reasons to be frustrated with these groups and their leaders, but the fact is that most of our goals overlap. We need to be meeting with them regularly and cordially.
The same can be said for the studios themselves. Their objectives are transparent — get as much as they can for as little as possible. But, like us, they also want to keep working. They want to figure out how to make money as technologies change and prices fall towards zero. They want to shoot movies and TV shows locally for a fair price.
Just as in international diplomacy, we’re often both partners and adversaries. I want officers and board members who understand this and don’t let heated rhetoric ruin any chance of cooperation.
In all my conversations with Howard Michael Gould, I’ve been impressed with his ability to see multiple sides of an issue. His candidate statement for Vice President outlines exactly the points I think are most important.
I don’t know Chris Keyser, but his candidate statement for Secretary/Treasurer emphasizes enforcement and better fiscal discipline. These are my priorities. Steven Schwartz makes other important points about getting writers the money they’re owed.
John Wells is controversial because he’s perceived as being more of a producer than a writer. That’s naive, of course: in television, successful writers become producers, and mega-successful producers become John Wells. His experience and connections are an asset. His intercession during the strike wouldn’t have been necessary if guild leadership had engaged the DGA earlier.
Howard Rodman is a good friend, and an important advocate for indie writers, who are often overlooked. As a guild, we need to make sure we’re representing all screenwriters before trying to broaden our reach.
I got to know Ian Deitchman through United Hollywood and Strike.TV. Reading his candidate statement, I like that he’s pragmatic about the realities of new media, and the importance of enforcing the current contract.
Writer/directors like Billy Ray can help bridge the gap with the DGA. Jeff Lowell makes that a priority as well.
These are my opinions on the candidates and the issues. I’ll be keeping comments closed, because I don’t really want this to become another forum for accusations and potshots. It’s already become a frustratingly ugly election. My hope is that we can move beyond personalities to the crucial issues.
If you’re a WGA member, please vote. The deadline for ballots is September 17th — but mail them in early to be safe.