This is largely for historical record; there’s nothing really new here. But it’s helpful to see the whole campaign in context, and to resist oversimplifying the narrative.
To me, there are four main storylines to follow:
- WGA membership holding together
- The one-by-one signing of agencies 5 through 12, followed by the big four
- The lawsuits, and how the trial kept getting pushed back
- Internal and external pressures at the big four agencies, including WME’s IPO
I’d rank them in that order of significance, but they all played a part in getting us to the successful conclusion.
One important storyline doesn’t fit on the timeline because there is no associated date: TV staffing. Because of a lot of hard work and scrambling, an assortment of official and unofficial tools helped shows get staffed without agents. The much-feared staffing crisis became a dog that didn’t bark.
The pandemic isn’t listed, even though it’s obviously affected every single event since March 2020. To me, the coronavirus and the resulting shutdown was a wash in terms of its impact on the agency campaign. It curtailed both member meetings and face-to-face negotiations. It had a disproportionately large impact on the big four agencies, and a disproportionately small impact on writer income. But the most pervasive effect was psychological: the pandemic became by far the biggest issue in everyone’s life, followed by the presidential election. For both writers and agents, resolving the AMBA campaign remained a priority, but got pushed further down the list.
It’s important to keep in mind just how much happened in 2018 before the original AMBA expired. There were a lot of member meetings, both to educate writers about the issues involved, and to gauge how much support there would be for the battle. This was a two year fight only if you start the clock in April 2019 and ignore a year’s worth of preparation.
Because it’s my timeline, I’m including some things that were significant to me but may not be meaningful in the final accounting of things. For example, when I signed at Verve, it was newsworthy. But it didn’t break open the floodgates. Most writers at my level waited for the battle to be over so they could go back to their original agents — or made the transition to other agencies quietly.
I honestly have no idea what the equivalent timeline from an agency perspective would look like. We might agree that agency X signed with the WGA on a given date, but which agencies really mattered? How important were the lawsuits? Was internal or external pressure a bigger factor in getting them to sign? In the end, I’m not sure we’ll ever know.
You can find my timeline here.
- I served on both the WGA board and the negotiating committee, but everything here has been widely reported. In the timeline, I’ve included links to news articles where available. ↩