WGA News – May 2, 2011

WGA Members Ratify New Contract

On April 27, 2011, the members of the WGAW and the WGAE have ratified a new three-year deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The WGA membership overwhelmingly voted in favor of ratifying the contract by 90.7 percent of 1,952 valid votes cast in Los Angeles and New York. The term of the agreement is from May 2, 2011 through May 1, 2014.

“We are very pleased that our joint membership has voted so strongly to ratify our 2011 Minimum Basic Agreement. We’d also like to express special thanks to our staffs and the negotiating committee for their diligence and expertise. Valuable advances have been made in our pension plan and in other areas important to writers. Nonetheless, we also recognize that much remains to be done. To that end, we have positioned ourselves for some hard and important work in the years ahead as we endeavor to further the needs and rights of our members,” said WGAW President John Wells and WGAE President Michael Winship.

Gains made in the contract include significant increases in contributions to the Writers Guild pension plan, increased reuse payments in Pay TV, and increased minimums.

OnWriting

On April 1, the WGAE announced that its long-standing publication OnWriting – which features in-depth conversations with a wide variety of writers – has transitioned into the digital age and has now become OnWriting ONLINE. The site will continue to feature in-depth conversations with writers, but now as a series of videos that will allow everyone to hear the writers in their own words for the first time.

The first issue just premiered and features an in-depth conversation between Oscar-nominated screenwriters Terry George and Tony Gilroy. The first installment is called “On Inspiration” and focuses on how Terry and Tony got started in the business and also their motivations for writing. Future webisodes will cover their continuing conversation and many other aspects of their careers and the industry. The interviews are available at the WGAE-sponsored site OnWritingOnline.org and on YouTube.

Writer Access Project Honorees

On March 23, the WGAW announced its 2011 WGAW Writer Access Project honorees, comprised of 13 diverse television writers who competed in the comedy and drama script categories.

Launched in 2009 by the WGAW’s Diversity Department as a way to enhance the employment opportunities of diverse writers, the Writer Access Project identifies writers with television staffing experience and makes samples of their work available to entertainment industry decision makers, including showrunners, producers, network and studio executives, agents and managers.

“The Writer Access Project continues the Guild’s proactive efforts to help promote increased access to television jobs for writers who’ve been historically underemployed within the entertainment industry, as well as providing a useful resource for showrunners looking to increase diversity on their writing staffs,” said WGAW Director of Diversity Kimberly Myers.

“There are far too many talented, experienced writers waiting for their shot to get back in the game. They’re hungry, but for many reasons – being unemployed, working in a different genre or medium. They don’t have access to showrunners who are staffing their shows. They don’t get into the mix,” said The Walking Dead Executive Producer and fellow WAP judge Glen Mazzara. “The Writer Access Project changes that. Now, when staffing a show, we’re able to tap a brand new source of artists who have already been in the trenches and proven the most important thing – that they can put it on the page.”

For WAP consideration, qualified WGAW members were invited to submit their work in one of five diversity categories: minority writers; writers with disabilities; women writers; writers age 55 and over, and gay and lesbian writers. The entries were read and scored on a blind submission basis by panels of WGAW members with extensive television writing experience, including current and former showrunners and writer-producers. A total of 78 scripts (24 in Comedy / 54 in Drama) were submitted: 33 in the category of minority writers, two in the category of writers with disabilities, 26 in the category of women writers, 13 in the category of 55-and-older writers, and four in the category of gay and lesbian writers. A total of 30 semi-finalists (22 in Drama / eight in Comedy) advanced to the second round of judging, conducted by a panel of showrunners and high-level writer-producers, to select the WGAW’s final group of over a dozen 2011 WAP honorees.

Seventy-three Writers Guild members participated in the 2011 WAP judging process, including Winnie Holzman (Huge), Aaron Shure (The Office), Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy), James Duff (The Closer), Steven Bochco (Raising the Bar), Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead), David Shore (House), Kathleen McGhee Anderson (Lincoln Heights), Danielle Sanchez-Witzel (My Name Is Earl), and William Martin (Hank).

The 2011 Writer Access Project honorees are:
COMEDY
Oahn Ly (Criminal Minds)
Jay Roberts (Breaking Bad, story editor/staff writer; Guess Who, associate producer; Barbershop 2; associate producer)
Pamela Ribon (Samantha Who?; currently developing her second novel, Why Moms Are Weird, for ABC Family)

DRAMA
Sal Calleros (Private Practice, story editor; 2006 ABC/Disney TV Writing Fellow)
John Lansing & Bruce Cervi (Walker, Texas Ranger, 1995-2000)
Melody Fox (Flash Gordon and The Haunting Hour)
Dawn Comer Jefferson (Judging Amy, South of Nowhere)
Robin Madden (Diagnosis Murder, Jake and the Fat Man, Walker, Texas Ranger; producer and story editor)
Casandra Morgan
Silvia Olivas (Moesha, co-producer; The Brothers Garcia, co-executive producer)
Chris Ruppenthal (Quantum Leap, supervising producer; The Outer Limits; co-executive producer)
Ursula Wendel

The WGAW website features the written work of each honoree – an original pilot and spec episode writing sample from each writer – along with bios and other information, at: http://www.wga.org/wap.

For further information about the WGAW Writer Access Project’s eligibility and submission criteria, judging process, and WAP honorees, as well as access to their scripts, please visit: http://www.wga.org/wap.
Joining Forces

On April 12, television and screenwriter Katherine Fugate represented the WGAW at the White House at the inauguration of Joining Forces, a national call to action in support of military families being led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. Fugate, who is also a member of the WGAW’s Board of Directors, created and executive produced the hit Lifetime TV series Army Wives, documenting the struggles of military families living on an Army base.

“The soldier and the families all serve together. They are all our heroes and we owe them a lifetime of gratitude,” said Fugate. In the series, she wrote: “Look beside each soldier to find the people who fight beside them. The spouses, the sons, the daughters. They serve, too. They share the victories. They share the defeats. Together, they all fight for our freedom.”

As part of its commitment to Joining Forces, the WGAW is planning, in conjunction with the White House, to conduct a series of workshops connecting Hollywood’s TV and screenwriters with military families and veterans to share their experiences and get their perspectives.

“Hopefully, through this increased awareness, more writers will be motivated to tell the stories of these everyday people, who through their daily sacrifices, challenges, triumphs, and tragedies become extraordinary Americans who inspire us all,” said Fugate.

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