Remember the WGA – ATA Negotiation?

by Larry Brody

The War Between TV and Film Writers and the Association of Talent Agents has been going on for about a year now, and on Valentine’s Day the Writers Guild of America West emailed its members the latest status report.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a doozy. Because its unwritten premise is, “Hey, kids, we aren’t negotiating with the Association anymore because it’s no longer necessary. We’re dealing one on one with the various agencies, and we’re scaring the hell out of the big, obnoxious ones, the gangs that insist on doing the packaging fee thing.”

Here’s the precise text. How does the situation sound to you?


Dear Members,

It has been a while since we’ve given you an update on the agency campaign.  As you know, since the beginning of the year the remaining mid-level agencies have signed, which leaves us with five large agencies still without a franchise agreement.  The WGA has had substantive discussions with all but one.  Those we have spoken to have said directly to me they would like to make a deal.  We continue to place pressure on them, by pursuing the lawsuit, by negotiating with the smaller agencies, and by withholding their ability to represent writers.  The goal remains in sight: to realign all our representatives’ financial interests with their writer clients by ending packaging fees and curtailing agency ownership of production.

A number of the unsigned agencies, while professing to want a deal, continue to engage in misconduct. We know that some agents are harassing former clients to work with them in secret under the false premise that “everyone else has come back.”  These same unfranchised agents are inserting themselves into potential deals by calling executives and acting as if they still represent writers who fired them. This is itself an indication that the pressure is mounting on them.  We talked about this misconduct in a previous email, and there may be helpful information in it if you find yourself faced with this kind of pressure.

We’ve also heard the rumors that some writers have gone back to their unfranchised agents.  When we receive specific information the allegations are investigated, starting with outreach by the Guild’s Working Rule 23 Committee.  We have looked into a few reports that turned out to be without merit, which is why confidentiality is so important.  But we continue to investigate other reports, and for any writers breaking the rules there must and will be accountability.

Despite the challenges of this new landscape, writers continue to pursue their careers working with the help of a manager, a franchised agent or on their own, often utilizing Guild-provided tools.  The numbers speak for themselves: overall employment is up, compensation is higher, and writers are maintaining health benefits at higher levels than last year.  The Guild will continue to provide and improve the tools we’ve set up to help writers find work. If you have questions or concerns as always you can contact: Agency@wga.org.

As we head into MBA negotiations, some in the industry have pushed the narrative that the agency campaign has weakened us.  But it has had the opposite effect: we have taken on the status quo, challenged business practices that everyone hated but no one else would question, and, in doing so, changed the way the whole town does business.  The companies have seen another powerful example of the Guild’s unity and sense of purpose in protecting the well-being of writers.  There is no doubt it has made us stronger.

Invitations to the MBA member meetings will go out next week.

In Solidarity,

David A. Goodman

Robert Conrad’s Final Performance

As most TVWriter™ visitors probably know, The Wild Wild West‘s main character, James West, AKA actor Robert Conrad, died last weekend.

TVWriter™’s good buddy, Contributing Editor Herbie J Pilato, reminded us the other day that Conrad’s last TV appearance was on Herbie’s fascinating classic TV talk show, Then Again with Herbie J Pilato.

Here’s an exclusive report on the appearance, courtesy of Herbie J.


by Herbie J Pilato

“I’m not debonair. I’m not suave. I did wear tight pants, though, because I found out that it worked.” — Robert Conrad

Robert Conrad — you were one tough nut to crack.

But I loved having you on my show, “Then Again with Herbie J Pilato,” which ultimately became your final on-screen appearance.

What an honor — and what a blast it really was.

You joked — and you razed me, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Rest well, tough guy.

Whether in fiction or in reality, no male TV character of the 1950s, ’60s, and ‘70s came any tougher than Robert Conrad as James West on the unique sci-fi western, The Wild Wild West, which originally aired on CBS from 1965 to 1969.

The fact that Conrad portrayed a character named West on a series that was set in the Old West served both as a metaphor and as a wink to the program’s loyal fan-base who came to love the show’s frequent use of self-deprecating humor and style. As Conrad once said about the series, which displayed ingenious, whimsical stories, sets, props, and performances, “It was just so elaborate and so luxurious. We had every gadget imaginable…[like] the little gun that [popped] out of [West’s] shoe.”

The show arrived on TV just as the western genre was giving way to the spy game….

Read it all at Medium.Com


Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the host ofclassic TV talk show THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, now streaming on Amazon Prime, Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and author of several classic TV companion books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE. This article first appeared in Medium.

Our Political Situation, Show Business, and You

The esteemed Callie Khouri, writer, producer, director especially known for her Oscar winning screenplay Thelma & Louise brings us the kind of news all too many creatives don’t want to hear…but we sure as hell need to know it, and now.


Our Industry is at Stake in the 2020 Election
by Calie Khouri

The Trump Justice Department announced at the end of 2019 that it will seek to end the landmark Paramount Consent Decrees. These decrees arose from concerns in the 1940s that a group of entertainment companies wielded outsized power over the film business. They limited the largest Hollywood production studios’ ability to own movie theater chains, control ticket prices, and fill theater screens with their own content to the exclusion of independent films. The decision by today’s Justice Department to undo the decrees continues a disturbing trend of undermining laws and regulations that promote competition and curtail abusive practices of the largest corporations.

We are already seeing the effects of the Justice Department’s hasty approval of the Disney-Fox merger. This massive corporation has used its increased market share to aggressively pursue its franchise strategy while reducing the number of films it produces, creating an artificial scarcity that reportedly now extends to classic Fox movies like “Alien” which have been withdrawn from some independent movie theaters. This strategy may redistribute wealth to Disney, but it is a grave threat to independent theaters and independent film, along with the writers and others who create them.

The newest streaming services from traditional content companies — Disney+, HBO Max and Peacock— are all the product of companies permitted by regulators to consolidate horizontally, vertically, or both. By merging content companies with distribution channels — the very thing the Paramount consent decrees sought to regulate — these streaming services have been allowed to erect fences around their content, while under-pricing and bundling their services with other products, making it even harder for new independent producers to enter the market. Without reasonable regulations, this small group of powerful companies will be able to prevent new competition for writers’ work, once again using monopoly power to destroy free markets.

This is an unfair playing field that our unions must navigate in every negotiation cycle and that we must navigate with every individual deal. But fighting for a more level field doesn’t solely happen at negotiations with our employers, it happens in the halls of power. It’s clear that without a change in political leadership, the trend toward increased concentration will continue. To that end, my union, the Writers Guild, formed a PAC in 2008, because writers must have a strong, collective voice in our political process. It is not enough for us to make individual contributions to politicians we believe in; like it or not, in politics we are most powerful if we speak through our Guild, with one voice.

The days when creators could sit on the political sidelines and hope that good policy and respect for fair play would result in a thriving middle class are long gone. It is crucial we fight to elect representatives who will fight for us.


This article originally appeared as a guest column at variety.com

Herbie J Pilato On The Deception Of Arrogance

EDITOR’S NOTE: TVWriter™ legendary Contributing Editor Emeritus Herbie J Pilato uses a very alluring title to teach us a valuable showbiz and life lesson.


by Herbie J Pilato

Years ago, I directed a musical for a local theatre community, spending weeks auditioning countless actors, singers, and dancers of all ages. A diverse group of talented performers gave their all during the process, and of course, I could only narrow it down to a chosen few who would win the various lead and supporting roles. But it soon became clear who would round out the cast.

I was impressed with the theatrical range of some but more impressed with the kindness of others. Some of those with the most talent, unfortunately, did not have the best personalities — nor the kindest of demeanor. Some of those with less talent — and in some cases, no talent at all, appeared to be less egotistical and potentially the easiest to work with.

So, I was faced with a dilemma….

Read it all at medium.com


Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the host ofclassic TV talk show THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, now streaming on Amazon Prime, Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and author of several classic TV companion books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE. This article first appeared in Medium.

WGAW February 2020 Calendar

Here’s what going on, socially and professionally,  at the Writers Guild of America West this month:

February 2020

Events listed are current at time of publication. Dates and details are subject to change during the month.

Committee activities and events are open to WGAW Current, Post Current, Associate, and Associate Caucus members in Active status. If you have questions about your member status, please contact the Membership Department or call (323) 782-4532

To see the live calendar, click here. (Member Login required for that, sorry.)

Tuesday
04
Genre Committee Meeting
7:30-9:30 p.m. – WGAW 1st Floor, Room 1A.
Category: Inclusion and Equity Committee Meetings
Info: (323) 782-4589. The Genre Committee was formed with the sole purpose of attracting writers interested in a certain genre, to meet, discuss and exchange information in a peer-to-peer setting. Our mission is to push education, diversity and camaraderie amongst all writers no matter their background. The Committee welcomes all writers because writers work in all genres.

Thursday
06
Fellowship Prep: How to Land a Spot in a Writing Program
7-9 p.m. – WGAW 2nd Floor, Multi-purpose Room.
Category: Writers Guild Foundation
SOLD OUT. Info/Tickets: wgfoundation.org. This panel with TV writing program alumni Aadip Desai, Claudia Forestieri, Jorge Rivera, Pamela Garcia Rooney, Jeff Sayers, and Christina Walker explores strategies on how to approach the application process, how to prepare yourself for the interview, and how to craft a successful personal pitch. General admission, $40.

Sunday
09
Networking Event
12-2:30 p.m. – WGAW 2nd Floor, Multi-purpose Room.
Category: Activities
RSVP: Activities. Meet fellow members at our third networking event. This is a structured, 90-minute interactive networking meeting with a half-hour mixer and post-meeting wrap up. Attendance is limited to the first 50 members that RSVP. Priority given to those who have not attended either of the first two events. This event is very popular and will fill up quickly. Hosted by Joel Eisenberg. Sponsored by the Activities Committee.

Monday
10
Committee of Women Writers Meeting
7:30-9:30 p.m. – WGAW 2nd Floor, Multi-purpose Room.
Category: Inclusion and Equity Committee Meetings
Info: (323) 782-4589. Doors open at 7 p.m. for snacks and networking. This committee represents the interests of female WGAW writers who are seeking WGA-covered work. We sponsor events designed to increase our knowledge of the craft and the marketplace, discuss the role of women as storytellers and foster networking and collaboration between women in all Guilds, as well as increase opportunities for education, employment opportunities and creative expression. Our goal is to empower all writers and improve the profile and perception of Women writers in the industry. Guest Speakers: Kara Welker (president, Imagine Artist Management) and Christina Campagnola (manager, Imagine Artist Management).

Tuesday
11
NAACP Image Awards: 5th Annual Panel and Reception
7:30-9:30 p.m. – WGAW 2nd Floor, Multi-purpose Room.
Category: Inclusion and Equity
RSVP: NAACPImage. NAACP Image Award winners and nominees discuss writing in a new era of film and television. Learn from award winners and nominees about their lauded projects and the changing face of diversity in our industry. Panelists: Lena Waithe (Queen & Slim), Nichelle Tramble Spellman (Truth Be Told), Peter Saji (Mixed-ish), Cord Jefferson (The Good Place), and others TBD. Moderator: Hilliard Guess (Deadly Class). Soul food reception to follow. Sponsored by the Committee of Black Writers. WGAW members only with one guest.

Tuesday
11
Staffing Season is Always Now
7:30-9 p.m. – Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills.
Category: Member Organizing
Info/RSVP: (323) 782-4567 or Staffing Season. Staffing is year-round these days, but network staffing is starting now. The WGA hosts an informative, motivational panel featuring Showrunners, executive producers, studio and network execs (TBD) in drama and comedy who will discuss what they’re looking for in a writing sample and in a writer—from script tone, to tone of your voice in meetings. Gain insight on how to brush up your material, yourselves and inspire you to create a new spec that gets noticed, and more importantly, gets you hired. WGA Members Only.

Wednesday
12
Committee of Black Writers Meeting
7-9 p.m. – WGAW 1st Floor, Room 1A.
Category: Inclusion and Equity Committee Meetings
Info: (323) 782-4589. The Committee of Black Writers is dedicated to empowering and increasing industry visibility of African-American writers and generating more career and networking opportunities.

Thursday
13
Navigating the Cannes Film Festival – Information Session
7 p.m. – WGAW 2nd Floor, Multi-purpose Room.
Category: Inclusion and Equity
RSVP: DivCannes. Got questions about the Cannes Film Festival? Attend this information session led by Yolonda Brinkley, creator of Diversity in Cannes, the independent globally filmmaker movement promoting inclusion at the Festival. Yolonda will share all the information you need to know to successfully navigate the Cannes Film Festival including travel tips (airfare, accommodations, airport ground transportation), festival accreditation, submission deadlines/guidelines, red carpet premieres and parties as well Diversity Day 2020 details! WGAW members only with 2 guests.

Thursday
13
Writers Education Committee Meeting
7:30-9 p.m. – WGAW 1st Floor, Room 1A.
Category: Writers Ed
RSVP: WritersEd. This WGAW Committee brainstorms and develops events and programs, which provide WGA members with practical, inside knowledge about how the industry works and how it is changing, emphasizing tips and tools to help writers succeed. We strive to provide “working knowledge for writers” and invite you to contribute your ideas.

Sunday
16
Activities Committee Meeting
11 a.m.-1 p.m. – Location TBA
Category: Activities
RSVP: Activities. WGAW’s Activities Committee brings members together in social settings for networking, educational, and fun events. New members welcome. Past events include Santa Anita “Day at the Races,” WGA Member Meet-Up, Port of L.A. Tour, Storytelling Night, outdoor hikes, plus the biennial Craft Conference & Writers Retreat. Eligible WGAW members, no guests.

Sunday
16
Birds of Prey and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn: Guild Screenings Q&A with Christina Hodson
After 5 p.m. screening – Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills.
Category: Guild Screenings
Q&A with Birds of Prey writer Christina Hodson begins immediately after the screening (TRT: 109 minutes). WGAW members only with two guests. Guild membership card required for entry.

Thursday
20
Asian American Writers Committee Meeting
7:30-9:30 p.m. – WGAW 1st Floor, Room 1A.
Category: Inclusion and Equity Committee Meetings
Info: (323) 782-4589. Doors open at 7 p.m. for snacks and networking. The Asian-American Writers Committee represents the professional and creative interests of Asian-American Guild members. Its mandate is to be dedicated to the encouragement, empowerment and employment of writers of Asian heritage. Join us for an informative and fun evening in a relaxed environment. Snacks will be provided. All members welcome. Guest speakers: Jiwon Park (Studio Dragon) and Philip Chung (YOMYOMF).

Tuesday
25
Showrunner Sessions with Sam Esmail
7:30-9 p.m. – WGAW 2nd Floor, Multi-purpose Room.
Category: Writers Guild Foundation
Info/Tickets: wgfoundation.org. The creator and showrunner of USA series Mr. Robot shares his process for running his writers rooms, how he envisioned the fourth and final season of the series, and how he approaches developing his upcoming projects. $35. WGA members/students/military, $30.

Friday
28
Waiting to Exhale: Guild Screenings Q&A and Reception with Terry McMillan. Hosted by CBW for Black History Month
After 7:30 p.m. screening – Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills.
Category: Guild Screenings
Q&A with Waiting to Exhale co-writer Terry McMillan begins immediately after the screening (TRT: 124 minutes). WGAW members only with two guests. Guild membership card required for entry.