WGAW Letter on Returning to Work

June 17, 2020
Dear Members,

There are ongoing and increasingly urgent discussions in the industry about how and when to resume production. We know some members are feeling anxious about what new protocols might mean for writers, so we wanted to give you a brief update.

The WGAW has convened meetings over the past two months with showrunners across all genres to formulate responses to challenges of COVID-era writing and production. Individually, showrunners have been meeting with studio executives about how to produce shows when the time comes to reopen. Collectively, Guild showrunners signed a statement which you can read below, and will organize discussions with each studio to make sure they protect the role of writers as they determine the best protocols to safeguard their productions, casts and crews.

This month the AMPTP put out a white paper with guidelines for reopening motion picture, television and streaming productions in the era of COVID-19, and entertainment unions belonging to the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee put out a separate non-binding document called “A Safe Way Forward.” Although the WGA is not part of that committee, which predates the pandemic and historically has dealt with on-set safety issues, we are aligned with their desire to resume production safely and as soon as possible. The Guild and showrunners will make sure that writers and their interests are protected in the process. For instance, several studios have already acknowledged to showrunners that the central role of writers on set must be accounted for in whatever protocols are finally adopted.

If you have concerns about your workplace health and safety please contact our Legal Department. Here is an FAQ with employment-related questions for this time period.

In solidarity,
WGAW Board of Directors

WGAW Showrunner Statement

In television, the Showrunner is responsible for overseeing the writing, directing, producing and post-production of their television series. We are also the liaison between the production and the network/studio, and the hub through which issues of health and safety run.

So we take a deep interest in the health and safety not just of our sets but of the entire production, including post-production. To that end, we applaud DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the Teamsters’ efforts in their document “The Safe Way Forward” and appreciate the work of the individual unions and Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force.

As these white papers suggest, the key to these protocols achieving the desired effect – creating the healthiest workable production scenarios possible – is that the protocols are adopted widely and completely. All the departments must work together, and not at cross-purposes, in their pursuit of production health.

The Showrunner’s role here is essential.

Since the Showrunner hires and supervises the director, actors, writers, casting director, production designers, and editors, our casts and crews will be looking to us for reassurance and creative direction, as they did before the crisis. We will work with our partners at our sister unions to communicate, enact, and ensure that every possible effort is made to keep workers safe as they execute the creative mission of the show.

We agree that testing is paramount and the cornerstone of any return to work. We also find their suggestion of a zone system smart and essential – with one caveat: to reduce a director’s guesswork in trying to execute the Showrunner’s vision, and, therefore, reduce the number of reshoots, the involvement of the Showrunners and their writer proxies on the set is a must – either in person or if those with disability or underlying health issues are unable to be on set physically, with proper accommodations so they can still do their jobs effectively.

The Showrunners believe the next step is not to add another white paper to the discussion. Instead, we will focus on additions to “The Safe Way Forward” that underline the practical importance of collaboration.

We do believe we can all return to work safely and many of us have been in touch with our casts about changes that individual productions will make to ensure health and safety. Now comes the hard work.

The Showrunners are ready to get to it and we welcome discussions with individual studios as soon as possible.

In solidarity