The WGA West on Saturday will hold its first membership meeting to discuss its upcoming negotiations with the AMPTP for a new film and TV contract. Two other membership meetings are scheduled in Los Angeles later this month, and one will be held in New York.
John August, a member of the WGA Negotiating Committee, spoke recently on his Scriptnotes podcast about the upcoming meetings and what members should expect as the process unfolds. He also downplayed rumors of a threatened strike “because honestly, none of us know what’s gonna happen.”
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“If you’re a WGA member, you should definitely go to one of the member meetings,” he told Scriptnotes producer Megana Rao. “It’s at these member meetings where you first hear from the Negotiating Committee about what the plans and priorities are. It’s also where there’s people with microphones, asking questions, giving their real-time feedback – applause and cheers and all of this happens live and in a room. It’s not as fun as this Scriptnotes Live show, but it’s probably more important.”
Rao asked him about rumors of a strike when the guild’s contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expires May 1. “I feel like I hear people talking like a strike is going to happen on May 1, like it’s a foregone conclusion,” she said.
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“That’s really kind of annoying, honestly,” August answered. “The guild hasn’t laid out any of its proposals; we don’t know anything about what the companies are going to propose – so lots of things can happen, and it’s still pretty damn early. That said, the studios and networks are definitely trying to prepare for it if it does happen. You see them opening writers rooms early – they’re trying to get scripts in by May 1. That’s really normal in this schedule. And I can understand why writers and other people in this industry are trying to build a bit of a cushion if they can, because honestly, none of us know what’s gonna happen.”
August, who has served on the past four Negotiating Committees, told his listeners that “we’ve been meeting for the last couple of months, getting ready. Everything started with the membership survey last spring – that’s where we find out what the issues are that writers are most concerned about. You look for common themes; the staff does the research to figure out all the trends; about what writers are earning; what’s happening at the studios; what’s happening to residuals. So all that stuff’s been happening behind the scenes. But these member meetings are the first chance to hear directly from us, and for us to hear from writers.”
Urging members to come to the meetings and hear firsthand what’s going on, he said: “What you’re gonna be seeing in the trades and on social media, it’s gonna be a lot of – not necessarily misinformation – but like inaccurate or incomplete information. So, take all of that with a big grain of salt.”
He also noted that “once the negotiations really begin – once we’re in the room with the AMPTP – things probably will get real quiet for a bit, and that’s not a bad sign – it just means that both sides have agreed to king of keep it hush so we can really dig into things. The membership meetings – all the talk, talk, talk – happens before we go into the room.”
Speaking about the process, he noted that “at some point” the guild will announce its pattern of demands – the general objectives – upon the members will be asked to approve.
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