WGA East brings SWAMP PEOPLE writers into the fold

swamp-people-writers-unionizeby TVWriter™ Press Service

Variety has reported that the Writers Guild of America East has unionized the writer-producers at New York-based nonfiction TV production company Original Media, producers of INKMASTER, STORMCHASERS, COMIC BOOK MEN, and SWAMP PEOPLE.

“The men and women who work so hard to create nonfiction (reality) TV shows have demonstrated that they want WGAE representation to help them improve their working conditions and to build sustainable careers,” said WGA East exec director Lowell Peterson. “We look forward to sitting down with the company and negotiating a contract that will provide health benefits, paid time off, minimum compensation levels, and other basic union protections.

The WGAE has been actively organizing writer-producers in nonfiction television since 2009. Nonfiction television has boomed in recent years by creating low-cost, highly profitable programming that relies on low wages, smaller crews and longer work schedules by freelance employees with no health care. Well over one thousand skilled creative professionals work in this field in the New York area alone.  The WGAE has been working with writer-producers and production companies to help define and enforce industry-wide standards that can allow for these professionals to build long-term, stable and secure careers. 

“There has been tremendous growth and consolidation in the nonfiction television industry in the last year – including the recent $360 million plus purchase of Leftfield Entertainment by ITV Studios,” said Peterson. “With such economic concentration and leverage, writer-producers are coming to the conclusion that they need a powerful voice of their own.”

Hear, hear! A tip of the TVWriter™ stetson to the WGAE.

Fox Announces 2014 Writers Intensive Winners


by Team TVWriter™

Writing partners Ed Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft have been selected as this year’s Fox Writers Intensive Fellows. 

Chosen from the third annual class of 10 FWI finalists, Gonzalez and Haft have inked a script development deal with Fox Broadcasting Co and 20th Century Fox Television. In addition, the writing duo have been staffed on Fox’s new drama, Empire.

Along with Gonzalez and Haft, the 2014 FWI class included finalists Nazrin Choudhury, Tze Chun, Nate Clark, Sonay Hoffman, Johanna Lee, Katherine Nolfi, Gabby Revilla, Bernadette Rivero, Kevin Seccia, Erik Shapiro and Debby Wolfe. Following their completion of the FWI, all of the finalists are being submitted for potential staffing on Fox entertainment productions.

Launched in 2013, the Fox Writers Intensive aims to develop diverse, experienced writers and nurture talent for potential staffing on Fox productions. Last year, Fox Audience Strategy expanded the program to provide opportunities across multiple Fox companies, including HarperCollins and 20th Century Fox Film.

“Three years in, the Fox Writers Intensive continues to excel in finding fresh creative voices for our TV, film, literary and digital productions,” said Fox Broadcasting Company COO Joe Earley.

Gonzalez and Haft are represented by Summit Talent & Literary Agency and Luber Roklin Entertainment, and are co-writers, with John Singleton of the upcoming feature film TUPAC, about the life of rapper Tupac Shakur – so if you’ve been thinking that this so-called “contest” was for newbies and would give you the foot in the door you really need, hey, think again. It’s for peeps who already have at least one foot in. What winners get is the cache to throw their whole bodies into the room.

The WGA West Collected $30,000,000 in delinquent Writer Payments Last Year


by TVWriter™ Press Service

The WGAW wants us to know that during the past year it collected over $30 million in unpaid residuals, royalties, et al owed to TV and film writers. Lionsgate had to cough up the most – almost $400,000 in settlement money, and certain Old Media Monoliths were close behind:

  1. Lionsgate – $385,000
  2. 2oth Century Fox Films – $300,000
  3. Walt Disney – $170,000
  4. NBC Studios – $130,000
  5. ABC TV – $116,000
  6. MGM/UA – $69,000
  7. Paramount – $58,000
  8. Warner Brothers – $48,000
  9. Universal City Studios – $19,000

The rest of the mumsers consisted of over a hundred smaller production companies. And in addition to residual and royalties, much of the $30 mil came from unpaid initial compensation, unpaid pension and health plan contributions, credits violations, and interest on the whole shebang.

It’s a tough world out there, kids.

Thanks to our peeps at the Writers Guild!

5 Writers chosen for Universal’s First-Ever Emerging Writers Fellowship

universal-logoby Team TVWriter™ News Service

Universal Pictures has announced the five writers who have been selected to participate in the studio’s inaugural Universal Pictures Emerging Writers Fellowship, which is aimed at identifying and cultivating emerging voices in storytelling and screenwriting .

Universal’s co-presidents of production Peter Cramer and Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, who will oversee the participants, announced that the 2014-2015 fellows are Chandus T. Jackson, Margaret Rose Lester, Steve Martinez, Ivy Pruss and Saila Reyes. 

The application process included multiple writing submissions and interviews with the official selection committee. More than 700 hopefuls applied. After reading the first 500 eligible scripts, the selection committee narrowed the field to 13 finalists who met in Los Angeles for interviews and meetings before the top five were chosen. 

“We had an incredible group of people who applied for this fellowship, and the choice was extremely tough,” Cramer said in a statement.  “The five people our committee selected are tremendously talented, and we are looking forward to working with them as they embark on the next phase of their careers.” 

“The Emerging Writers Fellowship is designed to provide the fellows with the greatest possible exposure to our industry, but it’s also a great opportunity for Universal,” Kirschenbaum added.  “The five fellows have very different backgrounds, giving our team the chance to benefit from their fresh perspectives on some of the projects we currently have in development.”  

The paid fellowship begins this week and will continue for a year. The fellows will be part of the daily production engine, work on specific writing assignments and participate in activities organized by program manager Heather Morris Washington. 

Several notable names in the biz have signed on as mentors and guest speakers, including producerWill Packer (“Ride Along”), writer-producer Chris Morgan of the “Fast and Furious” franchise,  writer-producer Jeremy Garelick (“The Break-Up”), writer-producer Cheo Hodari Coker (“Notorious”) and writer-producer Suzanne de Passe of de Passe Jones Entertainment. 

The fellowship was championed by Universal’s exec VP of production Scott Bernstein and developed in collaboration with senior VP and CFO of film production Arturo Barquet.

TV’s Showrunner Crisis: Many Projects Struggle to Find Experienced Writing Producers

Interesting article. So is LB’s comment at the end:

by Nellie Andreeva
via Team TVWriter™ News Service via TVBizwire via Deadline

john shibaThe search for experienced showrunners around the end of the development season is becoming “an annual tradition,” writes Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com, with increasing numbers of newly picked-up series “in need of a seasoned showrunner every year.”

As an example, with NBC ordering four pilots to series on Wednesday, two of them — “Allegiance” and “State of Affairs” — don’t have showrunners.

So what’s going on? After all, it’s no surprise that the networks were going to make series orders, especially since many of the projects receiving orders were early front-runners.

“Industry insiders trace the problem back a decade ago when the studios cut back on staff writers, breaking the merit-based system for growing writing producers,” Andreeva writes. “The very few staff writer jobs started going to mandatory minority hires and friends of writers or writers assistants.”

Andreeva adds: “While there is nothing wrong with that, the overall dearth of entry-level positions readily available to up-and-coming scribes has resulted in fewer writers getting trained as they go up the ranks, creating a big discrepancy with a lot of senior-level writers and green ones and very few middle-level writers with some experience who are ready to take on a show.”

Additionally, experienced showrunners are either moving to cable or retiring, and there are few writers ready to take their place. “Cable has been a big A-list talent drainer, especially on the drama side,” Andreeva notes.

She points to John Shiban of “The X Files” as an example of that, as he was recently hired to serve as showrunner on the Starz series “Da Vinci’s Demons.”

EDITOR’S NOTE FROM LB: “Additionally, experienced showrunners are either moving to cable or retiring….” Retiring? Let’s get things straight here. I’d amend this sentence to read, “”Additionally, experienced showrunners are either moving to cable or being forced into retirement by age discriminatory hiring practices.” Because that’s what’s been happening since the ’90s – at least.

There, I feel better now.

Judd Apatow’s Ancient SIMPSONS Episode to be On in the Fall

simpsons-450by Team TVWriter™ Press Service

Judd Apatow’s episode of animated comedy “The Simpsons” will finally be broadcast 24 years after the writer/director submitted his script to TV bosses.

Apatow, the brains behind hit movies “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” wrote speculative scripts and sent them to TV production companies as he attempted to break into the industry as a writer.

He submitted a script to “The Simpsons” in 1990, during the first season of the long-running animated sitcom, which began broadcasting in December, 1989.

The script was later rediscovered and bosses planned to bring it to TV last year, however, the project was hit with numerous delays and never entered production.

Work has now begun on the episode 24 years later and the cast is due to take part in the first read-through this week, and Apatow admits he is thrilled.

He writes in a post on Twitter.com on Thursday, “In 1990 I wrote a spec (speculative) ‘Simpsons’ episode to try to get my first job as a writer. Tomorrow, a short 24 years later, is the table read. Joy!”

The episode, in which Homer Simpson is hypnotized into thinking he is 10 years old, is scheduled to air in the show’s 26th season, which begins airing in the in the autumn.

Why are we telling you all this? Easy. Cuz…Judd Apatow. Before he was Judd Apatow.

We wonder if this has been rewritten. And if so – by whom?