2017 WGA TV Writer Access Project Honorees

We would like to be saying, “This just in from the Writers Guild of America, West,” but, unfortunately we’re a couple of weeks late in relaying what this genuinely important WGAW announcement.

The Diversity Department of the Writers Guild of America, West is pleased to announce the honorees for the 2017 WGAW TV Writer Access Project, a program designed to identify excellent, diverse writers with television staffing experience.

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 LGBT writers.

Scripts, which underwent two rounds of judging, were read and scored on a blind submission basis by WGAW members with extensive television writing experience, including current and former showrunners and writer/producers.

The honorees, which include four minority writers, four women writers, and two LGBT writers, are listed below.

Drama:
– Adrian A. Cruz
– Rachel Feldman
– Sharon Hoffman
– Peter Hume
– Donald Joh
– Tonya Kong
– Zak Shaikh
– Mollie St. John
– Ben St. John

Comedy:
– Hilary Weisman Graham
– Eddie Quintana

Congrats to you all from TVWriter™!

Honorees are now participating in WGAW workshops that will teach them more about careers in television, and the Guild also has made their work available to showrunners, producers, executives, agents, and managers.

For more about the program and how you can become involved with it, CLICK HERE. Tell ’em TVWriter™ sent you…but please don’t say we were late.

Our apologies for not getting this out when it was hot…but it’s still meaningful for us all.

WGA 2017 Contract Talks Entering 2nd Week

If you’re a working TV writer, or genuinely aspiring to become one, this matters more than most people realize. Our futures are at stake here, in so many ways:

“Progress Being Made” at WGA Contract Talks

by David Robb

After a week of hard bargaining, a source close to the ongoing WGA contract talks told Deadline that “there is progress being made and it’s very cordial.” The negotiations, which began Monday, are being held under a strict media blackout at the Sherman Oaks offices of management’s Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

Rescuing the guild’s ailing health plan, which has run at a deficit in all but one of the past four years, is one of the hottest hot-button issues in the negotiations. Several sources have told Deadline that writers are “willing to strike” to maintain current levels of health coverage.

Another flashpoint for a potential strike is the downturn in weekly compensation for series TV writer-producers. The WGA West’s annual reports show that in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, TV writers earned $803 million in wages under the guild’s basic contract, which is over 75% more than the $454 million they earned in 2006.

But those numbers are only based on guild minimums and don’t include the money they make as writers employed in additional capacities, such as producers and executive producers. And that’s where TV writer-producers are taking it on the chin, according to a recent two-season survey conducted by the guild of some 2,000 working TV writer-producers, which found a 23% overall decline in their median incomes from the 2013-14 season to the 2015-16 season.

The leading cause for the downturn is the shortening of many shows’ seasons, with fewer episodes meaning fewer dollars for writer-producers. And that has hit writing teams especially hard because they afford producers two writers for the price of one. Prior to the talks, the guild said that it intended to “address inequities in compensation of writing teams employed under term deals for television and new media series….”

Read it all at Deadline

BritBox is Here!

by TVWriter™ Press Service

Netflix, Amazon, you guys over there at Acorn TV, brace yourselves because BritBox is here!

BBC Worldwide, U.K. TV giant ITV, and AMC networks have launched subscription VOD service BritBox in the U.S. with a price tag of $6.99 per month after an introductory free trial period.

Billed as “the most comprehensive collection of British television, across all genres, available anywhere in the U.S.” BritBox features new and established dramas, classic British soaps, comedies, and a myriad of other programs in a steadily increasing library of BBC and ITV shows, and will be offering new episodes of current shows as little as 24 hours after they appear in the UK.

Among the shows offered are New Blood from writer Anthony Horowitz, Tutankhamun from Guy Burt, The MoonstoneCold Feet, Silent Witness, the original version of The Office, Absolutely FabulousBlackadder with Rowan Atkinson, Gavin & Stacey with James Corden, Miss Marple starring Joan Hickson, Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett.

The service will be available on responsive web, AppleTV, iPhone, iPad and Android mobile phones and tablets, with Roku and Chromecast following shortly after launch.

 

“BBC and ITV are known for a vast array of diverse and award-winning programming that fans in the U.S. love and want to watch,” said BritBox president Soumya Sriraman. “Those fans now have a one-of-a-kind SVOD service option that offers a single point of access to an extensive collection of outstanding British programming to discover and enjoy.”

Does this mean that BBC and ITV shows will be vanishing from their current streaming haunts as mentioned above? That’s going to depend on a number of factors, especially on how well BritBox does in its first quarter or two online.

Will you be giving Britbox a try? We’d love to hear from all visiting Brit TVophiles.

ER’s Creator-Showrunner John Wells Puts His Money Where His Credits Are

If you’re a budding TV and film writer looking for the best place to learn your craft, we’ve got good news for ya. John Wells, of ER, The West Wing, Shameless, et al, has your back:

John Wells & some actor he’s worked with now and again

by Greg Evans

John Wells, the writer, director & producer behind such TV classics as ER, The West Wing and Shameless, has endowed a “significant gift” to the USC School of Cinematic Arts Division of Writing for Screen & Television.

Reflecting the gift, the division will now be called the John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television. Wells is a USC School of Cinematic Arts alumnus.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my career, a career that would not have been possible without the USC School of Cinematic Arts,” Wells said. “It’s where I learned to write, where I learned to produce, where I learned how to direct. My career would not have been possible without my time at USC and without the many wonderful professors who gave unselfishly of their time and expertise.”

Wells currently is the Executive Producer on TNT’s drama Animal Kingdom and Showtime’s Shameless. He was Executive Producer on Southland, Mildred Pierce, and China Beach. For the big screen, Wells produced Beach Boys biopic Love & Mercy and directed August: Osage County, among many others. He’s a a 1982 graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Peter Stark Producing Program.

“We are so grateful to our alumnus John Wells for this support of the talented storytellers who make up the John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television,” said SCA Dean Elizabeth Daley in announcing the gift today.

The Division was dedicated last night, with a program that included a conversation between Wells and West Wing’s Bradley Whitford about “the power of story and writing in Hollywood….”

Read it all at Deadline

Writers Guild Strike, Anyone?

NOTE FROM LB: Negotiations regarding a new Writers Guild of America (both West and East) contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (all the major networks and studios) began yesterday. Here’s an informative breakdown of what it’s all about…as in what’s at stake here (a lot for both them and, yeah, us.)

by David Robb

Negotiations for a new WGA film and TV contract get underway Monday, and if the two sides fail to reach an agreement in a couple of weeks, expect a rush to get film scripts completed in anticipation of a strike come May 1, when the union’s current contract expires.

That’s what happened 10 years ago before the WGA launched a strike over new media that lasted 100 days. And despite the walkout, which shortened the 2007 writing season by nearly two months, “Earnings reported by WGA West writers surprisingly reached a new all-time record” that year, according to the guild’s 2008 annual report. “Much of the increased work appears to be related to accelerated employment prior to the strike.”

Such speed-ups are not uncommon when producers of greenlighted films fear a strike could leave them without polished scripts on the expiration date of a WGA contract. In the event of a strike, productions without finished scripts could be stalled for weeks or months until their writers return to work.

The recent round of membership meetings on the guild’s bargaining positions suggest that writers are ready to strike if they don’t get what they want. Typical of the responses coming out of the informational meetings was this one: “Writers deserve more and the companies can afford to pay it, and we may just have to fight for it.” As for a strike, the same person said, “I pray that there will not be one, but I fear that there will be one.”

Suggesting that another showdown with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers might be coming over new media, guild leaders told their members last month that “new models of development, production and distribution, while making the companies richer, have not worked to your individual or collective advantage.”

Another issue that has emerged as a rallying point for a potential strike is the downturn in weekly compensation for series TV writer-producers. Two guild surveys, which polled some 2,000 working writer-producers, found a 23% overall decline in their median incomes from the 2013-14 season to the 2015-16 season.

And despite a rapidly expanding marketplace for American TV shows, many writers are feeling pinched by shorter orders on episodic series. That’s especially hard for writing teams, which afford producers two writers for the price of one.Hollywood’s screenwriters have been hit especially hard by the steady decline in the number of films released during the past decade. In 2006, MPAA-member companies, which include all the major studios, released 296 films, and it’s been downhill ever since. In 2015, they released just 167 films – nearly 45% fewer than in 2006.

In fact, Hollywood’s film writers have seen their wages steadily erode during the past two decades. According to the WGA West’s annual reports, they earned more in 1996 ($364.4 million) than they did in 2015 ($362.1 million) – and that’s in real dollars. Adjusted for inflation, they collectively earned about a third less in 2015 than they did in 1996.

Read it all at Deadline

WGA-AMPTP Negotiations Start the 2nd Week in March

Our fingers already are crossed for this, just in from the WGAW:

Dear WGAW Member,

We’re writing to let you know that the Writers Guilds of America, West and East are beginning formal contract negotiations with The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on Monday, March 13, 2017.  The talks will take place at AMPTP headquarters. The current Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) expires on May 1, 2017.

Executive Director David Young will serve as Chief Negotiator.

The members of the 2017 Negotiating Committee are listed below.

Chip Johannessen, Co-Chair
Chris Keyser, Co-Chair
Billy Ray, Co-Chair

Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Andrea Berloff
Adam Brooks
Zoanne Clack
Marjorie David
Kate Erickson
Jonathan Fernandez
Travon Free
Howard Michael Gould
Susannah Grant
Erich Hoeber
Richard Keith
Warren Leight
Alison McDonald
Luvh Rakhe
Shawn Ryan
Stephen Schiff
David Shore
Meredith Stiehm
Patric M. Verrone
Eric Wallace
Beau Willimon
Nicole Yorkin

Howard A. Rodman, WGAW President, ex-officio
Michael Winship, WGAE President, ex-officio
David A. Goodman, WGAW Vice President, ex-officio
Jeremy Pikser, WGAE Vice President, ex-officio
Aaron Mendelsohn, WGAW Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio
Bob Schneider, WGAE Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio

We will keep you posted about any significant developments.

In Solidarity,

Howard A. Rodman, President

David A. Goodman, Vice President

Aaron Mendelsohn, Secretary-Treasurer

Indie Filmmakers – Amazon Wants You!

And this time it looks like they really mean it:

Check out Amazon Direct!

by Jason Guerrasio

With the Sundance Film Festival just finished, filmmakers whose films didn’t get sold during the festival are now trying to come up with a strategy to stay relevant in the eyes of buyers.

In the hopes of attracting some of the movies that aren’t having distributors knocking down their doors, Amazon announced before the festival began that any feature film that played at this year’s Sundance can join its Amazon Video Direct platform, a service that Amazon touts as being a “self-service publishing interface, without the need for complex negotiations or contracts.”

But numerous filmmakers and producers at Sundance who talked to Business Insider expressed uncertainty about how beneficial the service would be not just to titles at the fest, but for independent films that are desperately looking for some kind of release.

Amazon launched the self-distribution platform Amazon Video Direct (AVD) last May with the intention, as AVD head Eric Orme told Business Insider, to give filmmakers “another avenue if they don’t feel they will secure distribution.”

It’s free of charge to upload any film to the platform. The only requirement is that it must meet the Amazon Video guidelines and contain captions or subtitles. You then select the options on how the movie will be viewed — rent, buy, available for free on the site with ads, or available on Amazon Prime. Then the movie is on the service for potentially millions to see.

A filmmaker can track how it’s performing by using their AVD dashboard to see how many people are viewing the content and where in the world it’s being viewed.

But because of the prestige that comes with being selected to show at Sundance, Amazon is dishing out upfront cash to entice filmmakers there.

In a program touted as “Film Festival Stars,” AVD (not to be mistaken with Amazon Studios, which acquires films for theatrical/streaming and produces projects in house) will provide Sundance 2017 titles that join by February 28 a publishing bonus as well as enhanced royalty rates.

The non-recoupable, onetime bonus is $100,000 for titles that were in this year’s US dramatic or premieres categories at the fest. It’s $75,000 for US documentaries and documentary premieres. And $25,000 for titles that were in the world dramatic, world documentaries, NEXT, Spotlight, Kids, Midnight, or New Frontier sections….

Read it all at Business Insider