Liz Alper for the 2019 WGAW Board of Directors

Liz Alper
Liz Alper
Jul 23 · 6 min read

For a link to my endorsement page, please click here.

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CANDIDATE STATEMENT:

Since April, I have dedicated time, energy, and resources toward boosting my fellow writers and helping them to navigate this strange new normal through grassroots efforts. I created two online spreadsheets intended to connect writers with showrunners and studios: the #WGASolidarityChallenge Grid and the Comprehensive 2019 Staffing Grid. The first is a publicly available master list of writers recommended by upper-level scribes, through the Twitter movement created by Javi Grillo-Marxuach, which I updated twice a week. The second is a crowdsourced compilation of WGA writers available for staffing and was privately distributed to showrunners, covering execs, and producers.

I did this because I saw a lack of immediate resources available to assist TV writers at the mid and lower levels. I wanted to help. When I was a showrunner’s assistant a few years ago, I was part of a well-known network of Hollywood assistants dedicated to helping each other succeed. We could have written each other off as competition; instead, we chose to create a support system.

This is the message behind the #WGASolidarityChallenge Grid, that we work together as a community to help each other rise up. I am glad to see that message has resonated with so many.

I’m running for the Board of Directors because I want to continue serving writers on a larger scale. I’m a mid-level, mixed-race woman with lots of opinions. As a Board member, I would bring my unique perspective and experience to serve my fellow members, as I have been doing for the last few months.

There are several other areas in which I would work hard for the membership:

MBA NEGOTIATIONS

The issues I would be advocating for are as follows:

Streaming residuals: The difference between the residual payment for the first rerun of one network primetime 1-hour episode versus the one for the entire first year of a Netflix original series 1-hour episode is $25,990. Writers depend on residuals to keep them afloat during the dry spells; it’s why we need to fight for SVOD streaming gains in the upcoming negotiations. As network reruns decline and the push for online content increases, we must ensure our members are reasonably compensated.

Expansion of span protection: The 2017 MBA negotiations addressed the issue of TV writer-producers working too many weeks on short-season series, which resulted in their overscale episodic fees being driven down to minimum. The Guild negotiated additional compensation for writers receiving episodic fees on seasons consisting of 14 episodes or less (12 or less if broadcast) in which the writers earned $350,000 or less. Despite the negotiated additional compensation, abuses of the system have resulted in scribes facing similar issues as before, albeit with slightly better pay.

Writing teams: TV writing teams are struggling to make a sustainable living in an age of streaming, short orders, and mini-rooms. They contribute at least 150% of the work of a single writer (two voices in the room, two sets of ideas, etc.). These writing teams deserve higher minimums and must be exempt from span caps.

Family-friendly rooms: I don’t have children, but I have eyes, and I have seen how many scribes with children, especially women, struggle to balance work and family commitments. I have female friends who are concerned an ill-timed pregnancy (i.e. any time) will cost them jobs. Getting the AMPTP to agree to eight weeks of (unpaid) parental leave was a start. I intend to advocate for more gains in this area, including paid parental leave and implementing family-friendly room hours. Beyond these negotiations, we must change the attitude toward mothers and families in our rooms.

Screenwriter concerns: Free rewrites, late pay, and one-step deals are issues that must be addressed. I also support implementing the “Rooney Rule” (which requires employers to interview at least one woman candidate and one diverse candidate for all OWAs), which would be a step toward equal opportunity for underrepresented groups.

HELPING WRITERS SUCCEED

Promoting diversity in the writers’ room and among screenwriters is a personal, passionate goal of mine. The 2019 WGA Inclusion Report showed that diverse writers are mostly represented in the lower levels, while only 17% of women held Executive Producer titles. However, we need to research the overlaps — what percentage of employed senior producers are women of color? Men of color? Writers from other underrepresented groups? This is sensitive information that must be gathered with care as it is paramount that we understand the extent of these inequalities and assist those facing them.

The #WGASolidarityChallenge Grid exposed showrunners and studios to a number of diverse writers. Many executives reached out to say how excited they were to read new talent. There is a desire for underrepresented voices. We need to create opportunities that will continue introducing diverse writers to decision makers.

Throughout the current agency standoff, screenwriters have not seen the boost in support and resources that TV writers have experienced. We are not the TV Writers Guild of America West, and our solidarity efforts must extend to them as well. Besides creating more online resources for screenwriters, we need more panels, salons, and networking events focusing on screenwriter needs.

To support the Guild’s new Staffing & Development platform (an online resource that connects writers directly to executives and producers), I would advocate for creating a “Covering Department” that will follow up on requests, track writer availability, and curate lists of writers for employers with specific needs. After the agency conflict is resolved, this department would continue supporting writers with supplemental job assistance.

MENTORSHIP AND EDUCATION

The WGAW New Membership program does a great job pairing seasoned writers with new members for their first year in the Guild, but the need for guidance is never-ending. We need programs that give lower-level scribes access to mid-level mentors who can better answer the more nuanced questions about the job. We also need mentorship between mid-level and senior-level writers. More people are finding themselves at Co-Producer level without ever having covered set. They need programs and advisors who can teach them the skills they’re no longer learning on the job.

The panels and workshops hosted by the various Guild committees are incredible resources. I would encourage the WGAW to create a digital video library of panels and interviews, giving remote access to members who can’t attend. I would also advocate for taped, audience-less panels and interviews created specifically for this library. Not only would this alleviate scheduling and space concerns, the flexibility would allow busy seasoned writers the chance to participate.

SAFETY

I am deeply grateful to the Guild for the work they have done to address sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace. Moving forward, I would advocate for the Guild to take a stand against the abusers and bullies in our ranks. I’ve spoken to members who refuse to attend Guild events for fear of running into their abusers. Members who contribute to a toxic culture of harassment and bullying should face consequences, such as suspension from Guild events and screenings.

We should also educate all members on gray area issues, like microagressions. Many well-intentioned people just don’t realize how certain actions affect others. The Guild needs to take the onus of education off of the shoulders of those affected.

Now here comes the hardest part of this statement — wrapping up. It’s been a pleasure getting to meet you all over the last few months. I’m honored to be standing beside you now, and I hope you’ll allow me to keep fighting for you on a wider scale as one of your Board members.

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If you’ve gotten this far, thank you. Please consider endorsing me here.

For a list of my current endorsements, click here. Please note the list is still being compiled.

An important note: The #WGASolidarityChallenge Grid was created to support ALL writers, regardless of viewpoint. You do not need to agree with me or vote for me to participate.

    Liz Alper

    Written by

    Liz Alper

    TV writer

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