This post refers to a letter published by Craig Mazin, who’s running for vice president of WGA West, in response to WGA member Shawn Ryan
Dear Shawn Ryan,
We’ve never met.
I very much hope our paths will cross over the next 7 weeks.
But until they do, I think it’s useful to address certain assumptions you’ve made about what I stand for regarding the current action with the agencies.
I have stated clearly that reform to the practice of packaging and the collection of packaging fees is absolutely necessary — and that these serious agency conflicts must be addressed. This includes affiliate production.
I have nowhere said that I would seek to drop lawsuits or be “nice” to agencies.
I have said I don’t believe we will find the best solution in an over-reliance on lawsuits. A lawsuit is a tool, like any other in a negotiation. Given your experiences with high-level negotiation and with the “best lawyers in town,” I think you know that most lawsuits are settled long before they play out in court. Like I said, a lawsuit is one tool. It’s not the only tool in the box. You use it for leverage, and this leverage is effective only if we are negotiating with the Big 4. Otherwise, that tool is a costly waste.
We owe gratitude to the current leadership for beginning to address these issues. I’ve said that, too. But to be blunt, we’re pretty much where we started when this action began in terms of tackling those problems.
We’ll never get there by avoiding the largest agencies — who represent the majority of our members — the agencies that engage in the lion’s share of packaging and who have ownership stakes in affiliate production companies.
You can create franchise agreements with as many agencies as you like, agencies that have done little or no packaging to this point and/or don’t have ownership stakes in affiliate production companies. That’s great for our members who can get back to work with their reps, and it’s to be applauded.
But it does not change the fact that the only way to address the conflicts current leadership highlighted is to hammer out an end to these conflicts with the very agencies who truly have those conflicts — the Big 4.
In refusing to negotiate with the ATA, current leadership has effectively refused to negotiate with the Big 4. Stalemate. That benefits no one.
It’s naive to think otherwise.
I’ll take a moment to address the broad assumptions and speculation you make about my character and approach to negotiation.
You mistake civility for weakness, and a desire to find a solution to the stalemate we’re in for a lack of fire in the belly or a desire to fight. You use words like “respectful,” “polite,” and “nice” as if they’re the Ebola virus. And that scares the hell out of me.
But like I said, you don’t know me. If you did, you’d know that I am the fighter you seem to seek. I’m honest. I’m tough. I’m aggressive. I don’t give up. Yeah, I’m civil. I don’t have a loud voice and I don’t scream my way through debates — and none of that should strike you as a disadvantage or cause you to be fearful on behalf of our fellow Guild members.
There’s always more than one way to win a fight. To answer your questions directly:
1. Yes, the conflicts and abuses of both have to be tackled head on and greatly curtailed or eliminated. That requires focused negotiation followed by presentation of terms to the entire membership for approval. It’s worth repeating — none of this will happen without rolling up sleeves and getting back to the negotiating table.
2. Leadership that’s inflexible on tactics loses. Every single time. You win this by being nimble enough to change course when necessary.Period. It’s not about “returning writers to their agents.” It’s about putting us in the strongest possible position for AMPTP negotiations next year. I do not believe the current strategy puts us there. Not by a long shot.
3. A few agreements with non-packaging and non-affiliate production-owning agencies in nearly four months are not significant progress. Do the math. Extend it to AMPTP negotiations. And it’s worth repeating that none of this addresses packaging or affiliate production.
Three agents leaving Abrams to set up shop is good for them and good for the clients they can take with them. On the other hand, Verve — never an ATA member — is dropping clients who’ve been loyal to them over time and taking on bigger fish who’ve left the Big 4. We’re all hearing more stories like that. One step forward, two steps back.
The new Guild inclusion report is inaccurate at best and misleading at worst, with only 60% of “anticipated hiring” this season tallied. Talk to me again when the report is complete. Then ask me if I think stability or mirroring industry-wide trends is enough. (It’s not.) Part of my platform is about transparency and proper data tracking.
My rationale for running is not solely about the agencies, though that is what you and others with fears about a change in leadership choose to focus on. I hope we can now move on to what the future could look like for our Guild.
To that end, I invite you to get to know me and my fellow Guild members who are running for office and for the Board in the coming weeks. Get to know our further positions and platforms as we begin the process of engagement with membership.
And the next time something about me scares you, add me to your email list. I’ll always try to put those fears to rest.