|Reality TV Storytellers Invade Industry Conference as Part of Writers Guild's Ongoing Organizing Campaign
LOS ANGELES -- This morning, Tuesday, October 25, members of the Writers Guild of America, west Reality Organizing Committee interrupted a panel discussion sponsored by Television Week Magazine and AOL Television titled Reality TV: How Far Can You Push the Envelope? At the conference, reality storytellers leafleted the audience and engaged the panelists in a dialogue on the refusal of both networks and reality TV producers to recognize their demand for union recognition.
Reality TV storyteller Susan Baronoff (Diary of An Affair, Starting Over ) insisted: “Five months ago, no one in that room would have known who we were and what it is we want - today, everyone knew exactly why we were there.”
“We are making TV shows that are incredibly profitable for the networks, and we expect the same protection as other WGA members in television, such as portable health and pension benefits. We are in this fight until these changes happen,” insisted Michael Gara, a reality TV story producer whose credits include The Ashlee Simpson Show and the upcoming Real Housewives.
“It's convenient for the networks to draw lines between the editors and the writers, but the essence of the work is the same. We are all storytellers,” said Nik Nikolaidis, a reality TV editor and member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild (IATSE 700), whose credits include Open Call: Desperately Seeking Homemakers.
Held at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, the panel included David Lyle (COO & general manager of Fox Reality Television), Jonathan Murray (of Bunim-Murray Productions), Nigel Lythgoe (executive producer of American Idol), Bertram Van Munster (executive producer of The Amazing Race ) and Andrea Wong (vice president, Alternative Series and Specials, ABC).
“The reality television industry is now on notice that, whenever its producers and network executives make public appearances, they can expect WGAw writers and storytellers to be there to stake their claim,” said WGAw President Patric M. Verrone. “This Guild will not stand idly by until we have a signed contract on behalf of these unappreciated men and women. Their fight is our fight.”
The Writers Guild of America, west represents writers in the motion picture, broadcast, cable, and new media industries in both entertainment and news. The union conducts numerous programs, seminars, and events throughout the world on issues of interest to, and on behalf of, writers.