A CHANGE IN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
In May, members resoundingly voiced their support of newly appointed Executive Director John McLean.
McLean served as CBS Vice President of Industrial Relations on the West Coast for 18 years. In his 25 years of labor relations work, he negotiated over 500 contracts and acted as Chief Negotiator in 100 negotiations. McLean's contract term is 3 1/2 years. McLean is a Trustee of the Writers Guild, Directors Guild and Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans, and of Local 33 IATSE Pension, Health and Annuity Funds. He is also a Management Trustee of the Investment Committee of the International Foundation of Employee Benefits.
McLean's appointment was the culmination of an extensive search by the Guild's Search Committee. The committee included: Daniel Petrie, Jr., President; Michael Mahern, Secretary-Treasurer; Boardmembers Irma Kalish, Carl Gottlieb and Vicki Riskin; former Presidents Frank Pierson and George Kirgo and screenwriter Nick Kazan. They were assisted by Mary Sullivan of The Sullivan Group.
McLean replaces former Executive Director Brian Walton who departed the post on September 1st, 1998. Walton continues to work on behalf of writers as a consultant to the Guild, focusing on the international area of WGA activities.
Among Walton's many accomplishments as Executive Director, in 1988 he led the WGA through the longest strike in the history of the entertainment industry, a strike that redefined how future relations between the studios and the Guild would be conducted. During his years of service, Walton transformed the Writers Guild into an internationally recognized institution in the forefront of the fight for the creative and economic rights of writers.
BOARD EMBARKS ON MAJOR RESTRUCTURE
President Daniel Petrie, Jr. recently announced a major overhaul of the ways in which Guild members serve WGA-represented writers to achieve creative, economic and professional goals. The Board of Directors discussed wide-ranging recommendations for reform made by Mr. Petrie, Vice President John Wells and Secretary-Treasurer Michael Mahern at a Board meeting in early March. The Board unanimously approved the Officers' proposals to adopt a Board subcommittee system, and to establish a Screenwriters Council and a Television Writers Council of prominent members working in those fields. These changes will improve the efficiency of the Board and the Guild's staff by dealing more effectively with substantive issues of major importance to writers.
PROMINENT MEMBERS TO SERVE ON SCREENWRITERS AND TELEVISION WRITERS COUNCILS
The Board has approved the creation of a Screenwriters Council and a Television Writers Council to assure Guild resources are effectively targeted at meeting the creative and professional needs of writers working in all fields within the industry. In presenting their proposal for the Councils in March, WGA west officers Dan Petrie, Jr., John Wells and Michael Mahern stated their hope the Councils would allow prominent members unable to serve on the Board an opportunity for Guild service that will benefit both the Board and membership.
The Screenwriters Council is Co-Chaired by Phil Alden Robinson and Tom Schulman. Other members of the Council are Paul Attanasio, Ron Bass, Dennis Feldman (Board member), Naomi Foner (former Board member), William Goldman, Amy Holden Jones (Board member), Nicholas Kazan, Callie Khouri (former Board member), Larry Konner (former Board member), Daniel Petrie, Jr. (President), Frank Pierson (former President), David Rintels (former President), Gary Ross, Bruce Joel Rubin, Ed Solomon, Dana Stevens, Robin Swicord, Robert Towne (former Board member), John Wells (Vice President) and Steve Zaillian. The staff liaisons are Ann Widdifield, Assistant Executive Director, and Countess Williams, head of the Member Services Department and Special Counsel for Screenwriter Services. WGA, west Vice President John Wells will serve as Chair of the Television Writers Council. Other members of the Council are Steven Bochco, Yvette Bowser, Chris Carter, Tom S. Cook (former Board member), Bob Eisele, John Furia, Jr. (former President), Al Jean, Marta Kauffman, David E. Kelley, Jessica Klein (former Board member), Christopher Lloyd, Michael A. Mahern (Secretary-Treasurer), Jeff Melvoin, Dawn Prestwich, Victoria Riskin (Board member), Shawn Ryan, John Wirth and Nicole Yorkin. The staff liaisons are Countess Williams of the Member Services Department, and Mark Mitchell, Counsel for Television Writer Services.
The Board has delegated authority to the two Councils to address, in particular, several creative issues of primary concern to writers.
In the field of theatrical features, these topics include the hot-button economic problems of free rewrites and late payments. The WGAw Board has targeted these two issues as high priorities for Guild progress, not only to gain economic benefits for screen and long-form TV writers but also to command greater professional respect for their contributions to the creative process. Members of the Screenwriters Council also will function as WGAw's representatives to the Committee on the Professional Status of Writers Theatrical, which meets with CEOs of the major studios on a regular basis. This group is charged in the WGA's Basic Agreement with responsibility to discuss solutions to the difficult issue of possessive credits, among other important topics.
The Councils will meet separately at least once every other month. More frequent meetings may be scheduled as needed. Council meetings will be more informal than Board meetings. The Councils will report their recommended actions to the Board of Directors on a regular basis.
In addition, each Council will be responsible for a semi-annual report to update the Board on its direction and various deliberations. The Board will review the Council system in May, 2000 and then decide whether changes should be made.
BOARD SUBCOMMITTEES TO FOCUS ON MEMBER SERVICES AND PUBLIC PRESENCE
There are two subcommittees of the Board, one covering issues related to member services and the other covering writers' and the Guild's public presence.
All Board members have chosen to serve on one of the subcommittees. The groups meet separately every other month following regular meetings of the full Board. A Guild officer chairs each meeting of the subcommittees, and the agendas are limited to only a few major topics. Subcommittee meetings are more informal than Board meetings, allowing for in-depth review and greater member access to the officers and Board members. In recommending the new system, Officers Petrie, Wells and Mahern sought to give the Board more time to focus its attention on substantive issues while improving the quality of Board deliberations. They expect individual Board members will be able to increase their expertise in specific areas.
Some of the topics to be addressed by the Member Services Subcommittee are the collection and disbursement of residuals and foreign levies payments, outreach meetings for members, pension and health issues, credits, the initiatives undertaken by the Guild's new Member Services Department and matters involving Guild committees. Secretary-Treasurer Michael Mahern has chaired meetings of this subcommittee.
Board members serving on the Member Services Subcommittee are Scott Alexander, David Balkan, Carl Gottlieb, Charles Holland, Amy Holden Jones, Irma Kalish, Brenda Lilly and Jim Staahl. The staff liaison is Ann Widdifield, Assistant Executive Director.
Some of the topics covered by the Public Presence Subcommittee are enhanced enforcement of the MBA, organizing to cover more writers under Guild contracts, the Guild's legislative agenda in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., copyright, media relations, domestic and international alliances, strategic planning, WGA, East/WGA, west issues, and policy matters concerning foreign levies.
Mr. Petrie and Vice President John Wells have each chaired meetings of this subcommittee. Board members serving on the Public Presence Subcommittee are Dennis Feldman, Terry Curtis Fox, Don Mankiewicz, Ann Marcus, Tim O'Donnell, Charles Edward Pogue, Victoria Riskin and Greg Strangis. The staff liaison is Doreen Braverman, General Counsel.
Each subcommittee has been delegated authority from the Board to act in its areas of responsibility. These actions will be reported in writing to the full Board. If the full Board does not change a subcommittee action, it will become an official action of the Board. Each subcommittee also will report its direction and deliberations to the Board semi-annually.
The Board will review the subcommittee system after it has operated for one year, and then decide whether changes should be made.
WGA SELECTED ONE OF AMERICA'S GREATEST PLACES TO WORK
The WGA, in 1998, was selected for inclusion in a book entitled America's Greatest Places to Work with A Law Degree by Kimm Alayne Walton, J.D. The book touted the WGA as a place where innovative thinking and intelligent risk-taking are encouraged and rewarded. The relatively low turnover rate of staff is cited as evidence that the WGA is a great place to work and the book includes personal testimony to the fact that the Guild provides a stimulating and challenging as well as a friendly, almost family work environment. The book is published by Harcourt Brace.