Entertainment Industry

Category: Writers Guild of America

Writers Guild restores screenplay credit to Trumbo for 'Roman Holiday'

Trumbo writers guild blacklist roman holiday

Calling it a "gift of justice for the holiday," the Writers Guild of America, West has restored Dalton Trumbo's screenplay credit to "Roman Holiday."

The iconic 1953 movie, in which Audrey Hepburn plays a cloistered princess who falls for an American journalist in Rome played by Gregory Peck, was co-written by guild writers Trumbo and his friend Ian McLellan Hunter.

But Trumbo never got a credit for his work on the film because he was blacklisted as part of the Hollywood 10 after refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities about communist influence in the industry. He was cited for contempt of Congress and imprisoned.

To continue writing, he had to falsely accuse colleagues of "anti-Americanism" or write using fronts or pseudonyms.

Before McLellan Hunter was himself blacklisted, he volunteered to act as Trumbo's "front," accepting payments for "Roman Holiday" and other films and then secretly passing the money to Dalton, according to the guild.

Dalton's son, the late screenwriter Chris Trumbo, joined with his friend Tim Hunter Jr. -- the son of McLelllan Hunter -- to petition the guild to restore Trumbo's credit for "Roman Holiday." 

After investigating the matter, the guild's board, which had given a story credit to Trumbo in 1991, voted to posthumously give Trumbo a full screenplay credit for "Roman Holiday," sharing the honor with McLellan and John Dighton.

"It's not in our power to erase the mistakes or the suffering of the past,'' WGA, West President Chris Keyser said in a statement. "But we can make amends, we can pledge not to fall prey again to the dangerous power of fear or to the impulse to censor, even if that pledge is only a hope. And, in the end, we can give credit where credit is due."

The story of how the sons of the famous screenwriters worked behind the scenes to get Trumbo credit is told in the January edition of the guild's "Written By" magazine. 

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Photo: Dalton Trumbo, circa 1940, courtesy of Writers Guild of America, West. Credit unknown. 

Writers Guild of America, West elects Chris Keyser as president

Chris Keyser Chris Keyser, co-creator of the Fox television series "Party of Five," defeated the better known Patric Verrone in the closely watched presidential contest for the Writers Guild of America, West.

"I want to congratulate Patric in what I thought was an excellent race and I look forward to getting started," Keyser said Friday evening.

Keyser campaigned as a moderate alternative to Verrone and had won the backing of most of the union's high-profile members, including outgoing President John Wells, Susannah Grant and Shawn Ryan, creator of the TV series "The Shield."  

Verrone, who vowed to restore the guild's tradition of union activism and had criticized Keyser's approach to negotiations, also had some big names in his camp, including Matthew Weiner, executive producer of the AMC TV show "Mad Men." But the animation writer had lost the backing of others who had previously been his allies, such as veteran screenwriter Robert King.

Although he retained strong support among former strike captains and rank-and-file members, Keyser and his supporters depicted Verrone as a polarizing figure who had frayed relationships with other unions, mounted an ineffective campaign to organize workers in the reality TV sector and was overly confrontational in his stance with employers.

Patric VerroneKeyser said he would place more emphasis on enforcing the guild's contracts, addressing such problems  as writers not being paid on time or having to write scripts for free. Keyser has written for movies and TV, worked as a freelancer and executive producer, including on "Party of Five," which ran on Fox for six seasons and "Lone Star," the acclaimed TV series that ran only eight days before it was canceled.

The Harvard Law School graduate was a relative unknown inside the guild until the election. He was elected to the board in 2010 and has served for several years as a trustee of the union's pension and health plan.

Also Friday, members the Writers Guild of America, East reelected Michael Winship, who ran unopposed.

[Updated at 5:14 p.m.: Keyser won 1,221 votes, or 60% of the ballots, compared with nearly 40% for Verrone, according to a statement from the guild. In other results, Carl Gottlieb was elected secretary-treasurer, defeating Verrone ally David Weiss, and Howard Rodman was elected vice president, defeating John Aboud. Elected to the guild's board of directors were: Billy Ray, David S. Goyer, Dan Wilcox, Linda Burstyn, Carleton Eastlake, Thania St. John, Ian Deitchman and Alfred Barrios Jr.]

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Photos: Chris Keyser, newly elected president of the Writers Guild of Amierca, West (top). Credit: Courtesy of Chris Keyser. Keyser defeated Patric M. Verrone, former president of the Writers Guild of America, West (right). Credit: Los Angeles Times.

Candidates square off in WGA, West presidential election contest

Verronenew 
The heat is turning up in the upcoming Writers Guild of America, West presidential election.

Christopher Keyser, a board member and co-creator of the TV show "Party of Five," squared off against the better known Patric M. Verrone, the former guild president who led the union through the 2007-2008 strike, in the election booklet sent to members this week. 

In his message, Verrone touted his experience and knowledge of the union. The animation writer said he wanted to put the guild back on a more activist course by organizing additional shows to cover writers who work in cable TV and video games. Keser

Verrone said the guild's position in Hollywood and the American labor movement had "atrophied."

"For much of our 75-year history we have been at the vanguard of progressive thought and activism. Through careful and considered organizing efforts, tempered by a keen sense of member involvement and satisfaction, we can return there in the future."

Keyser positioned himself as a more pragmatic choice and criticized Verrone's past organizing efforts, including an ill-fated effort to organize workers in reality TV.

"What we need to be wary of is our own version of political dynasties, weighed down by old antagonisms, old baggage, old political fault lines that undermine in big and small ways our ability to sit down next to our ought-to-be allies and across from our employers and turn the page toward progress."

Although Keyser is the lesser known of the two candidates he has lined up some high-level support, among them writer-directors J.J. Abrams and outgoing guild president John Wells, and a majority of members of the 2007-2008 negotiating committee.

Verrone's supporters include Matthew Weiner, executive producer of the AMC TV show "Mad Men," and screenwriter Paul Haggis.

In addition to the officer positions, 17 candidates have been nominated to run for eight open seats on the writers union board. Guild members will cast ballots Sept. 15.

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Photos: Patric M. Verrone, former president of the Writers Guild of America, West (top). Credit: Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times. Chris Keyser, board member of the Writers Guild of Amierca, West (right). Credit: Courtesy of Chris Keyser.

 

 

CBS Web writer-producers get first guild contract

The Writers Guild of America, West has signed its first contract covering news writing and promotions for the Internet.

This week about 15 Web writer-producers working in television and radio news and promotions at CBS studios in the Los Angeles area ratified their first-ever contract with CBS, the guild said in a statement.

The three-year agreement includes increases in minimum wages and establishes grievance procedures and paid vacations as well as health and pension benefits.

"We are proud to represent these talented professionals who write news, promotions, and create special projects for new media at CBS,'' WGA, West representative Lynda Whittaker said in a statement. "They showed perseverance and guts in their fight for justice and respect."

The ratification comes nearly two years after the writer-producers unanimously voted to be represented by the guild in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. The guild already has a contract covering other writers who work at CBS in Los Angeles.

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Report: Earnings for WGA screenwriters fell 10% in 2010

The story line was grim for most of Hollywood's screenwriters in 2010. Feature writers belonging to the Writers Guild of America, West reported earnings of $393 million last year, down 10% from the prior year and 25% below 2007's figure, according to an annual financial report from the guild released Friday.

The decline underscored the fact that there are fewer writers working at a time when studios have scaled back the number of feature films they are releasing. The number of screenwriters who reported earnings fell 13% ,to 1,615, last year compared with 2009, the report stated.   Wgalogo

The survey, however, offered some good news: Earnings for television writers grew 3% to $532.1 million, even as employment remained virtually flat at 3,142. That was 6% lower than the recent high employment level of 3,350 in 2007 and nearly 20% below the record high of 3,903 in 2000, the guild noted.

The Writers Guild attributed the higher TV earnings to an increase in residuals -- the payments talent receives when shows are rerun -- especially for basic cable, where residual income from reruns of shows such as AMC's "Mad Men" jumped 32.5% to $20.94 million.

Overall, residuals collected by the WGA, West in 2010 grew 10% to an all-time high of $315.8 million, reflecting the gains in cable TV, as well as big increases writers fetched from their movies and TV shows replaying in international markets.

Residuals from new media -- a battleground for the guild in the 100-day writers strike that ended in 2008 -- rose 24% to $2.63 million.

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WGA, West President John Wells won't run again

-- Richard Verrier

WGA, West President John Wells won't run again

Writer-producer John Wells won't seek another term as president of the Writers Guild of America, West, clearing the way for a closely-watched election that could change the course of the writers union.

Wells, a political moderate who steered the guild through a period of relative labor calm over the last Wells two years, has decided not to run again. Wells could not be reached for comment, but people close to him said he wanted to spend more time on his work, including directing an upcoming movie and serving as an executive producer on two television shows, "Southland" and "Shameless."

His former opponent Patric M. Verrone, who ran the guild during a 100-day strike that began in 2008, has declared his intent to run for the top office position in elections this fall, according to a guild statement. Verrone will square off against the lesser known TV writer Christopher Keyser ("Party of Five"), a moderate who ran on the Wells ticket two years ago in an unsuccessful bid to be the union's secretary-treasurer.

Howard Rodman and Verrone supporter David Weiss are running for vice president and secretary-treasurer positions, respectively. Also running for those seats are TV writer John Aboud and Carl Gottlieb, a former board member and writer for the movie "Jaws."

In addition to the officer positions, 17 candidates, including supporters of Wells and Verrone, have been nominated to run for eight open seats on the writers union board. Guild members will cast ballots on Sept. 15.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: John Wells, producer and current president of the Writers Guild of America, West. Credit: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images.

Hollywood guilds to host Michelle Obama in event honoring military families

 Obama
Hollywood's guilds are teaming up to support First Lady Michelle Obama's initiative to help military families.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild of America, Producers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America West plan to host Obama at an event honoring military families June 13.

The forum, to be held at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, will highlight stories and issues faced by today's military families so their experiences can be integrated into film, television and digital media, according to a statement from the guilds.

"The entertainment industry has the opportunity to help Americans learn more about the unique challenges and needs of military families and to showcase the families strength, resilience and service to our nation," the statement said. "The guilds have joined Mrs. Obama's effort to ensure America's military families have the support and recognition they have earned." 

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during a visit to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego County last year. Credit: K.C. Alfred / Reuters

WGA report: Minority and women writers make few strides in Hollywood

Shondra The script hasn't changed much for the diversity -- or lack thereof -- of writers in Hollywood.

That's the log line from the 2011 Hollywood Writers Report, the latest study by the Writers Guild of America, West on the career status of film and TV writers. The study tracks employment and earnings by ethnicity, gender and age for writers between 2008 and 2009.

Among the key findings: Though the share of minorities working in television -- 10% -- rebounded to 2005 levels, the earnings gap between minorities and white writers more than doubled since 2007. The minority share of employment in feature films declined to the lowest level in a decade, falling to 5% from 6% in 2007, the last year surveyed by the guild.

Women didn't fare much better, according to the report. Their share of overall employment dropped to 17% in 2009 from 18% in 2007. Although the share of women working in television remained stable, the earnings difference between male and female writers rose 84%, to $9,400 in 2009 from $5,109 in 2007. Median earnings for women in 2009 were $98,600, compared with $108,000 for white males.

Meanwhile, the employment rate remained flat for the largest group of older writers -- those between the ages of 41 and 50 -- at 61%. 

"The current recession has done little to help women, minority and older writers move ahead in the Hollywood industry relative to their male, white and younger counterparts,'' stated the report by Darnell Hunt, a professor of sociology at UCLA.

Here's a summary of the report's key findings: http://www.wga.org/uploadedFiles/who_we_are/hwr11execsum.pdf

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Photo: Director and writer Shonda Rhimes ("Grey's Anatomy," 2011's "Scandal") poses backstage at the NAACP Awards in Los Angeles. Credit: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

 

Writers Guild of America members ratify new contract

Hollywood's film and TV writers have signed off on a new three-year contract.

Members of the Writers Guild of America voted by a 91% margin to approve a recently negotiated contract that provides increases in contributions to the guild's pension plan, higher residual payments in pay TV and a bump in minimum pay levels, the guild said Wednesday. The contract takes effect May 2 and covers about 10,500 members.

"We are very pleased that our joint membership has voted so strongly to ratify our 2011 Minimum Basic Agreement,'' said WGA Presidents John Wells and Michael Winship in a statement. "Valuable advances have been made in our pension plan and in other areas important to writers. Nonetheless, we recognize that more work needs to be done."

The agreement between the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the major studios, was patterned after contracts secured by the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America.

"Taking into account the agreement reached with the WGA, the industry has now successfully concluded an agreement with each of the major Guilds over the past six months," the Alliance said in a statement.  "Taken together, these agreements will give the industry an opportunity for a sustained period of labor peace.”

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WGA directors send contract to members for a vote

The Writers Guild of America board of directors has uanimously endorsed a proposed three-year contract for its 12,000 members.

The guild said Friday that directors had voted to send the tentative deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to members for a ratification vote, which will be conducted by mail and also at membership meetings next month.

The proposed contract negotiated on Sunday includes a 20% increase in pay-TV residuals, a 2% increase in annual wage rates and an increase in employer pension contributions to 7.5% from 6%, according a letter the WGA sent to its 12,000 members Sunday night. Negotiations to replace the current contract, which expires May 1, began March 3.

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