Disney this week sent a letter to the showrunners employed by the company’s various studios reminding the amazing writers and producers that they are still expected to perform their contractually binding non-writing services.
We specifically want to assure you, as another presenter or writer and producer, that you are not excused from performing your duties as presenter and/or producer on your series as a result of the WGA strike. [the] The studio requires that you perform your showrunner and/or production duties even if the WGA attempts to fine you for performing such services during the strike,” Bob McPhail, assistant chief counsel for Disney-owned ABC Signature, wrote in the letter to the showrunners that got on her Hollywood Reporter. “Your duties as showrunner and/or producer shall not be relieved, suspended or terminated until and unless notified to you in writing by the studio.”
The letter is dated May 3, the second day of the Writers Guild of America strike against members of the Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance, which represents studios and broadcasting companies. Writers hit picket lines in front of major studios and screens in Los Angeles and New York this week as they seek increased pay floors, viewing transparency from signs, protection from small rooms, and the use of artificial intelligence.
The letter (read it in full below) contains questions and answers telling exhibitors that they are “required” to perform duties that may include responsibilities that may not align with guidance provided by the WGA to its approximately 11,500 striking members.
The memo specifically states that in showrunner and/or writer-producer roles, “you may be required, along with other non-writing services, to perform services commonly referred to as ‘a. flour h. services as a producer,” such as time cuts, small changes to dialogue or narration before or during production and “changes in artistic direction or in stages.” These are the duties that, according to the WGA contract, non-writers can perform on covered projects.
However, the WGA’s strike rules expressly prohibit union members from performing these activities during the 2023 work stoppage. “The hyphenated rules prohibit (members working in dual capacities) from performing any writing services, including jobs” (a) to (h),” the rules state, putting the showrunners, writers and producers in a difficult position, caught between the dictates of their employers and their union.
“A lot of it seems… Wrong? A longtime showrunner who didn’t receive one of the warrants, because they don’t have a deal with Disney, said AH’s duties were specifically designated by the union as things you couldn’t do.” Legal I’m sure there is a lot of controversy surrounding these things. Long story short, this document is not fooling any writer. It’s weird because it’s almost written as if we were trying to organize a company that wasn’t really a union. Like, we’re all in the union already, man.”
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