Michele Mulroney Candidate Statement

My Fellow Writers:  I’m a union kid.  Both my parents and my grandparents were factory workers and proud union members, living pay check to pay check, always grateful for and reliant on the protections of their union.  I learned early the value of collective action and have carried those lessons with me into my own union service.  

It’s been my privilege to serve on the Board these past two years. I’ve learned a lot about how our Guild works and the needs of our membership.  I feel confident that this experience has been essential preparation for stepping into an officer’s role, so I am now running for Secretary-Treasurer and humbly asking for your support.

For the last two years, I’ve sat on the Membership & Finance Committee, which oversees all aspects of the Guild’s financial operations, expenditures, investments, the annual audit, loans for writers in distress, dues collection, budgeting and yes, even our recent building renovations.  [Confession:  when it came time to choose a new exterior building color, I lobbied hard for “Black Russian” over “Chocolate Pudd”, so feel free to blame me for that one.]  

The headline is, the Guild is in solid financial shape.  We ended the fiscal year with net assets of $77.5M and an operating surplus of $10.1M.  We have a robust strike fund of $15M and a Good & Welfare Fund of $5.5M.  All these numbers are reflected in our Annual Financial Report, so please take the time to look it over.  We should be proud that the WGA is an open book.  We’re the most transparent union out there.  

Guild officers must be able to work closely with the ED and our incredible staff in an advisory capacity, assessing key policies and priorities. I’ve made a point of  developing strong working relationships with Guild staff over the last two years, so I believe this positions me well to hit the ground running as Secretary-Treasurer.  I’m here to listen and be as responsive as possible to your needs and concerns. 

I’ve spent most of my career working as a screenwriter. I initially ran for the Board  because so many screenwriters told me they felt their issues weren’t always getting the attention they deserved.  With four of our screenwriter board members stepping down this cycle, I’m more committed than ever to doubling down on screen issues, being a strong advocate for our screen members, and continuing to work on initiatives I have helped set in motion.  Here’s a snapshot of some of the things I’ve been involved with:

: As co-chair of our Screen Subcommittee, I helped step up screen outreach in important ways with lunches and mixers, blue sky meetings, cocktail gatherings, house meetings, and member surveys where we’ve gotten to hear directly from all of you about your priorities and concerns.

:  As co-chair of the Committee on the Professional Status of Writers (CPSW), I helped re-launch the committee after years of dormancy.  We met with the heads of each of the major studios to discuss the issues you identified as most important to screenwriters:  pre-work abuses, free work during your contracts, one-step deals, and late pay.  

: In response to your concerns about free pre-writing, I spearheaded the ‘No Writing Left Behind’ campaign to address the issue of producers and executives requesting written materials during the pre-hiring process. 

:  I helped develop and launch The Start Button, an online system where writers can notify the Guild when they commence and deliver work, enabling the Guild to follow up on late pay issues and free work violations.  

:  As the new co-chair of the Screen Credits Review Committee, I am putting the focus on your suggestions and concerns (via last year’s Screenwriter Survey and a recent Arbiter Survey) on how to make our screen credits system as fair and user-friendly as possible.  Your  ideas deserve to be aired out and debated as we work together to improve the screen credits experience.  A couple of things to note:  

We’re seeing more and more instances of concurrent writing, along with increasingly protracted development periods, resulting in a huge spike in participating writer investigations.  In 2014 there was one.  In 2018 there were thirty.  

These days a $100 million movie made for Netflix is handled under the TV Credit rules, even if it is functionally identical to a studio tentpole.  We need to look at this.  

In 2018, 60% of the Notices of Tentative Writing Credits were overturned.  We need to ensure that the companies are more accurately assessing writers’ participation and are submitting the right materials in a more timely fashion.  Arbitrating writers need not be subjected to unnecessary time crunches in what is already a stressful process.

One of the most frequently referenced issues in our surveys was end credits.  You have a lot to say about how writers should be credited in features.  The business has changed significantly since this subject was last broached, so it feels like high time we all had that conversation. It may well be sticky, but it doesn’t mean we should avoid it.   

: I have recently been moderating a series of Indie Film Panels focusing on the key areas of sales, financing and distribution.  I’m committed to finding more opportunities for members to network and access the information they need to be empowered and successful in this arena. 

: As a member of the Sexual Harassment Subcommittee, I was intimately involved in coordinating a series of educational workshops at the Guild: ‘Changing the Story: Preventing and Responding to Harassment in the Workplace’ lead by a consultant from RAINN.  It will be your candid and brave responses to our member survey that will guide the on-going work of this committee as we look to educate the membership around the issues of bullying, harassment and discrimination.  This must include, as a priority, serious efforts to make our workplaces more diverse and inclusive.  

: I enthusiastically supported the work of our Political Action Committee these past couple of years, including hosting a PAC event at my home for Katie Hill from CA-25, who went on to be elected to Congress. 

I realize that for some members, this is pretty much a single-issue election, so let me touch on the AMBA Campaign.  Let’s be real:  it’s tough.  It’s uncharted territory.  We are addressing deeply entrenched practices involving unknowably large revenue streams on which some agencies have come to depend.  So it stands to reason that nothing about this would be easy.  And as with any Guild action – even though this campaign does not require a work stoppage – it impacts every member differently and for some the struggle is more acute than for others.  I promise you, this is absolutely not lost on me and I will continue to do all I can to support you

I’ve never been part of a package.  I’ve never worked for one of the agency-based production companies.  Like many of you, I really liked my agent.  But when I heard countless first-hand horror stories of packaging deals where an agency out-earns their own client, or where deals have been blown up over packaging fees, when I hear about clients not being submitted for shows where their agency has the packaging fee or not even being told about an offer their agency received on their behalf because it doesn’t fit into the agency’s packaging plans… I knew I needed to stand with my fellow writers and work through this together, as this Guild has done countless times, to my benefit, throughout its history.  

I take my job as a member of the Negotiating Committee for the AMBA very, very seriously.  I remain committed to negotiating a fair agreement with any of our agency partners; one that supports our right to proper fiduciary representation.  I’m committed to constantly examining and refining our strategy as the campaign evolves and to supporting compromise where it makes sense.  I am committed to keeping open lines of communication with all of you, hearing your ideas, needs, and concerns. 

On the issue of agency-based production companies: if we do nothing now, in 5 years, do we really want to be negotiating the terms of our MBA with our own agencies?  This is a real existential threat that affects screenwriters and TV writers alike. 

Our proposals around diversity and inclusion should have always been a part of any agreement with our representatives.  

Our request for transparency via the sharing of contracts and invoices is incredibly important, especially to screenwriters, because we cannot enforce what we don’t see. This proposal would enable the Guild to assist members in fighting the two-headed monster of late pay and free work, to collect invaluable data to help us tackle such issues as gender pay equity, and to give us crucial insights for future MBA negotiations.  Consider this:  since 2014, we’ve collected $6M in compensation and residuals interest. That’s money in writers’ pockets.  Imagine how much more we could collect for you if we saw invoices and contracts for all our members.  I, for one, am willing to sacrifice a little bit of my privacy if it can benefit others in our Guild.  

As part of a team of board members, I’ve helped to get tools like the Staffing Submissions System, the Weekly Features Memo, and the Staffing and Development Platform on their feet to assist members during and well beyond this campaign.  Seeing the ways our members are connecting and looking out for one another is nothing short of inspiring.  It has only deepened my belief in what we can accomplish when we stand together.  

Looking ahead to the 2020 MBA, one of the toughest things every three years is getting the membership to engage.  We’re way ahead on that front with the high level of discussion and debate currently going on.  I very much doubt that that the AMPTP is looking at us and thinking we’re weak, that we’re pushovers who’ll settle for crumbs.  Quite the opposite.  Ultimately, our 2020 Pattern of Demands comes from you.  Your priorities must be our priorities.  We know what we’re up against:  mega-mergers, dwindling back-ends, shorter seasons, shrinking staffs, attrition in screen at the studio level, 30-week mini-rooms, stagnating salaries, the epidemic of free work.   

But we also know that content is queen. And it’s not gonna write itself.  Which is where our leverage comes in.  (As evidenced by the swift deal we were able to close with Apple under more favorable terms than our current MBA.)  With new platforms springing up all over town and the competition for streaming supremacy heating up, that means more jobs for writers.  But as our opportunities increase, we must make sure our compensation does too.  Now, as much as ever, it’s about protecting salaries and working conditions.  These are the issues you have been highlighting that I intend to support full-force:

It’s time for screenwriter issues to take center stage.  Let’s pursue foreign theatrical residuals as a percentage of the distributor’s gross.  A proposal like that could put $60-70M in screenwriters’ pockets.   Let’s raise screenwriter minimums.  Let’s fight for multi-step deals for screenwriters. Our 2017-18 studio report card showed 31% on the low end and 64% on the high end in terms of one-step deals at the major studios.  We know the picture is no more rosy at the streamers.  Let’s work on  improving SVOD residual formulas

Having begun to work in TV these past two years, I’ve also gained a much more nuanced understanding of the challenges TV writers face.  Some of the issues I’d like to champion for you include: fighting for paid parental leave, script fee parity across all platforms, more robust span protection, addressing the myriad issues facing writing teams, script fees for staff writers, eliminating the 75% staff writer discount, and curbing free work in TV development. 

I want ours to be a financially and creatively viable profession for generations of writers to come.  It’s up to us to make that happen. Together.

In this election, I hope you’ll consider rewarding the hard work and dedication of our incumbents, while welcoming new voices and perspectives onto our board.  Should you give me your support for this officer’s seat, I commit to continuing to use my time, energy and experience to support you in every way I know how.  

Thank you for reading.  If you have comments or questions, feel free to reach out at:  michelemulroney@gmail.com