EXCLUSIVE: All day long we have heard the doubts of many writers about the recent brass-knuckle negotiations on packaging and affiliated production companies that have prompted the WGA to demand that its members dismiss their agents. Some writers who have close ties with their long-term representatives want everyone to have WGA and ATA back at the negotiating table, with less resentment and a mindset to find a solution. Jon Robin Baitz, the playwright / screenwriter / TV producer – who has just signed to adapt the Jo Piazza novel Charlotte Walsh likes to win as a series in which Julia Roberts can play and produce with Baitz and wiip in the lead – has become the first major WGA member writer to publicly declare to his union that he will not fire his agents. Baitz is the dual finalist-playwright of the Pulitzer Prize who made the ABC series Brothers Sisters and the NBC mini series The blow.
Julia Roberts In conversations with Star In & # 39; Charlotte Walsh likes to Win & # 39; from Amazon; Jon Robin Baitz adjusts Jo Piazza Novel
He has sent a letter to the WGA, a copy of which Deadline Hollywood has been obtained. Here it is, in its entirety.
To the Guild Leadership:
I am deeply saddened to say that I cannot agree to urge you to fire my agents at CAA. This despite my strong belief in the mission and performance of the WGA.
Firstly, I made a deal with WIIP, a studio that is partially owned by CAA. If I fired them, I would be a hypocrite, something I try very hard to avoid in life, with mixed results. Let me point out, my WIIP deal for Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, which has an on-air order of 8 episodes from Amazon, is the best I've ever made. (You claim that these lucrative deals are "loss leaders" based on what I don't know.) I, in turn, have hired three WGA members at production level and am helping a writer assistant, a female diversity recruiting staff, writer during the first order. But more importantly, I have to be honest about my relationship with my agents, which I think is not that unusual.
Bryan Lourd and I have been friends for more than thirty-five years. Like many writers and their representatives, our friendship began long before we both reached the level of success that we have. I met him when he started, and I was a young playwright from LA, represented by Michael Peretzian and George Lane, then William Morris agents. Both eventually became agents at CAA.
Brian Siberell from CAA became my agent in 2000, but we first met in 1986 when George Lane introduced us. Brian worked at HBO. I was a bad playwright and he bought a script from me and it paid for my existence in New York for over a year. I think it was a deal of $ 27,000. Again, I don't think it's all that unusual to have this kind of deeply filled personal history with that agent.
In 2002, Joe Cohen from CAA asked me to think about working on TV. Aaron Sorkin had asked me to write a West Wing episode, which I did, and it was recorded fairly word-for-word. Joe made that deal for many times the WGA minimum. I loved the job. In 2006 he made a deal for me to write a pilot for ABC, based on a pitch about an American family struggling with legacy, privileges and their own history and ideological clashes. He saw me through Brothers & Sisters and he was honest, outspoken, friendly and straightforward, even when I created a situation that could only result in me being shot out of my own show. He was patient with me and understanding. He also taught me to think in terms of TV scripts. He believed I could do it, make my own show, create compelling and viable TV. He never stopped believing in me and that's why I never gave up. And I love him.
ABC / Disney forced me from my own show in the aftermath of the WGA strike in 07/08, where I was frank on behalf of the goals we were trying to achieve. De Guild shrugged, and I was alone, but Joe Cohen and Bryan Lourd stayed with me, and Brian Siberell made me go back to work immediately as soon as I could handle this trauma. They all believed in me. As far as I know, I was the only WGA member with a performance OVER THE AIR to be forced by a so-called Act of God clause.
I have supported the guild as a matter of conscience since I became a member more than 30 years ago. But something happened. I look at people I love to be characterized as blackmailers and criminals. Yes, real changes are needed in terms of packaging and subsidiary agencies and production companies, but the idea that these people are just greedy and greedy exploiters is lacking in nuance or context, and does not seem to take into account the huge changes in the media landscape and the growing power of the studios and streaming services. By making villains out of our agents, insisting on a tone of indecency, you have alienated essential allies when calmness and patience could have achieved real results.
Indeed, the WGA has negotiated its legitimate concerns in a way that is so warlike, so histrionic, and offers so little scale and perspective that you have betrayed the interests of membership in my opinion. You have applied a scorched earth policy that ignores the important, and in my case, life-changing, investments that agents have made in our careers – the endless hours, the conversations, holding hands, and in particular the nurturing and protection of younger, emerging voices.
The leadership went to the war eagerly and with pleasure, and everyone who reads this knows that this is true. There was a lust for blood at work. David Simon was treated like a rock star for rolling out a scenario in which he could cut off bands of agents. The membership had crept. Own that. Writers applauded him and wanted to drop the Evil Big Three. No perspective allowed. The changing dynamics of the entertainment industry had not been taken into account. Our agents are now our enemies.
I believe it is time for a new kind of leadership to take the helm at the WGA. It is time for a mature, measured and considered philosophy, one that is not dependent on the policy of division to which we have already become too accustomed. It's time for adults who don't throw the whole company into chaos and darkness. It is time for leadership to see the enormous changes in the company and recognize that writers are not surrounded by perpetual enemies.
It is time to reject the white-hot anger, the desire to punish, the urge to break down existing structures, simply in the name of & # 39; honesty & # 39 ;. It is time for the WGA to learn that adults come to the table to find solutions, not to find a reason for the fight.
I'm a trade unionist, but I don't turn my back on my loyal friends. I can't be the person you want me to be. I cannot break ties with my agents, because I would renounce people I love, people who helped me create a life in which I go back and forth between two forms I know and love.
The WGA is a precious, vital and proud association. The profits that the writers have made over the years have made it possible to have unparalleled pensions and medical care and to conclude business agreements with the knowledge that the Guild is there to protect and support its members. And even in this struggle the guild has valuable goals – I do not dispute that. But in all decades of fighting studios & networks, in all battles with real opponents, something has been skipped and affected your view and position in this conflict with the ATA.
Let us not be part of the current cruelty and cruelty of the world. The ATA listens – you have them at the table. Find a way forward that does not mean disruption and shattered relationships. Remember that agents are people and have emotions, families, parents and sensitivities, just like us. I have seen too many unintended consequences in history and in life, and I fear that those who are here will have tragic consequences.
With sorrow and respect,
Jon Robin Baitz