Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery sent a letter this week to showrunners employed by the companies’ various studios, reminding them that striking writer-producers are still expected to perform their contractually obligated non-writing services.
The letter from Disney-owned ABC Signature’s legal department reads: “We want to reiterate to you that your role as a showrunner or other writer-producer does not excuse you from performing your duties as a showrunner and/or producer. series as a result of the WGA strike. Your Personal Services Agreement [the] “Even if the WGA tries to fine you for performing such services during the strike, the studio requires you to perform your showrunner and/or producing duties,” wrote Bob McPhail, assistant general counsel for Disney-owned ABC Signature. Hosted by and received by The Hollywood Reporter. “Your duties as a showrunner and/or producer may not be waived, suspended or terminated unless notified to you in writing by the studio.”
The letter was dated May 3, the second day of a strike by the Writers Guild of America against members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios and streamers. Writers picketed in front of major studios and streamers in Los Angeles and New York this week as they demand increased pay platforms, audience transparency from streamers and protections against mini-rooms and the use of artificial intelligence.
A similar letter sent by Max (formerly HBO Max) on May 2 to WGA members serving in producer capacities reads, “HBO/HBO Max respects your WGA membership and will do nothing to put you at risk for violating the WGA. Rules. However, we believe certain services, such as participating in the casting process and/or contributing to non-writing production and post-production work, are clear examples of non-WGA essential services that must be provided at this time.
“The WGA cannot prohibit you from providing Product Services pursuant to your individual Services Agreement unless you provide unwritten services,” the memo added.
The Disney letter (read in full below) contains a Q&A informing showrunners that they are “required” to perform duties that do not comply with guidance the WGA has issued to its approximately 11,500 striking members.
The memo specifically states that in showrunner and/or writer-producer roles, “You may be required to perform services, commonly referred to as ‘a’ along with other non-writing services. Complete h.’ services as a producer,” such as reductions in time, minor changes to dialogue or stories made before or during production, and “changes in technique or stage directions.” These are the duties that non-writers can perform on covered projects, according to the WGA contract.
However, the WGA strike rules expressly prohibit union members from taking these actions during the 2023 strike. “The rules prohibit hyphenates (members working in dual capacities) from performing any writing services, including ‘a) through (h)’ functions,” the rules say, putting showrunners and writer-producers in a difficult position. Caught between the dictates of their employers and their own union.
“Sounds a lot… right? AH duties are specifically outlined by the guild as things you can’t do,” a longtime showrunner told Disney Memo. This guy didn’t get the memo because he doesn’t have a contract with Disney. “But I’m sure there’s a lot of fighting over this stuff legally. Long story short, this document doesn’t fool any of the writers. It’s weird because it’s written like we’re trying to organize a company that’s not already unionized. We’re all already unionized, man.
In a statement THR On Friday, the WGA noted that services “(a) through (h)” are “specifically defined as services written into the guild agreement” and are “work prohibited from performing by guild members during a strike.” Guild added, “It’s a shame that Disney, which has built its business on unionized workers, is resorting to familiar union-busting tactics.”
Max’s letter notes that the agency believes “certain services” during casting, production and post-production are “non-WGA required services” and that showrunners are likely to be caught between their guild’s mandated ban on “(a) through (h) )” activities and Company expectations.
Max’s letter further argues that showrunners must come to work, defying the guild’s insistence that “no members shall cross the WGA picket line or enter the premises of the stricken company for any purpose.” Because the WGA can’t only hire writer-producers to perform non-writing services, the Max communication calls the mandate “misleading”: “HBO/HBO Max expects you to continue to come to work to perform non-writing duties during the term of your contract until those services are properly suspended or terminated.” WGA strike,” it said.
May 5, 3:18 pm Updated to include contents of Max letter and WGA report.