EXCLUSIVE : Throughout the day, we have heard about the concerns many authors have over recent package brass talks and affiliate manufacturing companies that led the WGA to require its members to fire their agents. Some authors with close ties to their longstanding reps want all WGA and ATA back on the negotiating table, with less rancor and a mindset to find a solution. Jon Robin Baitz, playwright / writer / TV producer – who has just signed the adaptation of the Jo Piazza short story Charlotte Walsh likes to win as a series for Julia Roberts to steal in and produce with Baitz and wiip – has become the first major WGA member writer to publicly declare to his union that he will not shoot his agents. Baitz is the two-hour Pulitzer Prize finalist playwright who created the ABC series Brothers & Sisters and NBC miniseries The Slap .
Julia Roberts In Talks To Star in Amazon Series & # 39; Charlotte Walsh likes to win & # 39; Jon Robin Baitz adjusts Jo Piazza Novel
He sent a letter to WGA, a copy of which Deadline Hollywood obtained. Here it is in its entirety.
To Guild Leadership:
I am deeply sad to say that I cannot follow your insistence that I fire my agents at CAA. This despite my eager faith in the WGA mission and performance.
First, I have entered into an agreement with WIIP, a study owned by CAA. If I were to shoot them, I would be hypocritical, which I try to avoid much in life, with mixed results. Let me point out, my agreement on WIIP for Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, which has an air order of 8 episodes from Amazon, is the best I have ever made. (You claim that these lucrative offers are "tabled leaders" based on I do not know what.) I have again employed three members of the WGA at the producer level, and I make an author assistant, a female diversity lease, to a staff author in the first order. But more importantly, I have to be honest about my relationship with my agents, which I think is not so unusual.
Bryan Lourd and I have been friends for over thirty and five years. Like many authors and their reps, our friendship began well before we both had achieved the level of success we have. I met him when he started, and I was a young LA playwright represented by Michael Peretzian and George Lane, who were William Morris agents at that time. Both eventually became agents of CAA.
Brian Siberell at CAA became my agent in 2000, but we first met in 1986 when George Lane introduced us. Brian worked on HBO. I was a bad playwright and he bought a script from me and it paid for my existence in NY for over a year. I think it was a $ 27,000 deal. Again, I don't think it's so unusual to have this kind of deeply filled personal story with their agent.
In 2002, Joe Cohen asked CAA to think about working on television. Aaron Sorkin had asked me to write an episode of the West Wing, as I did, and who was shot pretty much word for word. Joe made the deal for many times the WGA minimum. I loved the work. In 2006, he made an appointment for me to write a pilot for ABC, based on a pitch about an American family struggling with inheritance, privilege, and their own history and ideological clashes. He saw me through Brothers & Sisters, and he was honest, fair, kind and straightforward, even when I created a situation that could only lead me to be fired from my own show. He was patient with me and understanding. He also taught me to think about TV scripts. He thought I could do it, could have my own show, be able to make compelling and viable TV. He never stopped believing in me, and because of that I never gave up. And I love him.
ABC / Disney forced me out of my own show in the wake of the WGA strike in 07/08, where I was openly on behalf of the goals we were trying to achieve. The guild was moving pretty much, and I was alone, but Joe Cohen and Bryan Lourd stuck off me, and Brian Siberell made sure I went back to work right away as soon as I could deal with this trauma. They all believed in me. As far as I know, I was the only WGA member with a show on the air that was forced out of a so-called law of god clause.
I have supported the guild as a conscience since I joined over 30 years ago. But something has happened. I see people I love being characterized as racketeers and criminals. Yes, real change is needed with regard to agencies and packaging and subsidiaries, but the notion that these people are simply dangerous and greedy providers lacks in nuance or context and does not seem to take into account the enormous changes in the media landscape and the ever-growing power of the studios and streaming services. By turning our agents into villains by insisting on an imperfect tone, you have alienated important allies when calm and patience could have achieved real results.
In fact, WGA has negotiated its legitimate concerns in such a way that bellicose, so histrionic, so deficient and in perspective, that in my opinion you have betrayed the interest in membership. You've used a land management policy that ignores the significant and, in my case, life-changing investments that agents have made in our careers – the endless hours, conversations, handholds, and especially the care and protection of younger emerging voices.
The leadership went into war eagerly and with joy, and everyone who reads this knows this to be true. There was blood loss in the workplace. David Simon was treated as a rock star to turn a scenario where he could cut the agents' tires. The membership was putty. Owning that writers cheered him on, eager to overthrow the evil big ones. No perspective was allowed. The changing dynamics of the entertainment industry were not taken into account. Our agents are now our enemies.
I think it's time that a new kind of management takes the helm of WGA. It is time for a mature, measured and perceived philosophy, one that is not dependent on the politics of division that we have become accustomed to. It's time for adults who don't throw the whole business into chaos and darkness. It's time for a leadership that sees the big changes that occur in the business, and recognizes that writers are not surrounded by eternal enemies.
It is time to reject the white rage, the desire to punish, the urge to tear down the existing structures, simply in the name of & # 39; fairness & # 39;. It's time for the WGA to learn that adults come to the table to find solutions, not to find cause for battle.
I am a union man, but I do not turn my back on my loyal friends. I can't be the person you want me to be. I can't link to my agents because I would delay people I love, people who have helped me create a life where I go back and forth between two forms I know and love.
WGA is a valuable, vital and proud union. The benefits it has created for writers over the years have made it possible to get unsurpassed pensions and medical care and to enter into business agreements knowing that the guild is there to protect and back up its members. And even in this battle, the Guild has worthy goals – I do not dispute that. But in all decades of combat studies and networks, in all the battles with the actual opponents, something has been wasted and influenced your prospects and views in this conflict with the ATA.
Let us not be part of the present cruelty and gravity of the world. ATA – a listener – you have them at the table. Find a way forward that does not mean disturbances and broken conditions. Remember that agents are people and have feelings, families, parents and sensitivities, just like us. I have seen too many unintended consequences in reality in history and in life, and I am afraid that they will have tragic consequences here.
With sadness and respect,
Jon Robin Baitz