WGA picks two to lead contract talks

John Bowman, Billy Ray to co-chair negotiating committee

John Bowman and Billy Ray will co-chair the Writers Guild of America's negotiating committee during deal talks for a new film and TV contract, the union said Wednesday.

The WGA's current contract expires May 1, 2011, two months before similar contracts expire for SAG, AFTRA and the DGA on June 30. Performers unions SAG and AFTRA jointly begin preliminary bargaining sessions with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers in late September.

Ray, a screenwriter, and Bowman, a television writer, are members of the WGA West board of directors, and the latter chaired the bargaining sessions in 2007 that led to a four-month strike by scribes.

Ray's appointment to the lead negotiating team points to the complicated politics of inter-union relationships during bargaining season. Since Ray is also a director ("Breach," "Shattered Glass"), his inclusion could provide a strategic bridge with the directors guild, which often jumps in front of the writers to hammer out an early agreement with employers.

Those deal templates are often criticized by the WGA as insufficient, so Ray's participation could be designed to better align writers' and directors' contract goals in the coming months.
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