WGA West President John Wells Will Not Seek Reelection (Exclusive)

5:04 PM PST 06/18/2011 by Jonathan Handel
Joe Pugliese

Candidates for 2011-2013 may include past president Patric M. Verrone and board member Christopher Keyser.

Writer-producer John Wells, the president of the WGA West, is not seeking another term, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Sources say that one candidate for the two-year position is expected to be past president Patric M. Verrone and that board member Christopher Keyser was asked by the nominating committee to run and is considering doing so.

The official selection of nominated candidates occurs at a guild board meeting a week from Monday. Until then, the lineup could change and/or additional candidates emerge. Guild rules require at least two candidates.

Wells is currently in his second non-consecutive term as president; he previously served from 1999 to 2001. An email to him was not immediately returned. However, a source told THR that Wells’ decision was based on his professional workload: he oversees Showtime’s Shameless and TNT’s Southland and is preparing to direct a second theatrical film as well. (His first was the recent Company Men.)

In other union election news, THR has learned that AFTRA president Roberta Reardon is running for reelection. It’s not yet known whether there will be other candidates. AFTRA chooses its national officers at a convention, which this year will be held July 21–23 in Seattle. Convention delegates were recently elected. SAG national president Ken Howard and key officers are running for reelection as well; other candidates are not yet known.

Verrone was president of the WGA West from 2005-2009 and organized and presided over the WGA’s 2007-2008 strike. Emails and phone messages to Verrone, Keyser and a WGA spokesperson were not immediately returned.

WGA West candidates are chosen by a process involving both a nominating committee and the guild’s board. In addition, candidates can run by petition. The election is in September.

In addition to his work on Shameless and Southland, Wells has previously created and/or executive produced The West Wing, Third Watch, and China Beach. According to the guild, he is a seven-time WGA Award nominee and his shows have received 267 Emmy nominations, with 55 wins.

Verrone’s 25-year career includes writing for Emmy-winner Futurama and The Tonight Show. Keyser’s career spans over two decades, and his credits include writing and executive producing Party of Five.

Some WGA members feel that, as a writer-producer, Wells is inherently more a manager than a rank and file writer, and that, as such, he is too close to the studios and networks. For that reason, they argue that a writer-producer should not be guild president.

That’s presumably a minority view, since, of course, Wells won the last election. In addition, guild insiders describe Wells as having a keen appreciation for issues important to the rank and file.

A Verrone v. Keyser campaign would pit lawyer against lawyer and Harvard against Harvard: Verrone is a graduate of Harvard College and Boston College Law School, while Keyser graduated from both Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Verrone has been a member of the LA County Bar Association magazine’s editorial board and has written a number of legal articles for the magazine, most recently one on net neutrality.

In New York, the WGA East recently announced its officer and Council candidates; two-term president Michael Winship is running unopposed for reelection.

Email: jhandel@att.net

Twitter: @jhandel

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