“If you’re getting this email, a writer, agent, manager, lawyer or frankly someone’s dog walker has told me you might be interested in talking about the WGA situation and that you have concerns of some kind.”
That’s how the invitation began. In mid-April, after talks between the Writers Guild and the Association of Talent Agents broke down, a group of five guild members who were skeptical of their leadership’s strategies in the fight with the agencies created a private venue for discussing their concerns. Now the group, which calls itself Writers for Negotiation, consists of more than 500 guild members who communicate using a chat app for video gamers called Discord, in a forum set up by the 16-year-old son of one of the organizers.
“We are emphatically supporters of the guild,” says one of the organizers. “That’s not the same as being loyal to these particular elected leaders.”
The organizers, who include showrunners, feature writers and directors, and who also occasionally meet in person, wish to remain private to avoid publicly criticizing the guild while negotiations are underway. Guild members who participate in the Discord forum describe it as a safer space to communicate than social media or official WGA events, where expressions of dissent can seem professionally and personally perilous. “The guild calls us snivelers and whiners,” says one showrunner in the group. “The reality is, people on here are desperate to solve this thing. It’s a respectful forum of really smart people trying to figure out a way to get us to the table.”
In contrast, says another showrunner in the Discord group, “Guild leadership-led meetings were framed as more of a free flow of ideas than they became. They’ve been moving toward propaganda. Those meetings were an opportunity to seal their agenda, not to hear from any of us who might disagree.”
There have been some hiccups on the road to building the forum, as when WME’s Ari Greenburg forwarded the invitation widely, causing some WGA members to view it skeptically as a tool of the agencies. The organizers say agents — along with journalists — are forbidden to join.
For its part, the WGA leadership says it has no issues with the group. “We do nothing to discourage that,” says board member Patric Verrone. “This is a union built on free expression. They are well within their rights.”
This story first appeared in the June 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.