Michael Franklin, Former WGA West and DGA Executive Director, Dies at 96

Courtesy DGA
Michael Franklin

He oversaw negotiations with studios for both guilds over three decades.

Michael Franklin, who represented directors and writers as executive director of the DGA and WGA West, died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 96.

From 1958-78, Franklin spent two decades as the longest-serving executive director of the WGAW, an era that guild president David Goodman noted in a statement spanned "the end of the Blacklist, the creation of our pension and health funds, the negotiation of residuals in perpetuity for films and television programs and the postwar maturation of the film and television industries as dominant cultural forces."

"Mike went head-to-head with studio negotiators, including Lew Wasserman, and won unprecedented gains for writers in the 1960s and 1970s," Goodman continued. "His amiable enthusiasm and dogged negotiating style enriched writers and protected their rights in ways that continue to serve us in today's contracts."

Franklin was national executive director of the DGA from 1978-87, when he founded the legal, residuals, membership and signatories departments and established the guild's ability to enforce contracts through the arbitration process. He also oversaw negotiations that secured pay TV formulas for directors and established the current formula for home video residuals.

The DGA named him an honorary life member in 1988.

Goodman also called Franklin "an early advocate for equal representation of women in the ranks of Hollywood writers" and said he led campaigns to prohibit morals clauses in contracts and to eliminate the family viewing hour. The DGA said he was a "dedicated leader in the fight against hiring discrimination."

Born in Los Angeles on Christmas Day in 1923, Franklin graduated from Fairfax High School and then, after serving with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, UCLA and, in 1951, USC's School of Law.

He began his career as an attorney for CBS in 1952 in L.A. and for the network's two local stations, KNXT television and KNX radio. He then joined the legal department of Paramount Pictures, where he worked from 1954-58. 

After retiring from the DGA, Franklin taught the first course in management-labor relations and collective bargaining in the entertainment industry at USC's School of Cinema and Television.

Survivors include his daughter, Barbara.