Drama Showrunners Talk WGA-ATA Dispute, Evolving Industry at Variety’s ‘A Night in the Writers’ Room’

Variety | 6/14/2019 | Will Thorne
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The WGA-ATA saga loomed large at Variety‘s “A Night in the Writers’ Room,” where showrunners and lead writers from several of the year’s best dramas gathered to discuss their business and craft.

The big four agencies and the WGA finally agreed to return to the negotiating table last week after a weeks-long stalemate. But with guild-represented writers compelled to fire their agents as a result of the conflict, it’s fair to say it’s been a tumultuous couple months.

Situation - Everybody - Lot - Level - Writers

“It’s a tough situation for everybody. I know a lot of lower level writers that didn’t get staffed this year and my heart breaks for them,” said “Good Girls” showrunner Jenna Bans. “At the same time I think the issues we’re fighting for are real and legitimate and I think we all want a solution that reflects the writers’ interests and we hope we get one very soon. I was heartened that they went back to the table last week.”

In addition to the WGA-ATA struggle, moderator Cynthia Littleton, Variety‘s business editor, touched on how up-and-coming writers are being forced into long, more restrictive contracts which bind them to exclusively write for one show, even as pr-season episode orders for top dramas are getting shorter.

Writer - Sit - Butt - Months - Show

“It seems crazy to me to mandate that a writer sit on their butt for eight or 10 months, waiting for show to come back that might not come back,” commented “You” creator Sera Gamble. “I just feel I’m actively harming a writer if I don’t say, ‘If you need a second posting let me know and I will do everything I can to help.'”

“Ozark” showrunner Chris Mundy agreed, adding that it’s ultimately up to the people at the top of each show to make sure the writers lower down the pecking order are able to explore other opportunities.

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“At the end...
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