EXCLUSIVE: All day we’ve been hearing of the misgivings numerous writers are having over the recent brass knuckle negotiations on packaging and affiliated production companies that led the WGA to demand that its members fire their agents. Some writers with close ties to their longtime reps want everyone WGA and ATA back at the bargaining table, with less rancor and a mindset to find a solution. Jon Robin Baitz, the playwright/screenwriter/TV producer — who just signed on to adapt the Jo Piazza novel Charlotte Walsh Likes To Win as a series for Julia Roberts to star in and produce with Baitz and wiip — has become the first major WGA member writer to publicly declare to his union that he will not fire his agents. Baitz is the two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist playwright who created the ABC series Brothers & Sisters and the NBC miniseries The Slap.
DGA Weighs In On WGA’s Battle With Talent Agents
He has sent a letter to the WGA, a copy of which Deadline Hollywood obtained. Here it is, in its entirety.
To the Guild Leadership:
I am deeply saddened to say I cannot go along with your insistence that I fire my agents at CAA. This, despite my fervent belief in the WGA’s mission and accomplishments.
First, I have made a deal with WIIP, a studio owned in part by CAA. If I were to fire them, I would be a hypocrite, which is something I try very hard to avoid in life, with admittedly mixed results. Let me point out, my deal at WIIP for Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, which has an on-air order of 8 episodes from Amazon, is the best I have ever made. (You claim these lucrative deals are “loss leaders”, based on I know not what.) I, in turn, have hired three members of the WGA at producer levels, and am making a writer’s assistant, a female diversity hire, into a staff writer during the first order. But more importantly, I have to be honest about my relationship with my agents, which I think isn’t all that unusual.
Bryan Lourd and I have been friends for over thirty-five years. Like many writers and their reps, our friendship began well before we both had achieved whatever level of success we have. I met him when he was starting out, and I was a young LA playwright represented by Michael Peretzian and George Lane, who were William Morris agents at the time. They both eventually became agents at CAA.
Brian Siberell at CAA became my agent in 2000, but we first met in 1986 when George Lane introduced us. Brian worked at HBO. I was a poor playwright, and he bought a script from me, and it paid for my existence in NY for over a year. I think it was a $27,000 deal. Again, I do not think it is all that unusual to have this kind of deeply filled personal history with ones agent.
In 2002, Joe Cohen at CAA asked me to think about working in TV. Aaron Sorkin had asked me to write an episode of West Wing, which I did, and which was shot pretty much word-for-word. Joe made that deal for many times the WGA minimum. I loved the work. In 2006, he made a deal for me to write a pilot for ABC, based on a pitch about an American family struggling with legacy, privilege, and their own history and ideological clashes. He saw me through Brothers & Sisters, and he was honest, forthright, kind and straight-shooting, even when I created a situation that could only result in my being fired from my own show. He was patient with me and understanding. He also taught me to think in terms of TV scripts. He believed I could do it, could have my own show, could make compelling and viable TV. He never stopped believing in me and because of that, I never gave up. And I love him.
ABC/Disney force-majeured me out of my own show in the wake of the WGA strike in 07/08, during which I was outspoken on behalf of the goals we were trying to achieve. The Guild pretty much shrugged, and I was on my own, but Joe Cohen and Bryan Lourd stuck by me, and Brian Siberell made sure I went back to work right away, as soon as I could process this trauma. They all believed in me. As far as I know, I was the only WGA member with a show ON THE AIR to be forced out by a so-called Act of God clause.
I have supported the Guild as a matter of conscience since I became a member over 30 years ago. But something has happened. I am watching people I love being characterized as racketeers and criminals. Yes, there are real changes needed in terms of the agencies and packaging and subsidiary production companies, but the notion that these people are simply avaricious and greedy exploiters is lacking in nuance or context, and does not seem to take into account the enormous changes in the media landscape and the ever-increasing power of the studios and streaming services. By turning our agents into villains, by insisting on a tone of incivility, you have alienated essential allies when calm and patience could have achieved actual results.
Indeed, the WGA has negotiated its legitimate concerns in a manner so bellicose, so histrionic, so lacking in scale and perspective, that in my opinion, you have betrayed the interests of the membership. You’ve employed a scorched earth policy that disregards the significant, and in my case, life-changing, investments that agents have made in our careers — the endless hours, the conversations, the hand-holding, and, in particular, the nurturing and protection of younger, emerging voices.
The Leadership went to war avidly, and with glee, and everyone reading this knows this to be true. There was blood lust at work. David Simon was treated like a rock star for spinning out a scenario in which he could slash the tires of agents. Membership was tickled. Own that. Writers cheered him on, eager to topple the Evil Big Three. No perspective was allowed. No consideration of the changing dynamics of the entertainment industry was permitted. Our agents are now our enemies.
I believe it is time for a new kind of leadership to take the helm at the WGA. It is time for a mature, measured, and considered philosophy, one that does not depend on the politics of divisiveness to which we’ve become all-too accustomed. It is time for grown-ups who do not cast the entire business into chaos and darkness. It is time for a leadership that sees the vast changes occurring in the business, and acknowledges that writers are not surrounded by perpetual enemies.
It is time to reject the white hot rage, the desire to punish, the urge to tear down the extant structures, simply in the name of ‘fairness’. It is time for the WGA to learn that adults come to the table to find solutions, not to find cause for battle.
I am a union man, but I do not turn my back on my loyal friends. I cannot be the person you want me to be. I cannot cut ties with my agents, because I would be forsaking people I love, people who have helped me create a life where I go back and forth between two forms I know and love.
The WGA is a precious, vital, and proud union. The gains it has made for writers over the years have made it possible to have pensions and medical care that is unparalleled and to enter into business agreements with the knowledge that the Guild is there to protect and back up its members. And even in this battle, the Guild has worthy goals – I am not disputing that. But in all the decades of fighting studios and networks, in all the battles with actual adversaries, something has spilled over and affected your outlook and viewpoint in this conflict with the ATA.
Let us not be part of the current cruelty and coarseness of the world. The ATA is listening – you have them at the table. Please find a way forward that does not mean disruption and shattered relationships. Remember that agents are humans and have emotions, families, parents, and sensitivities, just like us. I have seen too many unintended consequences come true in history and in life, and I am afraid the ones here will have tragic consequences.
With sorrow and respect,
Jon Robin Baitz
On Game of Thrones, humanity has plot armor.
There’s no way humans should win this battle. Jon Snow et al. face impossible odds, and yet … HBO The Best College Gymnast in America Is Also the Most Hated What Happened to Winter on Game of Thrones? Even Instant Replay Couldn’t Ruin the Most Exciting Soccer Match of the Year The Stormy Story of…
I can’t tell you how Game of Thrones ends, but I’m pretty sure I can tell you how it doesn’t. From the beginning, the series has depicted a world in which attempting to appeal to others’ sense of a higher purpose is the quickest way to get yourself killed. (Just ask Ned Stark’s severed head.) Viewers have known from the beginning that humanity is facing an existential threat from the army of undead known as the White Walkers, but the show’s characters have discovered the looming crisis only gradually, and they’ve been slow to reckon with the little they do know. Now, with the Night King’s masses marching south from the sundered Wall, there’s no doubt that the threat is real. And yet, with only five episodes of Game of Thrones remaining, the human race is resolutely failing to rise to the occasion. Jon Snow’s attempt to form an alliance with Daenerys Targaryen has created dissension instead of unity, with some northern houses deserting the cause and others, like poor little Lord Umber’s, left unprepared and undersupplied. Despite having pledged her troops, Cersei is merely lying in wait, hoping that the rival armies weaken each other enough for her to conquer whatever remains.
There is only one plausible conclusion to this saga, and it’s that humanity does not survive. Westeros’ various factions either never get it together at all, or they realize, too late, that even the divisions between them that have lasted for centuries pale next to the gulf between the living and the dead. In the first season, Cersei explained the struggle for power to Ned Stark—who, at that point, still had his head—as one in which “you win or you die,” and the years that followed have uncovered little evidence of a third option. No one’s negotiating peace with the Night King.
The facts on the ground in Westeros are different than those in our world, but human nature is constant across universes, and what we’ve seen of Game of Thrones’ take on it is unsparingly pessimistic—and entirely warranted. The series’ utility as an allegory of climate change can be overplayed, but to the extent that it reflects our ability to band together in the face of looming catastrophe, it’s all too accurate. Last year, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that irreversible changes could set in as early as 2030 and that preventing them would require a massive and unprecedented transformation of the global economy. Faced with a clear deadline and overwhelming scientific consensus, we’ve done … “nothing” seems not too strong a word. There’s nothing remotely approaching the kind of unshakable public resolve that would move politicians and industry to prompt, decisive action. Some of us are pretty upset about the whole thing, but others are either too flush with fossil-fuel cash or too busy drinking from Liberal Tears mugs to admit the problem exists. (As I am currently writing about a popular television program rather than chaining myself to the doors of the Environmental Protection Agency, on a global level I’m not accomplishing much more.)
What little we know about Game of Thrones’ final season suggests the series will at least flirt with the possibility of mass extinction. The episode-length Battle of Winterfell will likely fall in the season’s third episode, directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who’s directed the series’ previous blowouts. (Given that the troops are already assembled, it seems unlikely the show would wait until the fifth episode, also directed by Sapochnik, to play that card.) That means the human armies will make a do-or-die stand at Winterfell, and unless the series plans to spend three full episodes on the comparatively unimportant question of who ascends to the Iron Throne after the Night King’s defeat, my guess is that humanity will lose that battle. And since every human killed is not just a loss for one side but an undead addition to the other, that ought to be the ballgame. As a viewer, I’m rooting for Jon Snow and co. But if I were an Essos gambler laying a bet, I know whom I’d put my money on.
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There’s just one problem. The show that became famous for its willingness to kill off seemingly essential figures has grown less and less likely to do so. Even before Jon Snow came back from the dead, viewers had begun to develop a sense of which characters were essential to the series’ endgame, and thus impossible to kill off. You didn’t need Ramsay Bolton or even Littlefinger to tie up the story’s loose ends, but it’s impossible to imagine Dany or Jon getting axed for shock value. There was no chance the High Sparrow would dethrone Cersei for good or that Arya would fail the Faceless Men’s tests. The show’s core characters had acquired what fans call “plot armor,” which meant that any time the odds seemed truly hopeless, when they were backed against a wall and there seemed to be no way out, we knew the question wasn’t if they’d escape but only how.
Now that the series is almost over, individual characters are finally losing their invulnerability. (For all we know, any of those essential figures could buy it in Episode 2.) But there’s still one suit of plot armor left, and it’s the biggest and clankiest of all. I don’t know which humans will survive till the end of Game of Thrones, but I feel certain humanity will—that the series will end in a Westeros in which the Night King has at least been beaten back, if not wholly defeated. The logical endgame to the precepts Game of Thrones has espoused is the Night King grinning on the Iron Throne, surrounded by his army of the dead, but HBO hasn’t invested close to a billion dollars to tell a story whose moral is that humanity is screwed. Victory will come at a cost, but that cost will be paid; life, of one sort or another, will go on. There are, unfortunately, no such guarantees in our world. We might lose our battle, and there will be no one left to appreciate the plot twist.
Watch Game of Thrones on Sunday nights. Then listen to recaps with June Thomas, Sam Adams, Dan Kois, and other Slatesters every Monday.
‘Star Wars’ actor Mark Hamill says Luke Skywalker
Mark Hamill, known for his role as the iconic “Star Wars” character Luke Skywalker, revealed this week that the Jedi Master didn’t die a virgin—at least according to his own imagination.The 67-year-old actor was responding to a question asked on Twitter a day after the Star Wars Celebration fan experience wrapped up in Chicago, telling fans…
“Make up your own backstory,” Hamill wrote. “It’s undetermined, but in the one I made for him myself, the answer is: no.”
Hamill’s answer led fans of the space opera to sound off, many of them mentioning Mara Jade, a character from the Legends series in the Expanded Universe (EU) of “Star Wars” media, such as books and video games. In these stories, Jade and Skywalker are eventually married and have a son, Ben Skywalker.
However, the EU was deemed non-canon, or no longer part of the official story, when The Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in 2012. In other words, Luke was single again.
But many of the “Star Wars” fans seemed to take Hamill’s advice, leaving it up to their imaginations.
Jordyn Woods Says She’ll ‘Always’ Love Kylie Jenner
Jordyn Woods I’ll ‘Always’ Have Love for Kylie 4/19/2019 12:50 AM PDT EXCLUSIVE Jordyn Woods is hesitant to come right out and say it, but the message is very clear … she’s still got love for Kylie Jenner. Jordyn and her mom, Elizabeth, were at LAX Thursday when we asked Jordyn if the support she’s received…
I’ll ‘Always’ Have Love for Kylie
4/19/2019 12:50 AM PDT
Jordyn and her mom, Elizabeth, were at LAX Thursday when we asked Jordyn if the support she’s received from Jada Pinkett Smith and family helped her through her ordeal with the Kardashian-Jenner fam … she tells us it’s bigger than that. Much bigger.
It gets real interesting, though, when our guy asks if she hopes to rekindle her friendship with Kylie — she gives a rather broad answer … before Mom comes to the rescue.
Check it out for yourself … Jordyn eventually says she’ll “always” love her former BFF, but it takes some coaxing. Her mother’s much more direct.