Showrunners Ordered To Work Despite Strike

Both Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery this week have reportedly sent out a letter to TV showrunners employed by the various studios to remind them they are still expected to perform their contractually obligated non-writing services.

The Hollywood Reporter obtained a copy of a letter dated May 3rd from ABC Signature’s legal department which says they “are not excused from performing your duties as a showrunner and/or producer on your series as a result of the WGA strike”.

The letter adds that they are required to perform their showrunner and/or producing duties “even if the WGA attempts to fine you for performing such services during the strike… Your duties as a showrunner and/or producer are not excused, suspended or terminated until and unless you are so notified in writing by the Studio.”

A similar letter was reportedly sent a day earlier to showrunners and WGA members who also serve in producer capacities on series for Max (formerly HBO Max).

That letter reportedly says: “HBO/HBO Max respects your membership in the WGA, and will not do anything to place you in jeopardy of violating WGA rules. However, we believe certain services, such as participating in the casting process and/or contributing to non-writing production and post-production work are clear examples of non-WGA required services that should continue to be rendered during this time.”

There’s a complication. In a Q&A section of the ABC Signature letter, it reportedly specifies “you may, along with other non-writing services, be required to perform services commonly referred to as ‘(a) through (h)’ services as a producer.”

The term ‘(a) through (h)’ refers to tasks like cutting for time, small changes to dialogue or narration made before or during production, and changes in technical or stage directions.

However, the WGA 2023 work stoppage guidelines clearly state: “The Rules prohibit hyphenates (members who are employed in dual capacities) from performing any writing services, including the ‘(a) through (h)’ function”.

That puts showrunners and writer-producers in a difficult position – caught between the demands of their employers and their union. In a statement to the trade publication on Friday, the WGA said: “It is shameful that Disney, which has grown its business on unionized labor, is resorting to familiar union-busting tactics.”

Writers have hit the picket lines in front of major studios and streamers in Los Angeles and New York as the strike’s first week is underway.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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