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WGA Threatens to Bar TV Producer Larry Levinson for Unpaid Residuals!

April 23, 2014 (13:40) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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April 22, 2014 | 04:47PM PT

The Writers Guild of America West has told TV movie producer Larry Levinson that he will not be able to use WGA writers on his shows if he does not pay up residuals.

The board of the WGA West notified Levinson last month that it would not enter into an agreement with any Levinson company until it “fully complies with its past residuals obligations — including accrued interest — and provides assurances that its scofflaw behavior will not continue in the future.”

WGA members are in the process of ratifying a new three-year contract with production companies that would go into effect on May 1.

“If, after May 1, Levinson does not sign the new minimum basic agreement (MBA) under conditions acceptable to the WGA, he will be thereafter barred from using WGA writers by operation of Working Rule 8,” the board said.

Levinson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Recent titles he’s produced or exec produced for the Hallmark Channel include “A Lesson in Romance,” “The Santa Switch,” “The Thanksgiving House,” “I Married Who?,” “Matchmaker Santa” and “Notes From Dad.”

Levinson has been the subject of contention within the WGA for many years over residuals. In 2009, the guild filed claims against RHI Entertainment and Larry Levinson Prods. for allegedly failing to pay residuals to dozens of scribes for their work on TV movies.

Earlier this year, a group of WGA members who dubbed themselves Writers Unpaid sent an email to the WGA West board complaining about the issue.

“We are some of the writers of the over 30 made-for-Hallmark movies produced by Larry Levinson Productions for which Mr. Levinson has refused to pay the last few years of residuals, and for which the amount owed us, including countless late fees and interest, has now reached into the millions of dollars, perhaps exceeding the recent debacle with Nickelodeon,” the note began.

“We’ve been informed that the legal department has been back and forth with you a number of times on a request for a ‘Pencils Down’ order against Mr. Levinson, Larry Levinson Productions, and all of his owned and affiliated companies,” the note continued.

“We wanted to, as a unified group, add our strong and angry voices in agreement with the WGAW legal department opinion that we are well past the time for such an order, as well as our outrage at the impunity with which Larry Levinson continues to ignore and/or refuse payment, plus our dismay that this issue has been allowed to continue for so very long,” it added.

News of the board’s letter to Levinson was first reported by Deadline.
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Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

*Photo selected by Watchdog

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(Added info) WGA Jobs Report: Women, Minority Writers Lose Ground in Film, Make Small Gains in TV!

April 14, 2014 (11:13) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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(Added Info from H, Reporter Below)

April 14, 2014 | 10:29AM PT

Women and minority writers are losing ground in film while notching only modest gains in TV, according to the WGA West’s latest comprehensive survey of employment for its members.

Female writers accounted for 15% of feature film work in 2012, the latest year tracked in the survey, down from 17% in 2009. Minority writers remained stuck at 5% of film jobs, unchanged from 2009, but the survey shows minority writer earnings declined over the same period even as paydays for white male writers increased.

In TV, minority employment reached 11% in 2012, the highest level in a decade. Female employment dipped to 27%, down 1% from 2009, while the earnings gap between male and female writers closed ever so slightly (by 1 cent in 2012 compared to 2009).

The report is part of the WGA West’s effort to bring attention to the relatively low levels of female and minority writer representation in the mainstream film and TV biz. The full report, “Turning Missed Opportunities Into Realized Ones: The 2014 Hollywood Writers Report,” will be published in June.

More to come

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Hang in there Ladies!

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

*Photo selected by Watchdog

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The report analyzes employment patterns for broadcast and cable TV shows as well as movies from 2011-12, highlighting women, minority and older writers.

Diversity in the writing world is a good-news, bad-news story, a new WGA West report finds, but the good news appears to be incremental at best. The guild’s 2014 Hollywood Writers Report shows modest gains for minority and women writers in television, but a continuing decline in diversity for movie screenwriters.

The 2014 Hollywood Writers Report, the ninth in a series of semiannual reports the guild has commissioned, analyzes employment patterns for writers working on broadcast and cable TV shows during the 2011-12 season and those working on theatrical features during that same period, highlighting three specific groups who have traditionally been underemployed in the entertainment industry: female, minority and older writers.

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“The good news is that, since the last report published in 2011, there appears to have been small gains for women and minorities in television employment and earnings — though both groups still have quite a way to go to reach parity with their white male counterparts,” said report author Darnell M. Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA and professor of sociology. “The story for film, unfortunately, is not so good. Since the last report, there has been no progress for either group. Indeed, relative to white males, women and minorities have lost ground in the sector.”

Hunt’s research shows that while minority and women writers have made incremental gains in employment over the past decade-plus period, current film and TV employment levels remain widely disproportionate to the actual minority demographics of the U.S. population, and diverse writers remain substantially underrepresented on TV writing staffs and in feature films.

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Key findings in the 2014 Hollywood Writers Report include:

Female Writers’ TV Employment Remains Static: Women remained underrepresented by a factor of nearly 2 to 1 among television writers in 2012, claiming just 27 percent of sector employment.

Female TV Writers Close Income Gap Incrementally: Female television writers earned about 92 cents for every dollar earned by white males in 2012, up slightly from 91 cents in 2009.

Female Screenwriters Lose Ground in Film: In the film sector, female writers fell further behind white males in 2012, accounting for just 15 percent of sector employment (down from 17 percent in 2009). Women remained underrepresented by a factor of more than 3 to 1 among screenwriters.

Gender Earnings Gap in Film Widens Again: The gender earnings gap in film has traditionally been greater than the gap in television, the research found. Female film writers earned just 77 cents for every dollar earned by white male film writers in 2012, down from 82 cents in 2009.

Minority TV Writers Increase Numbers and Close Earnings Gap: Minority television writers posted an increase in employment share (from 10 percent in 2009 to 11 percent in 2012), while also closing the earnings gap a bit with white male television writers. Nonetheless, minority writers remain underrepresented by a factor of about 3 to 1 among television writers. There is still a large difference between the percentage of minority writers employed in television and film and the U.S. population, as minorities accounted for nearly 37 percent of the U.S. population in 2010. Data also show that minorities watch a disproportionate share of television and theatrical films, while increases in their consumer spending outpaced the rest of the nation.

Minority Screenwriters’ Share of Film Employment Remains Low and Earnings Gap Widens: The previous report revealed that – after a decade of being stuck at 6 percent – the minority share of film employment dropped a percentage point to 5 percent in 2009. This figure remained at 5 percent in 2012, highlighting the fact that minorities continued to be underrepresented by a factor of about 7 to 1 among employed film writers. On the film earnings front, the gap for minority film writers widened since the last report.

Older Writers’ Share of TV and Film Employment Remains Strong, Drops After 60: Older writers – particularly those aged 41 to 50 – claimed the largest share of employment in television and film, as well as the highest earnings in each sector. As previous reports have shown, however, the relative status of older writers tends to decline rather rapidly beyond the age of 60.

To read the report’s executive summary, click here. The full report will be published in June.

Created in response to the chronically low numbers of diverse writers hired in television and film, the WGAW’s Diversity Department developed the Writer Access Project (WAP), focused on television writers, as well as the Feature Access Project (FAP) for screenwriters, to open doors and increase employment opportunities for diverse writers. The two guild peer-judging programs are designed to identify talented, diverse writers, as well as provide viable resources for getting their work in front of entertainment industry decision-makers, including showrunners, producers, network/studio executives, agents and managers.

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Since its inception in 2009, WAP has achieved tangible results, the guild said in a statement, facilitating the employment of diverse television writers over the last five years. Still, Hunt urges in the latest report that “much work remains to be done. Other industry players also will have to redouble their efforts if significant, sustained progress is to be achieved.” The Guild continues to track the impact of the more recent FAP program, launched in 2013, on diverse screenwriters’ careers.

Earlier this year, the Guild announced its slate of 2014 WAP and FAP honorees.

A new effort recently launched by the WGAW’s Committee of Women Writers is intended to increase the industry profile of female writers in film, television and new media. Dubbed “WoW” (Women of WGAW), the program aims “to increase the visibility of WGAW women in all phases of their careers to promote equitable hiring.” To that end, they’ve launched a social media campaign employing hashtags such as #awomanwrotethat and #hirewomenwriters to highlight projects, deals and other written works involving women.

Looking beyond the Guild’s programs to improve diversity within the industry, Hunt asserts in the 2014 report: “Before we are likely to realize meaningful, sustained change … other industry players — the networks, studios, and agents — will have to go well beyond what they have routinely done in the past to address the troubling shortfalls evident on the diversity front among writers. Only then will the industry position itself to make the most of opportunities afforded by audiences whose story needs are becoming more diverse by the moment.”

Bookmark The Hollywood Reporter’s Labor Page for the most in-depth coverage of entertainment unions and guilds.

Email: jhandel99 at gmail dot com
Twitter: @jhandel

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SAG-AFTRA Contract Negotiations Set for May 5!!!

April 13, 2014 (18:13) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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April 13, 2014 | 04:22PM PT

SAG-AFTRA will begin negotiations on a master contract covering movie and primetime TV with the Hollywood production companies on May 5 — less than two months before the current SAG and AFTRA deals expire June 30.

The performers union made the announcement Sunday following a two-day meeting of its national board. It did not disclose any details of the proposal but the negotiations will likely cover complex issues such as the whether to create a new master contract or continue with the current SAG and AFTRA deals, along with the fate of the separate SAG and AFTRA pension and health plans.

SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard (pictured above) will chair the negotiating committee. National Executive Director David White — who had been the front-runner earlier this year for a similar post for the National Basketball Players Assn. — is the union’s chief negotiator.

White’s status as the SAG-AFTRA top exec has been murky since he emerged as the front-runner for the NBPA post in mid-February. The players union announced last week that it had decided to re-launch the search with the aim to conclude that process by the start of the next season in October — and did not mention White by name.

The SAG-AFTRA board approved a contract proposal following completion of the SAG-AFTRA “wages and working conditions” process, under which a committee held multiple meetings with union members between January and March to hammer out a contract proposal for presentation to the board. Howard served as the national chair for that committee.

The negotiations will be the first on the SAG and AFTRA master contracts since the members of those two unions voted in March, 2012, to merge after merger backers asserted repeatedly that the combined union would have more negotiating power.

The pro-merger campaigners also claimed that merging would be a first step toward resolving the problem of members contributing to separate SAG and AFTRA health plans and not earning enough to qualify for either.

The SAG health plan — which has about 40,000 participants — announced in December that, starting in July, that performers may be able to combine the earnings reportable to the SAG plan and the AFTRA health plan in order to meet the dollar earnings requirement for Plan II eligibility, currently at $15,100 over four quarters. The SAG health plan, which is overseen by reps of the union and the industry, also said at that point that it was still exploring how to merge with the AFTRA health plan.

Eligibility for both the SAG and AFTRA plans is based on meeting earnings thresholds over a four-quarter period so merging the plans was heralded as a solution to the problem of performers falling short of the thresholds when their contributions were going to two different plans. But the difficulties of combining the plans gave rise to the idea of “reciprocity” of earnings as an alternative.

The SAG-AFTRA negotiations will start a month after leaders of the Writers Guild of America reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year master contract. The WGA has sent out ratification materials to members with an April 29 deadline for a deal that would go into effect May 1.

That deal included a 3% annual wage increase and a 0.5% increase in the contribution to the pension fund; higher payments for ad-supported online streaming; and a reduced free streaming window from 17 days to seven days for the first seven episodes of a series.

Members of the Directors Guild of America ratified a successor deal in January that goes into effect on July 1. Gains include an annual 3% wage increase; increased residuals bases; significant improvements in basic cable; the establishment, for the first time, of minimum terms and conditions for high-budget new media made for subscription video on demand such as Netflix and establishment of a formal diversity program at every major TV studio. The SAG-AFTRA negotiations will take place at the Sherman Oaks headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which serves as the negotiating arm for the industry’s production companies.
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Hmmm…ain’t that sort of like negotiating with the Russians in the Kremlin? 
*
Arl 
*
The Ol’ SAG Watchdog
*Photo selected by Watchdog

 

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SAG-AFTRA’s David White Remaining in Limbo with NBA Players Union!

April 9, 2014 (19:58) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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April 9, 2014 | 05:10PM PT

After leaving SAG-AFTRA in limbo for the past two months, the National Basketball Players Assn. has told the performers union and top exec David White to wait some more.

The NBPA has decided to relaunch its search process, two months after making  White, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director, a finalist for a similar post. The NBPA also selected Washington, D.C.-based trial attorney Michele Roberts as a finalist.

At that point, White told the national board that no decision had been made and that SAG-AFTRA would be in good hands if he did leave. But this week the NBPA has decided to begin another search effort, bringing on Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson to head the search committee.

The players union will make a decision before the start of next season, which begins in late October.

For now, the delay clarifies what had been a murky outlook for SAG-AFTRA’s upcoming negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television on a successor deal to the SAG and AFTRA master contracts — which expire June 30. White is the union’s lead negotiator.

Johnson, a former NBA player, will chair a search committee of “outside professionals with unique NBPA and executive search connections and experiences to guide the executive committee.”

The NBPA slot has been vacant for over a year. Longtime chief Billy Hunter was fired unanimously by the player reps for alleged financial malfeasance.

The NBPA’s announcement made no mention of White or Roberts.

The NBPA’s president, Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, reached out to Johnson after criticism emerged in recent months that the search process lacked transparency. Paul said this week that he was proud of the work that the union has done in seeking a new exec director and “grateful” that Johnson had come on board.

“Mayor Johnson is in a unique position as a former player and someone skilled in the politics of negotiations to lead this effort,” Paul said.

Johnson thanked Paul and the executive committee and said he would be meeting with all of the player representatives and “moving aggressively to build on the work that’s been done.”

As for SAG-AFTRA, it has not yet set a date for contract negotiations with the AMPTP but is expected to do so once the union’s national board approves the contract proposal that’s been formulated by its negotiating committee. The board is scheduled to meet this weekend.

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Gosh, You don’t think Chris has been reading the Ol’ Dog do you?  Naw!

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

*Photo selected by Watchdog

 

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Writers Guild Sets Ballot Ratification for New Contract!

April 8, 2014 (17:31) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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April 8, 2014 | 11:44AM PT 

Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have asked members to ratify a new three-year master contract during the next three weeks. The move comes following approval by the WGA West board and the WGA East Council. Unlike the 100-day strike in 2007-08, the deal was reached with a minimum of squabbling between the guild and the producers.

“This year, ballots may be cast online, by mail (for those requesting a paper ballot) or at membership meetings in New York and Los Angeles on April 29, 2014,” said WGA West president Chris Keyser and WGA East president Michael Winship in an email to members.

The deadline for voting is two days before the the union’s current contract expires on May 1.

The tentative three-year deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was reached April 2 following two days of talks over the options and exclusivity requirements for TV writers. The other issues had been settled as of the first week of March.

The new deal also includes a 3% annual wage increase; 5% annual increases in script minimums for hour-long dramatic basic cable rates; a 0.5% increase in the contribution to the pension fund; higher payments for ad-supported online streaming; and a reduced free streaming window from 17 days to seven days for the first seven episodes of a series.

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This has got to be the only time these guys and gals come up with nothing but an “X” and still feel good about themselves.

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

*Photo by Watchdog

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