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Just two days before a restart to stalled negotiations, Writers Guild leaders had an emotional meeting with a diverse group of Hollywood showrunners, which included Courtney Kemp and Yvette Lee Bowser, seeking progress toward ending the crippling strike now in its fifth month, TheWrap has learned.
“It was a meeting to voice frustration,” said an individual with knowledge of the meeting that took place Monday at the WGA headquarters in Los Angeles. “To say: We’re writers but we’re also management and our people are living out of their cars. They’re giving blood plasma for groceries.”
The meeting was intended to touch base ahead of the negotiating committee going into talks, after which they go dark, said another individual with knowledge of the meeting. “It was honest and positive in tone,” this person said.
Bowser (“Dear White People”) and Kemp (“Power”) joined a half dozen other showrunners, including two other Black female showrunners, for the meeting that included WGA negotiators Chris Keyser, David A. Goodman and Mike Schur and WGA President Meredith Stiehm.
A spokesperson for the WGA declined to comment, and a representative for Kemp declined to respond. Bowser couldn’t be reached ahead of publication.
The WGA negotiators are scheduled to head back into the room with Hollywood studios represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Wednesday, after four solid months of a labor action and no progress — while Hollywood actors are also on strike, effectively bringing the entire entertainment industry to a halt.
The WGA is demanding better pay, guarantees around artificial intelligence, streaming residuals and minimum guaranteed levels of staffing in writers’ rooms, among other concessions. The studios have responded but the guild has yet to offer a formal counterproposal.
The showrunners who met guild leadership on Monday were separate from another group of top-level writer-producers including Noah Hawley and Kenya Barris who sought a meeting with WGA leadership last week to express similar points of view. That meeting was canceled twice, as TheWrap previously reported.
Those showrunners had reached out for clarification of the guild’s position given the lack of movement in the past several weeks, and the exchanges with WGA leadership was described to TheWrap by an individual with knowledge as intense and emotional, with phone calls between individual showrunners and guild leaders leading to fights, shouting matches and “screaming hangups.”
Across the board, the showrunners are concerned that the guild hasn’t demonstrated resolve to end the strike. Inside the guild, there’s severe tension among those insisting on holding the line and those who want to see a deal done.
One insider referred to WGA leadership as intractable and acting like a “MAGA cult” who have lashed out against those who want to see more flexibility with the studios.
“They don’t want to listen to opposing voices,” said one member who is critical of WGA leadership but afraid to speak on the record. “They say we’re fighting for the future profession of writers — and it’s simply not true.”
The diverse showrunners impressed on WGA leaders the suffering and loss that staffers across the board on their shows have been experiencing, with a couple of participants moved to tears at the stories.
“They were not confrontational, they were not nasty. They simply said, ‘We want to talk to you. We want to tell you what’s happening to our crew members,’” said the first individual with knowledge of the meeting.
Schur seemed particularly moved by the stories of suffering, the individual said. TheWrap reported last week that $45 million had been drawn from retirement accounts of entertainment industry workers during the strike.
TheWrap has previously reported that some showrunners are considering leaving the union and working independently or forming their own guild, a sign of how the trust has begun to fray between leadership and some influential members.
That discussion reflects the fundamental tension for Hollywood showrunners, who are the creators but also the producers of the top series on television and streaming platforms, making them both members of management and members of the guild as writers.
The guild and the AMPTP haven’t negotiated directly since a meeting between the committee and several studio CEOs on Aug. 22 ended with the AMPTP publicly releasing the details of its proposed contract. The AMPTP sent a counterproposal to the guild on Aug. 11 to which the guild responded with its own counter four days later that the AMPTP said in a statement was a “4-page document with limited moves in a handful of areas.”
Jeremy Fuster contributed to this report.
For all of TheWrap’s WGA strike coverage, read here.
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