A lot of people have asked me this Friday question. This is an update and actually a reversal on my original position. Why? Read on.
Here’s Tod’s question --
Ken, I'm sure you've received a packet in the mail recently concerning a "Notice of Settlement of TV Writers Age Discrimination Cases". It's a class action suit where, apparently, quite a few major studios and agencies have agreed to pay $70M to writers over 40 for alleged age discrimination, and I'm wondering:
a. What's your take on this? I joined the WGA in 1988 and have never seen anything like it.
b. Are you going to participate?
This update is based on some of your comments (see? I actually do read them) that have caused me to change my position. My initial reaction (as I posted) was that it was great. This discrimination does exist and it was nice to see the writers get an acknowledgment and money. But it was pointed out by some of you that the settlement explicitly states that all writers - ALL WRITERS, whether you join the class action or not - give up their right to sue the same studios/agencies in the future over the same issue.
If that's the case, I'm much less enthused. If that's the case we just rolled over.
I feel like Sam Malone in the episode where he's a sportscaster. He gives a strong opinion and then two minutes later gives a strong opinion in the opposite direction. But again, if this means that we've sold out on that issue I'm not in favor.
To salvage a couple of points from my original post:
The claims are certainly justified. Especially now when networks essentially have approval of all writers who get hired on shows. I know a case of an older writer who helped out gratis on a pilot that was in trouble. He did a yeoman’s job – came up with a lot of story fixes and contributed many great jokes. As a result, the show got picked up. Then the show runner attempted to hire him and the network wouldn't approve him.
Another long time veteran TV writer wrote a book that was optioned by a network. But they didn't trust him to write the adaptation of his own book, which was mostly autobiographical. And this is a writer who had created series for that same network.
I personally do not plan to file a claim. I might be entitled to a few dollars, I dunno. But I was one of the truly lucky older writers who did get work during that period. And I was not dropped by my agency. So I don’t feel it’s right to take any money when other writers are much more deserving.
I'm happy for those who benefited by this but not at the cost of the Guild's future.
Check back. I may change my mind again in ten minutes. But thanks to you commenters.