Disney Calls Showrunners Back to (Non-Writing) Work – The Hollywood Reporter


Disney this week sent out a letter to showrunners employed by the company’s various studios reminding striking writer-producers that they are still expected to perform their contractually obligated non-writing services.

“We want specifically to reiterate to you as a showrunner or other writer-producer that you are not excused from performing your duties as a showrunner and/or producer on your series as a result of the WGA strike. Your personal services agreement with [the] Studio requires that you perform your showrunner and/or producing duties even if the WGA attempts to fine you for performing such services during the strike,” wrote Bob McPhail, the assistant chief counsel for the Disney-owned ABC Signature, in the letter sent to showrunners and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”

The letter is dated May 3, which was the second day of the Writers Guild of America’s strike against members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios and streamers. Writers have hit the picket lines in front of major studios and streamers in Los Angeles and New York this week as they seek increased wage floors, viewership transparency from streamers and protections against mini-rooms and the use of artificial intelligence.

The letter (read it in full, below) features a Q&A informing showrunners that they are “required” to perform duties that may include responsibilities that may not be in line with the guidance provided by the WGA to its around 11,500 striking members.

The memo specifically states that in showrunner and/or writer-producer roles, “you may, along with other non-writing services, be required to perform services commonly referred to as ‘a. thorough h.’ services as a producer,” such as cutting for time, small changes to dialogue or narration made before or during production and “changes in technical or stage directions.” These are duties that, according to the WGA’s contract, non-writers can perform on covered projects.

However, the WGA strike rules explicitly prohibit union members from performing these activities during the 2023 work stoppage. “The Rules prohibit hyphenates (members who are employed in dual capacities) from performing any writing services, including the ‘(a) through (h)’ functions,” the rules state, which puts showrunners and writer-producers in a difficult position, caught between the dictates of their employers and their own union.

“A lot of it sounds … wrong? A-H duties are specifically outlined by the guild as things you cannot do,” said one longtime showrunner who did not receive one of the memos, as they do not have a deal with Disney. “But legally I’m sure there’s a lot of tussling over this stuff. Long story short, this doc is fooling no writer. It’s just odd because it’s written almost as though we were trying to organize a company that wasn’t already unionized. Like, we’re all already in the union, man.”

ABC Letter Ongoing Obligations Page 1

ABC Letter Ongoing Obligations Page 2

ABC Letter Ongoing Obligations Page 3

ABC Letter Ongoing Obligations Page 4

ABC Letter Ongoing Obligations Page 5

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