WHY I’M RUNNING
I’ve been a guild screenwriter for over 13 years now; I joined just before the 2007 strike, and have worked year-round ever since. As a studio screenwriter, I believe the profound changes I’ve already experienced on the motion picture side of our business should be a wake-up call to the rest of our membership. The ecology of our industry has begun a radical shift - one that our own Guild had some hand in setting off when we won basic coverage for streaming media back in 2007. The changes began with a proliferation of new work in new media, followed by an explosion of profits - profits that mostly went to the companies that own the companies we work for. Now, we face a radical expansion of new business models, of which things like agency-owned studios are just one example. In a rapidly changing business, it’s the primary job of our Union to make sure that we - the creators of the content that drives the entire industry - are treated as partners, or as real clients. Not simply employees.
I began my working life as a director. Learning to write screenplays was (and remains) terrifically hard, and harder yet to do well. Over my career, my appreciation for the fundamental necessity of story has grown to this: story is the product on which all else is built. The bucks that exist in our business all start, or stop, with story.
The industry we work in is changing, fast. Whether we want it or not, our working future is up for negotiation. Whether we want to be involved in those negotiations, or if we want to let our agencies and our employers decide what is best for us and best for the industry - that’s entirely our choice. And we chose to fight.
THE CURRENT AGENCY CAMPAIGN
Let me be clear: I support our Guild’s Agency Campaign. Seeking to eliminate the most glaring conflicts of interest that result from packaging and asking our agents - people we hire to work on our behalf - to sign a Code of Conduct before returning to business is precisely the sort of thing a well-organized, strong union should be doing on our behalf, especially now. The reasons for the action were discussed openly and rigorously debated within the membership over the course of months of meetings and communications before 95% of us voted “YES” to the action.
Did I have reservations that enforcing the Code of Conduct could destabilize our work lives - as well as the lives of our hardworking agents, many of which have been our personal partners to the creation of our individual careers - in ways hard to calculate? Of course I did, and do. But it’s an easy calculation to see what will happen if we don’t correct course, or even set a course, for how business between writers and agents will be done moving into the future. The Guild exists to protect the working lives and conditions of the membership; that’s more than just a question of intermittently fighting for better wages, it’s a question of seeing the future of the business and taking action to protect and sustain our careers over the longer term.
Had I been in the 5% who fundamentally disagreed with the action, and our membership voted overwhelmingly to support it, I would still support our Guild. The strength of our union depends entirely on solidarity; when we vote to take collective action, we fight on behalf of each other, and on behalf of the majority. And this wasn’t a 52% margin of decision: it was 95%. I’m not at all opposed to us having internal disagreements, or even to serious-minded, educated skeptics joining the Board and the debate: we should have and do need a real diversity of viewpoints within the Board and the Negotiating Committee. But I am vehemently opposed to those who would weaken our current negotiation by venting to the press and working with the Agencies against the Guild.
I’m not a master negotiator, but I’ve seen enough movies to know that you don’t flinch in a showdown. We committed to an action, and now we must see it through, together.
As a Board member, I intend to work very hard to find better ways to connect us and ensure that all of our actions serve the interests of the entire membership, to prevent groupthink, and to make sure that our leadership is in continual, current synch with the working writers they represent. If we collectively decide to alter course or return to negotiations with the ATA, then so be it. But we must not blink in a standoff.
PREPARING FOR THE 2020 MBA NEGOTIATION
Whatever the outcome of the ATA standoff, I see no reason why the 2020 MBA negotiations will be anything like a cakewalk, and we need a fully educated and invigorated membership to enter those negotiations with a strong hand and shared goals. It’s a time of extreme volatility throughout the industry, and we need a clear vision and a united front to make sure the future of our Guild and our jobs is as secure as it can possibly be.
PROTECTING OUR HEALTH AND PENSION
A far-from-sexy issue that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves, we have entered a new political landscape in which Unions’ rights and financial integrity are being challenged and corrupted across the country. The work of our Political Action Committee must be supported and expanded to ensure we are ready for any future legal challenges that may directly affect our health and pension that we and our families depend on.
Long-form writers are by nature of their working lives well organized and better connected to each other than screenwriters. I want to make sure that screenwriters keep a seat at the table and that the Guild is doing everything it can to address ongoing issues of late pay, free writing, and a credit arbitration process sorely in need of improvements. I would also like to see screenwriters pay closer attention and take more direct involvement in our Guild - providing better, targeted ways to connect and organize screenwriters will be one of the first issues I think I can help address.
PROMOTING AND PROTECTING DIVERSITY
I’m thrilled at the work the Guild has done in recent years to address the wild inequities resulting from sexism and racism in workplaces that for too long accepted bad behavior as the cost of doing business with creative geniuses. I’d like to redouble our efforts to make sure the Guild takes real actions against workplaces or members who discriminate against or abuse their power over others. There should be real enforceable consequences for behavior that is inappropriate or abusive, or for discrimination of any kind - race, gender, sexuality or age. And we must continue all efforts to support and promote workplaces that reflect the diverse world we live in, and help those of our members whose identity prevents their work from being seen.
OUTREACH TO NON-ACTIVE MEMBERS
I believe that members with non-active status can and should be served better by the Guild, and I want to explore new ways that our non-active members can be of service and contribute to the overall functioning and well-being of our union. There’s no reason we can’t all be of service.
ABOVE ALL ELSE
I’m running for a seat on the Board this year because I’m concerned about the future of our Guild, and the future of our business. Between the ongoing Agency Campaign and the upcoming AMBA negotiations, I believe the supremely difficult choices our Union must make over these next two years will have a profound effect on the future of our collective working lives, and may also shape the future of the industry as a whole. Whatever decisions we collectively make, I want our union to be strong, nimble and responsive to the membership for the hard work ahead.
It’s when our solidarity is most challenged that our solidarity is most needed and necessary. As a Board member, I will work, above all, to bring us together, and keep us together, as we move forward. Without a strong union, without each other, we have nothing.
* A longer-form statement on my background and full platform positions can be found at danteharperwga.com.