The Writers Guild’s members-only "Candidates Night" was packed on Wednesday night as all 17 candidates for the WGA board vacancies pitched themselves.
Guarded with a velvet rope presence that wouldn’t have been out of place at a Hollywood hot spot on a Saturday night minus the eye candy but not the inevitable drama, the event was just the latest round in the ongoing bout the union has seemingly been having with itself since the strike during the winter of 2007/2008.
While there was just a scattering of overflow on the white plastic chairs next door watching the proceedings and speeches on the set up flat screens, in the main room WGA members were given ample opportunity to, as the union press release said, "meet and discuss the issues" with the board of director candidates. Six candidates are also running for three union officer positions that are up for reelection.
Of course what almost everyone was watching was the bob-and-weave between the two heavyweights seeking to lead the WGA into the next contract negotiations when this three year contract expires.
In one corner, there’s the pugilistic ER and "West Wing" producer and former Guild president John Wells. In the other sits current Guild secretary-treasurer and former MASH writer Elias Davis, who is also seeking the WGA presidency.
Wells and Davis seemed to be on their best behavior taking questions from the floor. But with accusations of Wells claiming inflated credit and back channel roles in settling the last strike in February 2008 — a role Wells denies — and current WGA president Patric Verrone weighing in distinctly not for the pro-Wells camp, this has become a scorchingly hotly contested and high pitched race between the two.
How hot things got, I can’t tell you. Proving that scribes, or at least their union, are sticklers for more than just the rules of grammar, soon after strolling in to the members only event, I was politely but firmly refused an opportunity to observe the rest of the meeting. I found myself being personally escorted from the building by a rather tall gentleman who could probably bench press a Laurel Canyon cabin.
The ultimate outcome of the evening won’t remain a secret for long. Guild members can vote by mail or in person on September 17 at the WGAW¹s annual membership meeting. The polls open at 6PMand the ballots will be counted on September 18.
My question is to John Wells — is this the kind of democracy in action Jed Bartlett would have approved of?