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Writers Guild and TV Showrunners Share Plans to Include Writers in COVID-19 Safety Protocols

WGA will hold talks with studios about protecting writers as Hollywood production resumes

The Writers Guild of America West released a memo to its members on Wednesday morning outlining its plans to work with hundreds of showrunners for television programs to ensure the safety of writers as Hollywood prepares to restart production.

Earlier this month, the Industry-Wide Safety Committee released its white paper on reopening productions and its guidelines on protecting cast and crew on production sets that reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, major Hollywood guilds including the Directors Guild of America, IATSE, SAG-AFTRA and Teamsters Local 399 released “The Safe Way Forward,” a joint set of guidelines advising how to protect their members during shooting.

WGA West was not a part of the development of either of these guidelines, but the guild assured members that it is “aligned with their desire to resume production safely and as soon as possible.” The WGA says that it is involved in talks with studios about writer safety and about the role showrunners will play in overseeing COVID-19 guideline implementation.

“Several studios have already acknowledged to showrunners that the central role of writers on set must be accounted for in whatever protocols are finally adopted,” the guild said.

A statement signed by almost 300 showrunners went into further detail about that role: “Since the showrunner hires and supervises the director, actors, writers, casting director, production designers, and editors, our casts and crews will be looking to us for reassurance and creative direction, as they did before the crisis,” they wrote.

The showrunners “applauded” the other Hollywood guilds for their work on “The Safe Way Forward,” but said that they wish to add additional guidelines that keep writers in mind. One example put forward was including showrunners and their writers as essential crew that should be on the set to “reduce a director’s guesswork in trying to execute the showrunner’s vision, and, therefore, reduce the number of reshoots.”

“We do believe we can all return to work safely and many of us have been in touch with our casts about changes that individual productions will make to ensure health and safety,” the showrunners wrote. “Now comes the hard work. The Showrunners are ready to get to it and we welcome discussions with individual studios as soon as possible.”