Published: November 2007
In his November 2 announcement of his union’s vote to go on strike, Writers Guild of America West president Patric Verrone, JD’84, identified his group’s main tenet: “When a writer’s work generates revenues for the companies, that writer deserves to be paid.” Television writers are compensated for programs on broadcast or cable television, but their old contract did not cover distribution and rebroadcasts through the Internet, cell phones, and other digital technologies. “The studios are reluctant to make a binding deal on digital distribution,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “They say it’s too soon to determine what format will end up being the most successful.” The two sides said they would go back to the bargaining table after Thanksgiving, but some observers are bracing for a dreary January of repeat programs during prime time.
Verrone, who last September was elected to his second term as guild president, brings not only his legal training but also a successful writer’s perspective to the dispute. In the mid-1980s, heeding the call from college friends (including his future wife) with whom he co-edited the Harvard Lampoon, he left his Florida law firm and went to Hollywood, where he wrote monologues for Joan Rivers and Johnny Carson. For 20 years he wrote and produced some of television’s most popular shows—Rugrats, Muppets Tonight, Pinky and the Brain, Futurama, The Simpsons, and Class of 3000. His programs have received numerous honors and have won two Emmys. In 2002 the Writers Guild of America West recognized him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in animation writing.
The comic incongruity of writing for children’s television while heading the Writers Guild is not lost on Verrone: “I will comment on a subject of vital importance to our industry, to our democracy, and to our free speech,” he told the FCC last year at a hearing on media industry consolidation. “And then I will return to my profession writing a cartoon about a crab monster from outer space.”
- Video on Youtube of Verrone announcing the writers’ strike
- November 18, 2007, Los Angeles Times article on the strike
- Interview with Verrone and Alan Rosenberg, president of the Screen Actors Guild, in the November 16 American Prospect
- National Public Radio’s On the Media interview with Verrone in a November 18, 2005, program entitled “Sanctity of the Script”
- List of Patric Verrone credits in Variety