MEREDITH STIEHM FOR WGA BOARD

2015 CANDIDATE STATEMENT

I’ve been writing for TV dramas for 20 years; NYPD Blue, ER, Cold Case, The Bridge, and currently Homeland.  I have always been so grateful for the benefits, the minimums, and the community that our union provides.  During the last strike I picketed with my 6-month-old in a Baby Bjorn and got an education about just how tough we have to be as a union to take on the studios during negotiations.  It feels like the right time for me to give back to the WGA, having received so much from it over the years -- so I am running to serve as a Board Member.

NEGOTIATIONS.  I’m a writer down to my bones, with an activist and indignant nature – I hate getting a raw deal.  I’m pretty stubborn too.  I have never understood the low regard studios seem to have for the writer, and personally fight very hard in my own negotiations when taking a job.  As I said to my husband regarding serving on the board, particularly as we face our next negotiations – I would probably be good at this.  I’m a writer and fighter.

WOMEN WRITERS.  There are so many writing staffs on television that have zero women writers.  Or they have one, maybe two… but hardly ever half.  That should not be considered acceptable.  When I ran Cold Case and The Bridge, I made it a mandate to have half women and half men on staff – and so we did.  It’s not hard.  The women writers are there.  As a Board Member I would like to find a way to champion these writers, and encourage show runners and studios to staff their shows in an egalitarian way.   

PACKAGING.  Packaging is a raw deal for writers.  I know this from personal experience.  When I created Cold Case, my agents packaged it.  It was my first show, and I was a rube -- when they told me I would benefit too, since they wouldn’t take their 10% from my salary, I bought it.   I just didn’t do the math.  It wasn’t until year seven of my show when I was tasked with slashing the budget, that I finally noticed that my agency was making $75,000 per episode -- more than I was.  I was stunned.  And even worse, they had a percentage of the profits.  When I suggested to the studio that we slash that episodic expense, they would not hear of it.   Again I was stunned, and confused.  I have since come to understand how the studios and agencies collude to keep packaging as a norm, securing money for them that belongs in our pockets.  We writers should never have opened this door; we now need to close it.  We do the work, not our agencies.  We should get the profits.

I think that’s enough of a rant for now.   Those are my big issues, and topics I think I can be helpful with if I serve on the Board.   Thanks for considering me.