What is your stance on the WGA strike?
Dallas Jenkins: I’m not a member of the Writers’ Guild, I suppose I’m an unofficial member of the “bad guys.” My stance on the strike is mixed. I understand that the writers want to make sure they have something in their deal that accounts for the upcoming digital age that we haven’t accounted for yet. But that said, isn’t that what agents are for? To negotiate stuff like that on each individual deal? Plus, I confess I don’t understand why writers get residuals but the other crewmembers don’t. What happens when the movies or TV shows lose money, do they go back and get money back from the writers and actors?
Kathryn Mackel: I voted for the strike because I’ve experienced first-hand the protection that the Guild provides to a writer.
How do you think negotiations would go if both sides were Christian? Would it be a little less hostile?
DJ: I would certainly hope so, but ultimately, even Christians can get sticky when it comes to business. We’re talking about a deal that will impact the industry for years and years, so it’s important to get it right. It’s not wrong to negotiate for what you feel is fair. But “both sides” are representing thousands of people, so it’s hard for a side to be labeled “Christian.”
KM: The public discourse might be a little quieter—but remember, Christians are people, too. Reasonable people can reasonably disagree about financial and business issues. It’s when they can’t negotiate that strikes happen.
Do you have any advise for an aspiring screenwriter that doesn’t live in California and can’t or doesn’t want to move there?
DJ: Prepare for a tough road. Understand that your work has to be spectacular to get noticed. Enter contests. Develop an amazing phone manner. Connect with independent filmmakers. Use every connection you can scrounge but only—only—when you know your screenplay is something remarkable.
How does the strike affect you as a director and producer?
DJ: Right now it doesn’t affect me, as I’m not developing any projects written by WGA writers. It will affect me mostly next summer, unless I shoot my next film before the actors’ strike, because the actors are going to strike on the same issues as the writers.
Most of the buzz online suggests that the WGA would blacklist anyone who tries to sell something during the strike. Do you think that’s fair for someone who is trying to break into the business or support a family and pay bills? Do you think this rumor is true?
DJ: I think the rumor is definitely true. Solidarity is key to the success of any union, and if they feel like there are writers who are allowing the studios to make product and money without the WGA, they’ll punish those writers. This is the reason why I’m never a big union fan, because it doesn’t allow individuals to make their own decisions. But that’s the business, and it’s the game that must be played, I guess.
Is there anything else you would like to say on the matter that you haven’t already?
KM: As a political conservative, I’ve always been a “free-market” type. Until I joined the Guild, I didn’t understand the concept of workers joining together, and I certainly didn’t understand the ultimate tool of a bargaining body—a strike. I mentioned earlier that I have benefited in many, many ways as a member of the Guild. A studio recently optioned one of my books for film. The deal was quite fair but I was surprised that we had to fight for deal points that would be automatic, were I the screenwriter and not the novelist. It was a real wake-up call for me how much the union has done for us.
Films start with the writer but as development goes on, it’s very easy—and sometimes convenient—to “forget” that the story first existed in the mind of the writer.