... 14 WGA writers and writer-producers on Sony's newly ordered TV animated series Sit Down, Shut Up! have walked off the show scheduled to air in primetime on Fox this fall. It's a dispute over who has jurisdiction over the writing staff: the WGA or IATSE. The problem is that all the Fox TV animated shows now being broadcast on that network are covered under the WGA contract, so the writers assumed their new show would be as well.
If there's a dispute, it's between Sony and the writers to whom (apparently) Sony has been selling a bill of goods for the last six months.
Here's a clue: if you "assume" you're under this or that contract, you have a problem going in, because it's good professional practice to get a little something about your status in writing. SDSU is -- to the best of my knowledge -- a Sony enterprise. And the Animation Guild has owned a contract with Sony Adelaide (which does Sony's television animation) for a dozen years. We organized the joint, collected rep cards, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board, the whole nine yards, in the middle nineties.
Writers were part of the contract then, they're part of the contract now. And as far as I know, the WGA has no contracts in place with Sony for animation writers. (I could be wrong, of course. I get around so little. The WGA did have a contract for wordsmiths on the Sony-produced prime-time animated series Dilbert in 1998 ... because back then Sony placed the writers in a separate, non-Animation Guild company which the WGA ultimately organized. Bully for the WGA.)
But it seems with this current writing crew, that isn't the case. If they're housed at Sony Adelaide, then they're under a TAG/IATSE contract (horror of horrors). If Ms. Finke's article is correct and these scribes haven't signed deals, then they're certainly free to walk out from under that contract, and more power to them. No point in working someplace you're not happy.
Just please don't drag us into a fight between Sony and the WGA. This dispute is between corporate execs in Culver City who apparently misinformed some new hires on an animated television show. TAG ain't involved.
Add On: Whoops. Apparently I misspoke. It seems -- if the Hollywood Reporter is to be believed -- that the writers and their agents knew which union they were working under:
"The producer, Adelaide Prods., has been a signatory to the IATSE bargaining agreement for at least 10 years, and has been producing animated programming under that agreement," Sony said in a statement. "All of the deals made with the writers were specifically negotiated with their agents specifying that this program would be covered by the IATSE bargaining agreement."
Other industry sources also confirmed that the writers and the their reps had been informed early in the process that the show will be covered by IATSE, not WGA.
But there are stout hearts at the WGA:
"The writers of 'Sit Down, Shut Up' are Writers Guild members, and they want the show to be covered by a WGA contract," the WGA said in a statement. "We have been in conversations with Sony, and hope this will be settled soon."
Uh, there's nothing to settle. The Animation Guild has a long-standing collective bargaining agreement representing writers and storyboard artists at Sony Adelaide. The WGA doesn't.
Despite Ms. Finke's assertion that TAG all of a sudden waltzed in and snatched buttered bread out of unsuspecting writers' mouths.
(Variety gives its version of events here.)