The Campaign

Meet the Negotiating Committee: James Schamus

Bio: James Schamus is an award-winning screenwriter (The Ice Storm), producer (Brokeback Mountain), director (Indignation), showrunner (Somos.), and former CEO of Focus Features. James is also Professor of Professional Practice in Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where he teaches film history and theory.

What prompted you to join the Negotiating Committee?

Not sure, but the proximate cause is most likely my need to smother the yawning existential abyss mushrooming inside me by making sure I have absolutely no free time for anything or anyone this spring. One has little time to ponder what Kierkegaard called “the sickness unto death” when locked with the AMPTP in a conference room in a mall in Sherman Oaks.

Tell us about a time when you have felt a strong feeling of solidarity with your fellow writers.

That time is NOW. In over 30 years of Guild affiliation I have never seen a membership so unified and determined.

What makes the 2023 contract cycle different from past ones that you have witnessed or in which you have participated?

The dizzying number of battle lines we are fighting on. While the overall narrative is clear—the studios and streamers’ relentless push to “Uber-ify” our work and make precarious our lives—their death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy makes this negotiation both existential while also extremely technical and detailed.