Meet the Negotiating Committee: Tom Schulman
Bio: Tom Schulman wrote Dead Poets Society for which he received a Writers Guild Award nomination and an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. He also wrote or co-wrote What About Bob?, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Medicine Man, and Holy Man. He wrote and directed Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag. He was an executive producer of Indecent Proposal and Me, Myself and Irene. He was the writer/producer of Welcome to Mooseport. He co-wrote and co-produced with Rafael Yglesias, The Anatomy of Hope, a pilot for HBO. He recently wrote, with Callie Khouri, Trae Crowder, and T Bone Burnett, a pilot for Amazon. He wrote and directed Double Down South, a feature that will be released in August. Tom served on the board and then as vice president of the WGAW. Tom was the president of the Writers Guild Foundation and serves on its board.
What prompted you to join the Negotiating Committee?
I have been on three WGA Negotiating Committees, negotiated directly with the CEOs as co-chair of the Screen CPSW, and was on the WGA West Board during the 2007-‘08 strike. I've seen seismic changes in our business over the years, and this cycle it is certain, given the changes in just the last few years, that we writers must make significant monetary gains just to survive. Every negotiations cycle I’ve seen the companies underestimate the solidarity and power of our union. As a member of this Negotiating Committee, I will to do everything in my power to make sure they don’t make that mistake again this time.
Tell us about a time when you have felt a strong feeling of solidarity with your fellow writers.
The solidarity and dedication of WGA members has literally given me goosebumps many times. Just to mention a few: the moment we announced in 2008, after a bruising strike, that we had won among other things jurisdiction over the internet; the moment the Guild announced, after our members stood together for 22 months, that all our agents had finally agreed to end packaging and agency ownership of production companies; and at every one of this year's outreach meetings when I witnessed the overwhelmingly supportive response to Ellen Stutzman and Chris Keyser’s presentation. I’ve been in the WGA for 39 years, and I've never seen the Guild as strong, united and determined as it is right now.
What makes the 2023 contract cycle different from past ones that you have witnessed or in which you have participated?
In this cycle, unlike any I’ve seen before, a majority of working members are finding it extremely difficult just to earn a decent living as writers. Writers and their families are stressed to the limit, and Chris Keyser said it best, “Writing is broken.” Given the companies' record growth and profitability, their refusal to remedy the situation would be indefensible. I’ve tried to go into every negotiation cycle optimistic that the companies would act as responsible employers. They can’t run their businesses without us; their enlightened self-interest should prompt them to treat us as valuable partners. But if they reject our demands, I have no doubt our membership will respond quickly and decisively. Writing is broken, and we all know it has to be fixed. Now.