Coaching Leadership And Workforces During A Strike Transcript


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Today marks nearly four months since the highly publicized union strikes in Hollywood began on November 5th, when the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and television Producers couldn’t see eye-to-eye on New Media revenue, placing thousands in Hollywood out of work for several months.

This coming June, the Directors Guild of America also has its own contract up for negotiations and talks of another strike looming.

How can professional coaches help leadership and work forces during a strike?

What are the rules that come into play when a strike affects business as usual?

What lessons can other industries take away from the Hollywood strikes?


* David Brownstein, Founder, Hollywood Coaching

* Jonathan Handel, Entertainment Attorney, TroyGould

* Sherri Ziff Lester, Certified Life Coach, RockYourLifeCoaching

* Patric Verrone, President, Writers Guild of America, West


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2007 there were 21 lockouts and strikes involving 1,000 or more workers. The largest major work stoppage in total days idle was between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Writers Guild of America East and West, with 10,500 workers accounting for 409,500 lost workdays.

What questions did the Writers Guild strike raise for the entertainment industry?

And what were the leadership lessons learned from the strike?

Most importantly, how were coaches able to help during the Writer’s Guild Strike, and what role can coaching play within other strikes as well?

Our panel of experts answer these questions and more.

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Coaching Leadership And Workforces During A Strike Transcript

  1. 1. Insight on Coaching Coaching Leadership and Workforces During A Strike Transcript Prepared for: Prepared by: Insight Educational Consulting Ubiqus Reporting (IEC)
  2. 2. Time Speaker Transcript 0:00 Tom Floyd Hello everyone and welcome to Insight on Coaching. Insight on Coaching explores the many facets, flavors, and sides of the emerging professional coaching field. I’m Tom Floyd. I’m the CEO of Insight Educational Consulting and your host for today’s show. Well, this week our topic is coaching, leadership, and workforces during a strike. We’ll talk about the current Writers Guild strike that just ended from the perspective of those who were closely involved in it. We’ll talk about the lessons learned from the strike, and most importantly, in general, we’ll talk about the roles that coaches played both during the previous strike and the role the coaches that can play in strikes in general. Well, just two weeks ago, the members of the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) put their final stamp of approval on the deal that ended their 14-week strike, giving writers new rights and protections for work distributed on and created for the Internet and other new media platforms. With me to talk more about the strike and some of coaching work that was done around it in general, today, are four guests. Some of whom are very familiar with the Writers Guild strike to say the least. We’ll spend a good chunk of time discussing the strike itself, and, of course, some of the work that coaches did in general. That said, let me give you a quick overview of who we have with us today. Our first guest, David Brownstein, is the founder of Hollywood Coaching, which provides career coaching, leadership coaching, and executive coaching to Hollywood’s top professionals. He has coached executives and creatives at all the major TV and film studios, including ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, Sony, Warner Brothers, and MTV networks among others. An award-winning producer, director, and screenwriter, David was recently named to a list of top 100 thought leaders by Leadership Excellence magazine. He was featured in The New York Times articles on life coaching in Hollywood, and has been interviewed and featured in Movie Maker, Men’s Health, Fitness, Awareness, and Creative Screenwriting magazines. He’s the author of “The Cosmic Mission of Hollywood: How to Stay Inspired and Productive in the Industry that Rocks the World,” and is a popular presenter on such topics as War and Peace in the Writer’s Room, The Essentials of Leadership, and A Course in Hollywood Miracles. Welcome to the show, David. 02:43 David Thanks, Tom. Good to be here. Brownstein 2 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 2 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  3. 3. Time Speaker Transcript 02:45 Tom Floyd Our second guest, Jonathan Handel, practices entertainment law at Troy Gould in Los Angeles where he focuses on digital media and intellectual property. He was previously Associate Counsel at the Writers Guild of America, and has appeared in the media over 150 separate times regarding the writers negotiations and strike in outlets, including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter. Jonathan has presented seminars on entertainment technology to U.S. and foreign filmmakers, CEOs, studio executives, and agents. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School and blogs at, and on The Huffington Post. Jonathan is also a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which is the professional association that awards the Primetime Emmys. Welcome to the show, Jonathan. 03:37 Jonathan Thanks, very much. It’s a pleasure to be here, Tom. Handel 03:39 Tom Floyd It’s a pleasure to have you. Our next guest, leader, turned Emmy award winning writer and producer, Patric Verrone, has served as the President of the Writers Guild of America West since September of 2005. His writing career began in the late 1980s as a monologue writer for the “Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson. Patric’s credits as a television writer and producer include “The Larry Sanders Show,” “The Critic,” “Pinky and the Brain,” “Rugrats,” “Muppets Tonight,” “Futurama,” and “The Simpsons.” Now that the strike is over, he has returned to writing and producing direct-to-DVD Futurama features, including the recently released Bender’s Big Score. Patric has won two Emmys and won the 2002 Writers Guild Animation Caucus Lifetime Achievement Award. Patric is also a member of the California and Florida bars, and has been an adjunct professor of entertainment law at Loyola Law School and UCLA Extension, and has served as editor of the Annual Entertainment Law Issue of Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine since 1996. Welcome to the show, Patric. 04:40 Patric Verrone Thank you, Tom. 3 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 3 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  4. 4. Time Speaker Transcript 04:42 Tom Floyd And our last guest, proclaimed by Elle magazine as having a shaman-like status to her Hollywood clientele, Sherri Ziff Lester is a certified life coach of Rock Your Life Coaching, well known for her work with actors and rock stars. She is equally passionate about her clients in the entertainment industry who work behind the scenes, and those calls visionaries, people who want to make an impact and are committed to living vibrant lives. Sherri’s newest passion is the NBA, and she’s recently expanded her coaching business to include basketball players. More recently, she did on-the-spot coaching at a celebrity-studded Golden Globes gift lounge. Prior to coaching, Sherri was a successful television writer on several prime time dramas, including “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Baywatch.” She has been profiled in The New York Times and Elle magazine, and has been referenced in numerous publications, including Self, Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, the New York Post, and others. Sherri has also appeared on “Access Hollywood” and “Fox News” on coaching in the entertainment industry. Welcome to the show, Sherri. 05:41 Sherri Ziff Thank you. Lester 05:43 Tom Floyd Well as we do with each show, I’d like to share something that our research team pulled together to set the stage. Well according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: Overall, in 2007 there were 21 lockouts and strikes involving 1,000 or more workers in 2007. In 2007, the largest major work stoppage in total days idle was between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Writers Guild of America East and West, with 10,500 workers accounting for 409,500 lost workdays (which was measured by number of workers involved, days of idleness, and length of stoppage.) A December 2007 USA TODAY/Gallup Poll showed that, when just six weeks into the strike, public sentiment rested firmly against the studios – sixty percent of Americans say they favor the writers in the dispute. Just 14% favor the studios who employ them. Well Patric, I’d like to start with you. Given your level of involvement in the strike, especially—this was definitely one of the most publicized strikes of the past decade—can you tell us a little bit more about how it all began? 4 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 4 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  5. 5. Time Speaker Transcript 07:03 Patric Verrone Well Tom, the strike itself was something that I don’t think anyone really wanted. This was a negotiation that happens every three years between the Writers Guild and the studios and networks. We have a contract that deals with the minimums, pension contributions, health insurance, and residuals for writers in television and film. This time around, with the advent of new media, not only the downloading of existing film and TV shows to the Internet and handheld devices, like iPods, but also the advent of the creation of new media for new media. In other words, webisodes of shows like “The Office” and mobisodes, mobile phone episodes, of shows like “Lost,” the Writers Guild, and as well the actors represented by the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA and directors represented by the Directors Guild, were becoming more and more interested in how our material was going to be both reused on the Internet, how we were going to be paid for that, and how new material was going to be created, whether we would get certain protections that we’re used to, including, as I said, minimum wages, and pension and health contributions. So in this contract, it was very important for us to set a floor for all of that work because, historically, whenever a new business model has come along, whether it was television itself in the early 1960s for us, cable TV in the eighties, home video in the mid-eighties, whatever patterns are set in those early negotiations, it tends to be very hard for us to break those patterns. So this time, the industry was saying to us something that they had been saying to us in the last few negotiations, which was that this is a new technology, we don’t know where the business model is, how we’re going to make money, whether we’re going to make money, so give us a break, lower the barriers to entry. We said we would love to do that, but for the fact that, as I said, we don’t want to set a bad precedent. So we said anytime you make money, we make money. We had percentage of revenue formulas in place. We just wanted to get the jurisdiction. We wanted to make sure that we had the coverage. As the negotiation, which began in July, continued to stagger on through October, it was clear to us that we were not going to get anywhere unless we showed some real resolve and determination. We took a strike authorization vote of our membership, 10,000-plus members, and we got over 90% positive response. So at the end of October, we were in negotiations clearly prepared to go on strike, and management refused to put any kind of offer on the table that we could take seriously, so the strike began on November 5th. 5 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 5 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  6. 6. Time Speaker Transcript 10:07 Tom Floyd Just to interrupt for a second, when you said that it became clear that you weren’t getting anywhere, what were some of the behaviors or things that you saw there that were really concerning? Those things that made you realize that you needed to do something about this fast? 10:21 Patric Verrone Well, the proposal that we had on the table we considered very reasonable. As I said, percentages of revenue for going forward for four new media. At the time, we were also asking, actually, for an increase in DVD residuals, which hadn’t changed since the mid-1980s. The other side—management’s proposals to us—had included a complete change in the way that residuals were calculate, a profit-based residual formula, which if you know anything about Hollywood accounting, can make the Enron executives blush with the ability to conceal profits and make that kind of profit participation specious. I think by the time we struck, that was off the table, but they were still claiming that they wanted to be able to use anything in new media, reuse any new or existing library TV shows or films. They wanted to be able show them on the Internet for free and call them a promotion. They didn’t want to grant us the jurisdiction for the creation of new material on the Internet. They wanted to do a three-year study. As I said, they didn’t believe that there was a business model in place yet. They wanted to study it for three years and then come back, and of course, in the meantime, either pay us nothing or pay us at the DVD rate. So it was a case where they were acting the way they had been acting for a generation now, which was simply to say no to all of the union proposals and the union—in this case us—would typically respond and say okay, fine, we’ll go along with it. This time, we didn’t, and so we called the strike on November 5th. 12:18 David Can I interrupt a second, Patric? Brownstein 12:19 Patric Verrone Sure. Go ahead. 12:20 David Patric, obviously, it was a successful strike and you got great things. Brownstein With what you learned by the end with what worked—if you could go back in time now—what might have worked differently in July that you discovered in January? 6 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 6 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  7. 7. Time Speaker Transcript 12:39 Patric Verrone Well, I think the key thing was the involvement of the CEOs. When we were bargaining from July through October, we were bargaining with what Tom referred to as the AMPTP (The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers). This is an entity that’s set up by the studios, and networks, and other independent production entities, of which there are very, very few now that matter. It’s set up so that they can bargain together. It has an advantage from our perspective too, in that you make one deal and it applies to everybody. But the people who populate the actual negotiating committee for the side are labor vice presidents. They’re executives within the companies, who are there, basically, to say no. The decision makers among the studios and networks—the CEOs—were not integrally involved in the process. We had some, what we call, back-channel conversations with a few of them during these weeks and months, but they were not in the day-to-day process. And it was very difficult to get, as I said, these labor executives, who had been doing this in some cases for almost 30 years, to say anything other than no, ‘cause that’s what they were empowered to say and do. So had we gotten the CEOs involved earlier, I think we might have been able to make the progress that we eventually did make, earlier. 14:03 David When you finally did get direct communication with them, what was their attitude? Brownstein 14:09 Patric Verrone Well, it differed from executive to executive. But obviously, when we had the conversations with them in January and early February—there had been, at that point, a two-and-a-half-month strike—and a very powerful one that shut down production. And despite what they’re saying to their stockholders and their earnings goals right now, it was a strike that affected them and this hurt their business. So their interest at that time, specifically, the 2007-2008 television season was about to collapse. Next year’s pilot season—the development of pilots for the 2008-2009 season—was dead in the water, and was about to also collapse. And the Oscars was in serious jeopardy. We had shut down the Golden Globes. That was turned from a high- profile event into a news conference, and there was this great fear that the Oscars was going to do the same. So the CEOs were interested in ending the strike, in making a deal that would prevent those three things from happening. So the particular personalities of these gentlemen—who were all extraordinarily professional and hard bargainers, but good bargainers—made the experience overall one of let’s see how we can make a deal. 7 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 7 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  8. 8. Time Speaker Transcript 15.44 Tom Floyd Just to recap, it sounds like that, in general, when you saw some of the concerns back in July, you were seeing some of the historical behaviors that you had seen in the past. That you really felt it was important to make sure that the model upfront was one that was fair. And that knowing it could be hard to make changes later that we absolutely had to get the right things in place from the beginning. And that getting the key executives and CEOs involved, and working with them directly, really helped the process a lot. 16:19 Patric Verrone Absolutely. 16:20 Tom Floyd Got it. Jonathan, I’d like to turn to you next. From your perspective, from a legal perspective, what made the past strike unique? 16:31 Jonathan Again, it’s a pleasure to be here and it’s a pleasure to share the virtual stage with Handel Patric, as well. Hey, Patric. 16:37 Patric Verrone Hi, Jon. 16:40 Jonathan I guess the way I’d like to look at it is to use as a jumping off point a couple things Handel that Patric said. There is this organization, the AMPTP, that’s a joint bargaining organization. There are a lot of multi-studio groups in this town. There’s the group that gives out the Oscars. There’s the group that does ratings on movies, and that lobbies against piracy and all those kinds of things. So this particular group’s only purpose is to negotiate labor agreements. That’s what it does. There are lots of unions in Hollywood and these contracts do come up every three years in general, and that’s what this group does. The head of the group is a lawyer, who’s been with the organization since its founding in 1982, and his sole job is to negotiate agreements. So it’s very troubling as an outsider to see exactly what Patric described, which is that the function of this group, the AMPTP in this strike, really was to say no. For once, I think Patric was a little soft on the group, which is that their July proposals really seemed calculated to drive the writers out on strike, frankly. They would have taken residuals, which are the payments that writers get when their material is 8 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 8 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  9. 9. Time Speaker Transcript reused. For example, if a movie gets released on DVD, or on television, a television show gets released on DVD, or now, with the new contract, when these things get released on the Internet, the writers get payments. And those payments for writers and actors in particular, and to a lesser extent for directors, are the way people live during their lean years. This is a very up and down business, as people probably know. So to propose turning the system of residuals into something akin to net profits, which again, as Patric said essentially means next to nothing in Hollywood, was more than an invitation to strike. It was exactly what a union needs to rally its members towards a strike. Add to that a lot of other rollbacks and even a provision that would have taken away writers’ credits in advertising. So the studios could have had the right to advertise a movie and give the director’s name in the print and leave the writer’s name out and that’s nothing but a slap in the face with a wet fish. So there is something very dysfunctional in the way the AMPTP has either been set up or has been used. Because the head of that organization takes his marching orders from the same executives, who ultimately, Patric found to be useful and constructive bargaining partners. So one of the questions is why weren’t they constructive from the beginning? I do think the strike, at this point, having imposed the cost it did on writers, crew members, actors, directors, and the LA economy as a whole, really raises the question of how can this AMPTP group continue to be or come once again, perhaps, to be a useful and functional group. To put it in context, the actors’ negotiations are coming up. Now if you’re the head of the Screen Actors Guild and you get a call, and they say we’re sending over Nick Counter, the head of the AMPTP, versus you get a call, and they say, we’re sending over Bob Iger, head of Disney. W hich meeting would you rather have, given the fact that the meetings with Iger, and Chernin, and others—the Hollywood executives—that made the writers deal and before that the directors deal happen? So there’s a structural question that this all raises. 20:23 Tom Floyd It sounds like, from everything that you’re saying, that the strike, A, absolutely was necessary, and that, B, it was almost set up in such a way, whether it was intentional or not, where the executives were realizing yeah, we’re pretty much taking away people’s paychecks to a degree in some cases, especially when times are lean, so it should not have been a huge surprise to them that the strike occurred. 9 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 9 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  10. 10. Time Speaker Transcript 20:48 Patric Verrone Tom, this is Patric again. I just want to interject, so that I don’t sound like I’m being too nice to the AMPTP, as Jon just pointed out. I want to go further and give them some real credit for 25 years of doing what they did successfully. What you had between, I would say, the early 1980s when both the Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild struck successfully in 1980 and ’81. And now, there really wasn’t a successful leadership-imposed strike amongst the talent community in Hollywood that actually achieves anything remarkable. We struck in 1985 and in 1988, and both times, I think, we lived to fight another day, but we didn’t really make the kinds of advances that we would’ve liked to on the issues of the day. And it was because the AMPTP had been set up as an entity where seven—at the time it was twenty—now it’s down to about seven, diversified, multinational conglomerates can get together without violating the antitrust laws and bargain against each of the unions, individually. There’s a concept in labor law called pattern bargaining, which in other industries, like the automotive industries, you get the craft unions together and they pick off one company—Ford or General Motors—and bargain with them, make the deal, and then apply it to the next company. In this industry, in Hollywood, the opposite happens where the companies—these fierce competitors,—get together, they bargain together, and they pick off one union at a time. So their behavior remained consistent, as it had been successful for a full generation where they had not had either a strike or they hadn’t had to give up anything. But the union’s attitude suddenly changed this time around. 22:52 Tom Floyd So it really was different in many ways from what it sounds like. I hate to cut you off. I’m hearing the music, so we’re going to a break. Let’s go ahead and go on pause. Stay tuned everyone. More from Insight on Coaching when we return. 25:30 Tom Floyd Welcome back to Insight on Coaching. I’m Tom Floyd. Today the topic is coaching leadership and workforces during a strike. With me are David Brownstein, the founder and coach of Hollywood Coaching. Jonathan Handel, entertainment attorney, Troy Gould, Patric Verrone, President of the Writers Guild of America West, and Sherri Ziff Lester, founder and coach of Rock Your Life Coaching. Well, in this segment of the show, I’d like to focus on the impact of the writers’ strike, 10 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 10 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  11. 11. Time Speaker Transcript as well as the aftermath now that it’s over. Some more data to quickly set the stage. According to the November 5th, 2007 issue of Forbes, the magazine predicted that the: “A strike will have two major effects. The first will be an almost immediate and potentially long-term economic hit to Los Angeles, California in general and the industry as a whole. The second will be the potential loss of a percentage of the viewing audience, for both the motion picture and television industries. The key factor in determining a strike's impact is how long it will last. In 1988, the last big writer's strike took 22 weeks. In 2001, with another writer's strike looming, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan commissioned a Milken Institute study that looked at potential job loss under several different scenarios. In the worst case, a five-month strike could have cost the city $6.9 billion in lost income and 54,600 lost jobs. That strike was averted. According to the January 11th, 2008 issue of Workforce Management: “The shutdown left thousands of New York’s 78,000 production workers unemployed and many of the 4,000 film-related businesses, like prop houses and caterers, struggling to stay afloat amid their worst crisis in more than a decade. The city hasn’t released estimates on the losses resulting from this strike. But when a similar strike loomed in 2001, the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting estimated that the city would lose a minimum of $625 million every quarter in total direct expenditures for productions requiring permits. A study by the Boston Consulting Group provided a more extensive estimate of more than $1.2 billion a quarter. That included studio production, as well as pre- and postproduction work. Finally, according to the February 29th, 2008 issue of Variety: The writers strike may be over, but Hollywood is still in gridlock mode. Patric, I’d like to start with you again, first, to address the predictions that Forbes made, what, in your opinion, was the impact of the strike on the LA economy? 11 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 11 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  12. 12. Time Speaker Transcript 28:07 Patric Verrone Well obviously, the way Hollywood operates, typically, when there is a strike looming or a negotiation looming, is you ramp up production, so that you can stockpile material. Then when the strike takes place, obviously, production grinds to a halt or slows down dramatically. But then once it’s over, you begin to ramp up again, as quickly as possible. So what we’re seeing right now is a lot of people going back to work. It’s a flexible production schedule, where 300 films will end up being made in this year, some of them will have been rushed into production. The amount of TV that will have been produced will probably be lower than it otherwise would, because there were two months of non-production. But the reruns that you would have otherwise gotten in April, occurred in January, and so the gas fills the amount of space that it’s given. W hat’s operating here—and this is obviously an important part of this whole discussion—is that the Screen Actors Guild negotiation is looming. With their contract set to expire June 30th, if you want to green light a movie that has a 90-to-100-day production schedule to it, you have to get that movie started now. Otherwise, you have a chance that they’ll go on strike at the end of June, and you’ll lose the actors at the end of the production of a movie. And that becomes not only cost prohibitive, but you physically can’t do the movie, so there’s a real concern now. That, I think, is the implication of the gridlock. I think if that can be solved, if the companies can bargain reasonably with the Screen Actors Guild and that problem goes away, I think this industry gets back on its feet in a relatively healthy mode because the good news is that this is a globally growing business. The new media opportunities that are out there, the things that we were fighting for that we’ve now achieved, for writers at least, will increase the amount of production that’s going to be called for from TV shows, like Heros that are doing additional Web content, from programming that’s going to go directly to the Internet that writers—I think one of the legacies of this strike is going to be is that writers are going to find their way into direct distribution of their own material the way we did during the strike on You Tube, and Untied Hollywood, and other media. 30:48 Tom Floyd So in terms of the gridlock, it seems like when Variety references that, that the main thing that’s contributing really are the looming negotiation—what needs to be done— with actors as well. 31:00 Patric Verrone I call it pending rather than looming, even though I did say it was looming. 12 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 12 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  13. 13. Time Speaker Transcript 31:04 Tom Floyd Yes, looming does sound a little bit more ominous. Jon, anything that you would add? 31:11 Jonathan I’m sorry. Were you asking me? Handel 31:12 Tom Floyd Yes, Jonathan. 31:12 Jonathan I’m sorry. Thanks. Yeah, one of the things about those negotiations that makes it Handel difficult and reflects back ultimately to a question for Patric, as well, is SAG has said that they’re not going to begin contract talks until April at the earliest. They’ve reiterated that last week. Another actors’ union called AFTRA, which bargains jointly with SAG is not happy about that. They want to talk earlier. And really there’s a divide between the SAG leadership in Hollywood versus SAG in New York, SAG elsewhere, and AFTRA, and all of the later want earlier negotiations. Whereas, the national leadership, based in Hollywood, feels that they get more leverage by waiting ‘til the last minute or closer to the last minute, which creates essentially what people call a de facto strike, which is that if you get that close to the contract expiration and the potential for a strike, no one wants to green light a movie, as Patric says, whose production dates might fall past the day that you would lose your actors. So even in the absence of an actual strike happening down the line, people end up on this strike footing. One of the questions that people raise for the writers as well, and this is the flip side of what I said earlier, is didn’t you guys always intend to strike? A more assertive—some people say aggressive, some people say militant—group of leadership in both the writers’ and actors’ unions, Patric among them, were elected around 2005. And since then, it has been a different guild, for example, than the Writers Guild was in the mid-nineties when I was there. And you’ve got to fault the studios, in part, for not seeing this—you open the trades everyday, and it says “here’s this new group that’s been elected, but we’re going to make the same old tired proposals to them anyway and not expect them to go on strike.” But my question, Patric back at you is, from the day you were elected, or certainly from sometimes in 2006, didn’t you have an increasing thought that you probably were going to have to go on strike? 13 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 13 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  14. 14. Time Speaker Transcript 33:33 Patric Verrone Well, up until the day that we took the strike authorization vote, we continued to be preparing for it, up to and beyond it, because it was clear to us that the studios were not opening the papers, as you say, and saw who was elected, myself and Alan Rosenberg at the Screen Actors Guild. They weren’t being responsive to what was an emboldened and a resolute group of writers, and actors, and others who were willing and preparing to strike. It’s the old adage of in order to maintain peace, you have to prepare for war. Unfortunately, they opted to not have the peace. They let us go on strike. I think there was, and I think there continues to be, with the Screen Actors Guild a sense that they won’t do it. We’ll solve the problem. We’ll bargain. They won’t go on strike. And then with us, for example, when we did, it turned into, well, they won’t last or we’ll be able to peel off the screenwriters from the TV writers, or in the case of the actors, split off SAG and AFTRA. 34:43 Tom Floyd I hate to cut you off and interrupt again. I’m hearing the music for our next commercial break. I hate doing that, but stay tuned everyone. More from Insight on Coaching when we return. 14 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 14 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  15. 15. Time Speaker Transcript 37:12 Tom Floyd Welcome back to Insight on Coaching. I’m Tom Floyd. Today the topic is Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike. With me are David Brownstein, Jonathan Handel, Patric Verrone, and Sherri Ziff Lester. Well, in our last segment of today’s show, I’d like to focus on, one, the importance of coaching in Hollywood, and then in terms of a lot of the great information that we just shared about the Writers Guild strike, the importance of coaching during a strike, particularly coaching both sides during a strike, in terms of leadership, in terms of the individuals involved, all of that good stuff. Some more data, just to quickly set the stage. According on one of our guests, David Brownstein, when interviewed by Fortune Small Business: “The strike has required businesses to come up with new survival strategies and creative solutions to the cash crunch.” With their production projects on hold, many clients took the time off to brainstorm about new financing options and think about their career trajectories. Others were forced to look at where there may be new business opportunities. During the strike itself, David also was quoted in his blog as saying: “The WGA's choice to strike, and the AMPTP's choice not to negotiate have combined to create an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and stasis few of us have experienced in our professional lives. And yet the uncertainty was here all along. The shutdown of production, development and awards shows has simply unmasked the great uncertainties that have always been upon us. ON WHY HOLLYWOOD NEEDS COACHING AND NOT THERAPY: “The role of therapy is decreasing depression, the role of coaching is increasing well being.” Well David, you certainly raised some outstanding perspective and points of view. I definitely want to start with the big picture question that you posed in your blog, and that is, from your perspective, in general, why does Hollywood need coaching? 15 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 15 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  16. 16. Time Speaker Transcript 39:07 David Well, I’ve been listening to and watching the strike from a leadership perspective, Brownstein both in how is the Guild handling development of its leaders and how are the studios doing that? I think in a way, Hollywood has a tendency to outsource conflict, and so, we have agents, and managers, and business affairs people that do the difficult stuff. Its interesting, as Patric was explaining, the months leading up to the strike, what I heard and saw, also, was the writers were negotiating like adults and the studios were negotiating like children. So the studios seemed to be hiding behind a representative, basically, how would basically say no, no, no. So the leadership stuff that I saw that was great that worked is that the Guild stayed together until the studios came to the table, so somehow that really worked. It’s interesting that from what I saw, as Patric said earlier and what I experienced just from reading the press, was that finally Iger and Chernin said okay, now we can talk about this. And then once the real people were at the table, something got resolved. So I think Hollywood tends to be—writers are, maybe, often conflict adverse. Hollywood’s dysfunctional in many ways and it has also incredible areas where communication really works. So what I do in my coaching practice these days is really focus on the leadership areas. Where can writers who may not be used to running a team, suddenly learn how to be a better leader and a better manager running a writers’ room? How can executives who have just learned from their dysfunctional boss, how can they be better leaders? How can even the studio heads be better leaders? 41:08 Tom Floyd So really there are multiple groups—it sounds like—that can benefit from coaching, from your perspective, from the executives and studio heads that we mentioned earlier in the show to writers themselves. Sherri, the exact same question for you, in terms of the coaching work that you do, from your perspective, why does Hollywood need coaching? 41:27 Sherri Ziff First, I want to acknowledge Patric. You handled this with such a fierce and classy Lester by of being. And to say, this is such a firestorm, personally, I’m really proud of you, and I want to thank you as a writer and on behalf of many, many writers in the Guild. 16 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 16 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  17. 17. Time Speaker Transcript 41:42 Patric Verrone You’re welcome. Thank you. 41:43 Sherri Ziff What I think applies most here that could apply to people in all industries is the idea Lester of not defining yourself by your job. Most of my creative—the actors, the recording artists—these people are more used to the ebb and flow of employment. But what I saw was the people who define themselves by their job, who are used to having consistent jobs that are not threatened by the ebb and flow—the executives, the agents, the managers, the people who are running the studios, running the networks, whether they’ve vice presidents, managers, and all those kinds of people. I think what happens is that people start to define themselves by their job. And this was an opportunity to stand back, and with a coach say who am I? I’m not my job. And who am I? And what I saw and the way I coached, was a lot about taking the time to explore what’s important to me. How do I want to move my life forward separate from employment, separate from my job? Staying out of the fear cycle. Fear breeds fear. When people could step back and say there’s going to be end to this. I’m going to get through this. And what do I want my life to be about now? How can I connect with my family, with my friends, with my creativity? How can I create something new? That’s where personal power showed up. That’s where people started to feel strong and excited about their life during the time of the strike, even though, obviously, they wished it hadn’t been going on. 43:12 Tom Floyd Would you say from your experience, if we talk about some of the Hollywood executives, that they’re experiencing some of the same issues that if you’re John Chambers at Cisco Systems or another executive in a high-tech company, in a banking company, in a pharmaceutical company, what have you, is some of the coaching that you’re doing really focusing on some of those same issues? 43:34 Sherri Ziff Definitely. Absolutely. Lester 17 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 17 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  18. 18. Time Speaker Transcript 43:34 Tom Floyd So its goal setting. Its self realization. Its how to be a good leader. Those same types of areas? 43:40 Sherri Ziff During the strike—what I thought happened—it wasn’t so much about being a good Lester leader, it was about whom do I want to be as a person? Because now you take the job off the table for an indefinite period of time, you have the opportunity to say who am I separate from my job? And what I think is, when people take the time to do that—and we work that as life coaches with our clients—that they come back to the job more solid, stronger, and ready to bring their entire selves to their work. 44:13 Tom Floyd So in terms of separating themselves from that, are you saying that in the coaching work during a strike—in this case—it’s really about knowing who you are and making sure, as a leader, regardless of what side that you’re on, that you’re staying true to who you are during it? 44:29 Sherri Ziff Absolutely, and growing who you are, bringing forth the different qualities that don’t Lester always come out in the job and getting to know those parts of yourself, and then being able to bring them to the job in the future. 44:41 Tom Floyd Got it. David, in some of the coaching work that you’ve done during strikes or that may have been during this particular strike, what were some of your goals from a coaching perspective that you would have for some of the clients that you’re working with? 44:56 David Well, if I could just go back to your question about Cisco and other companies. Brownstein 45:00 Tom Floyd Sure. 18 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 18 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  19. 19. Time Speaker Transcript 45:00 David One of the things that distinguishes Hollywood from other industries is that Hollywood Brownstein really hasn’t gotten hip to the idea of developing people in the long run. I think that the larger companies—technology companies, manufacturing—they realized that they’re going to need to develop their bench, so to speak, their leadership bench. They’re going to have develop managers into vice presidents and vice presidents into presidents. Hollywood has not really done a lot of that. Some of them give lip service to that, but I think because the industry has been a world of freelancers, there tends to be this underlying fear. I agree with Sherri, it is really important to develop who you’re going to be and who you’re going to be outside of your job. But when we’re getting in that cycle, the fear came to the surface, was what I experienced with a lot of my clients and what I heard from a lot of my clients. Day one of the strike, I was talking to a client of mine, who’s a producer at a studio. He said they walked in and told us this morning that if the strike goes on ‘til February 1st, we’re out of a job. So right away, it created fear. Other clients of mine said I don’t know. We better stop. Who knows how long the strike will go? So many of them stepped into, oh my gosh, we got to stop. But the people who survived the strike well really worked on other projects, started taking trips up to Silicon Valley looking into venture capital money, started to expand their horizons, and started to expedite the new media models, in a sense, or really looking into opportunities. So once they got out of paralysis, they started saying oh well, maybe TV is changing, maybe - - are changing. 46:39 Tom Floyd As a coach, when you’re hearing some of that fear, because that was exactly one of the questions that I had from a coaching perspective, how do you help keep a client motivated to hold out during a strike when they might have a lot of fears, particularly if their paychecks are impacted? That’s going to cause a lot. So what are some of the things does coaching help remind them of or guide them towards to make sure that they really are doing what they feel is best for them, and best for what they believe in versus giving into that fear, and crossing the line and taking work, and things like that? 19 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 19 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  20. 20. Time Speaker Transcript 47:16 Sherri Ziff Well, for me, one thing that came a lot, is when you identify the places in your life Lester where you feel powerful, it’s easier to put the fear on hold or to keep it at bay. And when you make a decision every day to actively be involved in those creative ventures, into things that make you feel really excited about life, you have a greater perspective than staying in the place of fear, fear, fear. But you’ve got to step out of it. You’ve got to look to the place in your life where you feel excited, where you feel solid, and build from that. 47:47 Tom Floyd So its focusing on those areas where you are strong, those areas that make you feel good about yourself. 47:52 Sherri Ziff Yeah. Lester 47:53 Tom Floyd And using those to counteract some of that fear that comes up. 47:55 Sherri Ziff Yes, and for me, what I saw a lot, it was really necessary to focus on those things Lester that were not typically job related, the things that stay with you whether you’re working or not. 20 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 20 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  21. 21. Time Speaker Transcript 48:07 Tom Floyd David, your point around Hollywood’s, being behind, in terms of recognizing the development needs of employees, and leaders, and things like that, I thought that was really interesting. One of the things that I’ve seen time and time again on this show is that there are many inaccurate perceptions about coaching. And also, one of the main reasons I’m doing this show and why I’m an advocate of coaching, personally, is that a lot of people don’t necessarily “get it.” They don’t get what it is. They don’t get how coaching can help. In many cases, it’s a constant desire to correct the misperception that coaching is a fix-it solution, meaning if you found a coach, there must be something wrong with you, and they were having performance problems with you, you could managed out the door, all of that. And a lot of people in the field really work hard to overcome that, and say “no, coaching is not a fix-it solution.” Is that one of the reasons that you would theorize in Hollywood why there could be this resistance or fear, like “oh, I don’t need a coach? That’s therapy. It’s fixing me. I’m fine, I’m fine.” Are those some of the things that are coming up? 49:09 David I think that the boomer generation, of which I am one of, has a legacy of therapy Brownstein means you’ve got a problem. So I’m finding the younger executives, the younger filmmakers, and creatives are starting to say well, “maybe I could use some help, maybe there are some ways that I could learn stuff. I didn’t get much mentoring, maybe coaching can be great.” Its funny, I talk to a lot of executive coaches about my practice and they all say “well, I’d never take jobs where I have to go in and someone’s got a problem.” I say well, I do. I get called into a lot of great situations where there’s a big mess, and I really get to help somebody out. And it transforms the department. It transforms that person. I’ve worked with people that were thrown off of their own show, and he went through a huge transformation. He got his deal re-upped and he went from thinking, “I’ll never work again” to “oh, gee, they re-upped my contract.” 50:02 Tom Floyd So it’s by really experiencing some success stories and making people more aware of that, it seems like that could be some of the things that help overcome some of those hurdles? 21 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 21 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  22. 22. Time Speaker Transcript 50:10 David Yeah, I think so. Whatever it takes to get us in there, is totally fine by me. Brownstein And they say “gee, this really works, maybe we should try this coach for that and maybe coaching would work.” I think, also, in the studios, the HR people and the organizational development people know about coaching know about coaching and believe in coaching. They’re not getting the call from the upper ups in the studio saying we’ve got a problem, let’s develop our leaders here. One of the reasons I developed this program called War and Peace in the Writer’s Room was because I kept hearing about studios having challenges with first-time show runners. Where someone wrote a great script, wrote a great pilot, suddenly they’re a show runner. They have a co-share runner on their program and they’re not getting along with him. And they’re suddenly going from a one-on-one writer to running a team—to running a huge organization. I kept hearing over and over that there were first-time show runners that were crumbling under these situations and I developed this with one of the studios I was working with. So the idea is to help people develop those leadership skills. Not necessarily the technical things, certainly not the writing things, but really how to be a better leader, how to run a team of writers, how to interface with producers, and interface with the networks and the studio executives, of which there are so many now. 51:23 Tom Floyd Got it. Fantastic. One last question, I’ve got about 30 seconds left, it’s a big picture question I’d like to pose to you, Patric. From your perspective—again, 30 seconds or less—will the studios still be around in 10 to 15 years? Or do you see the entertainment world being ruled a little bit more by Silicon Valley? 51:45 Patric Verrone Oh, I think they will be. These are entities that survived. If we look back about 150 years ago, as to whom the big media entities were and it was Western Union, actually. So maybe 150 years is a long time in the life of media, but I think in ten years, their ability to compete in new media will allow them to succeed. 22 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 22 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript
  23. 23. Time Speaker Transcript 52:12 Tom Floyd Got it. Well, a huge thank you to the four of you for joining us today. As always, a huge thank you for our listeners as well. For more information about the show, of course, you can look us up on the Voice of America business channel. You can visit our website,, and you can download the podcast version of our show in Apple iTunes. Thanks, everyone. We’ll see you next week. 23 | Confidential May 12, 2008 Page 23 Coaching Leadership and Workforces During a Strike Transcript