European Writers Stage Solidarity Protest Outside Motion Picture Association’s Brussels HQ

Writers have staged a protest outside the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) European headquarters in solidarity with the WGA.

A number of writers including Jennifer Davidson, the chair of Writers Guild of Ireland, and “Blasts From the Past” writer and director Hugh Farley participated in the protest in Brussels on Thursday evening, where it is understood the MPAA were holding a “social event for industry reps and friends,” according to a source.

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“What else are you going to do when you’re in Brussels with a bunch of writers guilds?!” Davidson tweeted along with photos and videos of the gathering.

The protest was organized by the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE), an umbrella organization representing associations, guilds and unions of audiovisual writers across Europe. Members include Britain’s WGGB, France’s Guilde Française des Scénaristes and Italy’s Writers Guild Italia.

At least a dozen protestors seemed to be present outside the MPAA’s EMEA offices in Brussels holding placards printed with the slogan “I stand with the WGA” and “FSE stands with American Screenwriters.” Among them was also BAFTA-award winning screenwriter Gail Renard, treasurer for the Writers Guild of Great Britain (WGGB). In a statement via the WGGB, Renard said: “As the MPA is made up of some of the same companies as the AMPTP, it seemed the perfect opportunity to show our solidarity with our sister guild and their members in the U.S. Writers guilds and unions across the world are flexing their collective muscle to face down the existential threat to our livelihoods that has taken our US colleagues out on strike. This is just the beginning.”

FSE executive officer David Kavanagh told Variety that around 35 individuals had shown up outside the MPAA’s office on the Avenue des Arts in Brussels, representing 15 separate guilds from around Europe. Planning for the protest had begun less than a week ago, with the MPAA chosen because it’s made up of “many of the same companies” as the AMPTP, Kavanagh said. “With all due respect to them, they were a convenient target,” he added.

Members of the MPAA include Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Netflix Studios, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Universal.

“There’s not just fellow feeling with people we know and like and have worked with for years, but also complete sympathy with what they’re trying to do,” Kavanagh said of European screenwriters’ solidarity with the WGA. “There’s a tectonic shift in the way our industry is organized, things are changing very very quickly and situations which are already difficult – and much more difficult in Europe than they are in the United States for screenwriters – suddenly have become almost existential in some senses. We have to react and we have to react collectively. And when European guilds who have little or no power see writers who have power and are excising that power, it’s naturally very exhilarating and people wanted to respond, wanted to help.”

Kavanagh said the Brussels protest was just “the beginning of a campaign of support for the Writers Guild of America which will continue globally over the next weeks or months.” He is also hoping that the campaign will be supported beyond Europe, with the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG) – whose members include Israel, India and South Africa – potentially joining as well. Kavanagh calls it “A global response to global companies.”

Most international writers organizations have come out in support of the WGA, who are currently on strike amid negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The WGA has also urged writers abroad to avoid taking on new work for struck companies, even where those writers are not members of the Guild.

“To me it’s kind of bizarre to be in a situation where a group of people around the world who provide the stories on which the whole film and television industry is built are themselves very badly treated,” the FSE officer added. “It makes no sense.”

Pictured top: Writers Guild Ireland chair Jennifer Davidson and writer/director Hugh Farley

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