Paul Young Memo To Ted Sarandos On WGA Strike: Quite Simply, We Need A Rich Guy To Do The Right Thing – Guest Column

Editor’s note: Paul Young, the Emmy-winning producer and founder of management-production company Make Good Content, also co-founded Principato-Young Entertainment in 2000, while concurrently serving as chairman of the Groundlings Theater. The onetime Variety reporter and Paramount creative executive recently produced the Duke Johnson film The Actor and will next make the Ferris Bueller spinoff Sam and Victor’s Day Off for Paramount.


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Paul Young
Paul Young

My name is Paul Young, and I own a management company called Make Good Content. I am writing to you because our entertainment community needs a leader. We need someone in power to take responsibility for making such a mess of things. We need a CEO who will seek to understand the writers’ concerns, not refuse to acknowledge their proposals, and then do something about what he’s learned. Quite simply, we need a rich guy to do the right thing. Even when it costs money. That’s why we need you, Ted.

You and I both know you’re the right person. Netflix has a history of lifting up artists. In 2020 your company established a $150 million relief fund for workers impacted by Covid, and one year later a $100 million fund to support storytellers from underrepresented communities. And look, I know you’ve alienated some important people in our community with a few programming choices, but at least you took the heat yourself. Owning your sh*t like that is rare for a corporate suit.

I won’t go into the issues behind the strike. The writers have undeniable points across the board, and I know you know that. So I’m asking you to approach this negotiation with common sense and good faith. After all, Netflix disrupted the ecosystem where writers were fairly compensated, and you got rich in the process. In this new system they’re getting completely screwed, and you’re as much to blame as anyone.

Every agreement should be rooted in a sense of fairness and mutual respect. It determines how people with divergent interests will collaborate and co-exist. When one side ignores the legitimate concerns of the other, it shows they are not valued, and trust is broken. When your negotiator refused to acknowledge key concerns of the writers, they effectively said, “You’re not worth our time, and you are not our partners,” or in the words of Logan Roy, “F*ck off!” The writers had no choice but to strike, which put us on a war footing, and as with all wars, innocent people will get hurt. Someone has to lead the AMPTP out of this sh*t show. Why not you, Ted?

I’m sure you’ve read that the WGA is on the front line of a broader war between the super rich and everyone else. I’m usually skeptical of such grand pronouncements, but in this case it’s true. The middle class is getting decimated while the rich don’t even seem of this planet, and everyone knows it ain’t right. Jeff Bezos shot William Shatner to space to publicize his rocket, which barely made the news, but if you told me Bezos was helping showbiz workers make a living wage, I’d think I was getting punked.

Ted Sarandos at Netflix’s virtual upfronts presentation this week
Ted Sarandos at Netflix’s virtual upfronts presentation this week

I know you consider wealth disparity to be a problem, and you’ve established funds to help address the issue. But here you have a chance to achieve some balance in your own community, right here, right now. If we don’t do it at home, then who will? Talk to the writers directly, Ted, and acknowledge the obvious logic of their proposals. Proactively make the hard choice to share the wealth that they help create. After all, protecting the profession of writing protects your business, too. You know what you’re willing to give, and you can imagine how much a prolonged strike would make you stretch. Make the painful stretch now before too many people get hurt, and convince your AMPTP colleagues to follow suit. It’s going to happen one way or another because this is existential for the writers. Help us get there without a protracted war, Ted.

I walked the Netflix picket line last week with some clients. We talked and laughed and ate donuts. We chanted slogans. We even danced a bit because a mariachi band showed up. The whole scene made me remember why I love our business. I wish you could have been there, Ted. We are a community, and you’re an important part. Most of us came here on a dream, and once we arrived we just tried to build a life. We found friends and a place to live. Maybe we partnered up and had kids. Along the way we made some projects together. Our dreams came true or transformed, and now we’re just living our lives. All the writers are asking is that they get to live theirs.

Can’t you stop fighting them?

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