Writers Guild Awards

Answering the Call to Serve

2023 WGA Negotiating Committee Co-Chairs Chris Keyser and David A. Goodman to receive Morgan Cox Award.

Long before they co-chaired the 2023 WGA Negotiating Committee, leading through the negotiations, strike, and ratification of the 2023 Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA), David A. Goodman and Chris Keyser committed years of service to the WGAW, ranging from stints on multiple committees, the Board of Directors, WGA Negotiating Committees, and leadership roles during the Agency campaign. Each served two terms as WGAW President (Keyser from 2011-2015, Goodman from 2017-2021).

David A. Goodman. Photo by J.W. Hendricks.

Goodman became a WGAW member in 1988; Keyser in 1989. Yet the two longtime friends and frequent committee volunteers—who will receive the 2024 Morgan Cox Award at the Writers Guild Awards on April 14 in recognition of their service to the Guild—both admitted to being relative latecomers to active Guild involvement. 

Shortly after joining the WGAW, Goodman recalls a cousin who was a union organizer with the Communication Workers of America (CWA) counseling him to be an active union member because “it’s the one bureaucracy in your life that you can affect.”

“I took that advice, but it took me 14 years to get involved,” said Goodman. “My exposure to Guild service happened after I had benefited from things that writers historically had gotten for us.”

Fellow latecomer Keyser moved into film and TV after graduating Harvard Law School. While still a freelance writer, he recalls being part of an arbitration process that prevented him and his then writing partner from losing a credit. 

“Those were my first experiences with the Guild working for me in making sure that the world was as fair as it could be for writers,” Keyser said. “Probably like David, it was a long time after that before I got involved with the Guild in any way.”

Chris Keyser. Photo by J.W. Hendricks.

During a recent interview over Zoom, the two former Guild presidents discussed their careers, recollections of the strike summer and the upcoming Writers Guild Awards. Keyser and Goodman both acknowledged the honor of the Morgan Cox Award while also stating their belief that people serve not out of a need for recognition, but because they are asked and feel they can make an impact.
“It is not something I step back and think about a lot. You just do it,” Keyser said. “I serve because there is a need, because I have some abilities, and because I have been lucky in my life to have been given a lot. It’s not a revelation. It’s the usual answer: the need to repay.” 

“When I was asked to get involved in the Guild, I was starstruck by the writers I was getting to meet,” added Goodman. “I love that I got into the Writers Guild. I love that I got to be a writer for a living and that I get to meet all these writers. My involvement in the Guild, despite the stresses, and despite whatever apparent sacrifices I may have made, has been mostly a gift—and the Guild is a gift.”

The two men met during the 2007-‘08 strike when Goodman was already a WGAW Board member and Keyser was enlisted to create political media for the strike. They overlapped briefly serving on the WGAW Board in 2011. After Keyser was elected president, he and Goodman had breakfast together every six months to talk about the state of things. Keyser recalls a particular conversation during which Goodman advised him that, in order to be effective, Keyser would need to come with an agenda, to know exactly what he wanted to do in order to make writers’ lives better. 

“It was the most important conversation I had with any member during that time,” Keyser said. “David had been involved in Guild leadership for much longer than I had. He understood the way the mechanism of the board and the officers work. I took it to heart, and that changed things for me.”

“That was after you were reelected. The first two years I think we just argued,” added Goodman with a laugh. “Our relationship was sort of formed in the WGAW Board room, and I did recognize when Chris was reelected as president that he was a great Guild president. The work he did after that led to some really important victories.”

I serve because there is a need, because I have some abilities, and because I have been lucky in my life to have been given a lot. It's not a revelation. It's the usual answer: the need to repay.

- Chris Keyser

Reuniting to chair the 2023 WGA Negotiating Committee, Goodman and Keyser found that their complimentary personas made them an effective team. Characterizations of the two co-chairs as being an “Oscar and Felix” Odd Couple pairing draws a chuckle from the two, but the partnership proved a highly successful one.

“We made each other better,” Goodman said. “I relied on Chris and his ability to put everything into context. I know I couldn’t have gone into that struggle without him, and I don’t think we would have had the success we had without him.”

“When you’re in a writing partnership it works because you feel grateful every day that you have somebody who is making you better, and I certainly felt that way with David,” agreed Keyser. “We knew each other very well, but I felt overwhelmingly advantaged by having somebody right next to me through this whole thing. I relied emotionally and practically on the fact that I was doing this with David.”

With the “hot labor summer” of 2023 now several months in the rearview mirror, Goodman and Keyser acknowledge that the Guild would not have arrived at its contract had the WGA and its membership had not been united in pursuit of its collective goal. 

“David and I were hugely advantaged by the fact that the Negotiating Committee was so clear about the messaging," Keyser said. "We had a lot of messengers, and we split that burden with a lot of people who did it really well. The membership understood what they were fighting for so clearly that I don’t think David or I ever felt as though we were solely carrying the burden of expressing the meaning and goals of the strike.”

Goodman also cites the work of WGA staff, lot coordinators, and captains in setting up the strike and helping to get everyone prepared.

“That wasn’t me and Chris. That was the infrastructure of this union preparing everyone in those first few weeks with that unified feeling,” Goodman said. “It was difficult, but it was powerful.” 

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