Riskin Wins WGAw Presidency

(BPI) LOS ANGELES-Victoria Riskin has become the first female president of the Writers Guild of America West in almost 50 years.

Riskin defeated secretary-treasurer Michael Mahern in Thursday's election, garnering 916 votes to Mahern's 737. Riskin, who has twice served on the WGA's national board as well as its last two negotiating committees, replaces John Wells, who decided in June not to seek a second term. The results of the election were announced Friday.

Riskin said Friday that enforcing the recently negotiated contract, defending and expanding the creative rights of writers, and securing pension and health benefits and full residual payments for animation writers are at the top of her two-year administrative agenda. "John (Wells) has done an outstanding job, and it would be a pleasure to build upon what he has done," Riskin said. "I want to open the doors, to get more writers involved, as well as build solidarity for our rank and file."

Not since Mary C. McCall Jr. was president from 1951-52 has the WGA had a female president (McCall also was president from 1942-44.)

In other election news, Charles Holland was elected vp, garnering 1,135 votes, and Patric Verrone was elected secretary-treasurer with 968 votes. The eight elected board members are Peter Lefcourt (1,057 votes), Terry Curtis Fox (915), Irma Kalish (850), Tim O'Donnell (801), Ann Marcus (732), Melissa Rosenberg (711), Elizabeth A. Hunter (711) and Philip LaZebnik (684). A total of 1,768 votes were cast.

The daughter of actress Fay Wray and Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Riskin, Victoria Riskin is married to former guild president David Rintels and received support from past presidents Christopher Knopf, John Furia Jr., Ernest Lehman, Melville Shavelson, Frank Pierson and Brad Radnitz. Riskin also benefited from an all-star list of endorsements from writers Norman Lear, Ray Bradbury, Blake Edwards, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, Harlan Ellison and Billy Wilder.

Another of Riskin's goals is to revitalize the guild's committee process, which she says has declined in recent years. According to Riskin, a reinvigorated committee process could aid in tackling issues that the guild faces, such as lack of minority writers, women's issues and legislative affairs. Riskin also said she is looking forward to opening up dialogue with the Directors Guild of America over the "possessory credit" issue. Due in large part to staunch opposition by the DGA, the WGA negotiators failed in their bid to place caps on the distribution of the "film by" credit, which almost always goes to a film's director. The writers instead agreed on future discussions with the DGA and the companies probing the issue. No date has been set for those discussions. q