The WGI Board

Playwright Michael Weller
Opening night of Michael Weller's Side Effects at MCC on 6/19/11. Photo by Lia Chang

Michael Weller is a Founder and President of the Writer’s Guild Initiative of the Writers Guild of America, East and a permanent member of the counsel of the Dramatists Guild of America.

Weller is the author of 40+ produced plays, the best known of which are Moonchildren, Loose Ends, Spoils of War, and Fifty Words.

Films: “Hair” (for Milos Forman), Ragtime, (for Milos Forman), Lost Angels (Hugh Hudson). Recently, he wrote the book for a musical based on the Boris Pasternak novel “Dr Zhivago.” An adaptation of the novel The Fill Catastrophe by David Carkeet, premiered at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival in July/August 2015.

Based on private mentoring throughout his career, he designed and developed the acclaimed Mentor Project for of the Cherry Lane Theatre, and served for it’s first ten years ten years as it’s Supervising Mentor.

He work has earned an Academy Award nomination, an N.A.A.C.P. Outstanding Contribution Award, Critics Outer Circle Award, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant and a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award, and the Helen Merrill Award. The Broken Watch Theatre Company named their playhouse in his honor.

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Tom Fontana is a Founder of the WGI and has written and produced such groundbreaking television series as St. Elsewhere, Homicide: Life On The Street, Oz, The Philanthropist, Copper, and Netflix’s Borgia.  He has received, among others, three Emmy Awards, four Peabody Awards, three Writers’ Guild Awards, Four Television Critics Association Awards, the Cable Ace Award, the Humanitas Prize, a Special Edgar, and the first prize at the Cinema Tout Ecran Festival in Geneva.

Fontana serves on the boards of Stockings with Care, the WGAE Foundation, The NYPD Police Museum, DEAL, The Creative Coalition, The Acting Company, The Williamstown Theatre Festival, and Center for Creative Voices in Media.

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Willie Reale is a Vice President of the WGI and writes for the stage and screen. He was nominated for two Tony Awards for A Year With Frog and Toad, which he wrote with his brother, composer Robert Reale. With his brother (and Richard Dresser) he has written (and is still writing) Johnny Baseball, which was produced at the American Repertory Theater.

Mr. Reale has an Academy Award nomination in the best song category for his work as a lyricist on the movie Dreamgirls and has won 3 Emmy awards for as the writer/producer behind the recent reinvention of 1970’s literacy classic, The Electric Company, now airing on PBS. Willie has worked written extensively for network television and has been nominated 3 times for Writer’s Guild Awards.

In 1981, Reale founded The 52nd Street Project, an organization that brings inner-city children together with professional theater artists. He served as the theater’s artistic director for 18 years. He wrote “52 Pick Up,” the Project’s how-to manual. The 52nd Street Project’s programs are currently being replicated at 14 sites across country and in Europe. In June of 1994, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of his ingenuity in creating theater and theater education programs for young people.

He is married to theater producer, Jenny Gersten. They have two children, Augustus and Leonardo.

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Richard Dresser is a Founder and Vice-President of the WGI. His plays have been produced in New York, regional theater, and Europe. They include the widely produced ROUNDING THIRD, which was just made into an indie film starring John C. McGinley and Garret Dillahunt.

Another play, BELOW THE BELT, was made into the film HUMAN ERROR. He wrote the book for the musicals JOHNNY BASEBALL (about the Curse of the Red Sox) and THE HOLLER, a bluegrass ghost musical.

In television he’s written and produced on a number of shows ranging from HBO’s “Vietnam War Stories” to “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd” (starring Blair Brown) and “The Job” (starring Denis Leary). He teaches at Rutgers and Queens College.

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Adam Brooks is the Secretary of the WGI and a Canadian-born filmmaker, living in New York City.

His last film was Definitely, Maybe, which he wrote and directed. His writing credits include French Kiss, Beloved, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Practical Magic and the Academy Award nominated short film, Duke of Groove. 

He directed Almost You, winner of the Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, The Invisible Circus, and the pilot of the Bravo television series, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. 

Adam is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University. He was a three-term council member of the Writers Guild of America East and is currently on the board of Writer Guild of America East Foundation.

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Susanna Styron is the Treasurer of the WGI, screenwriter, director and documentary filmmaker. Her writing credits include the Columbia Pictures feature SHADRACH, starring Harvey Keitel and Andie MacDowell, which she also directed.

Susanna co-wrote, with Bridget Terry, the TV movies BACK WHEN WE WERE GROWN-UPS and INTO THE NIGHT for Hallmark Hall of Fame; and TAKING BACK OUR TOWN and CROSSING THE LINE for Lifetime. She wrote and directed for the TV series 100 CENTRE STREET created by Sidney Lumet, and has written for the series BORGIA created by Tom Fontana.

Susanna’s non-fiction essays have been published in The Yale Review, Spin Magazine, The New York Times, and Real Simple magazine. She is currently in production on OUT OF MY HEAD, a documentary feature about migraine, which she is writing and directing. Susanna teaches screenwriting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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Chris Albers  has been a monologue writer at Late Night with Conan O’Brien since 1995. He has also written for Late Night with David LettermanLate Show with David LettermanThe Jon Stewart Show and Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, as well as numerous award shows and specials.

Chris is a past President of Writers Guild of America, East (2005-2007). Before being elected President, he served on the Council and was Chairman of the Organizing Committee. During Chris’s term as President, the Guild was finally able to organize the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. This led to organizing most of Comedy Central. In the first months of his term he scheduled a series of meetings with Writers Guild of America, West in neutral cities across the country. During those meetings the two unions reached agreement on a number of outstanding issues, which ended an extended period of hostility. Guidelines were put in place to ensure that the unions would work more as partners in the future.

Over the years Chris has been nominated for 15 Emmy Awards, and in 2007 he won an Emmy for his work on Conan. During that same time he has been nominated for 13 Writers Guild Awards, and won six. In addition to writing, Chris has co-produced numerous specials, including the GQ Men of the Year Awards and The Writers Guild Awards. He teaches a comedy-writing course at Columbia University’s Graduate Film School.

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Crowned the “Unknown King of Comedy” by New York Magazine, Andrew Bergman is the writer and director of The Freshman, Honeymoon In Vegas, It Could Happen To You, So Fine and Striptease. He has also written The In-Laws, Fletch, and co-wrote Soapdish, as well as The Scout and Oh, God, You Devil.

Bergman began his motion picture career at the very top, writing the story and co-writing the screenplay of the classic Blazing Saddles. He went on to write such other memorable comedies as The In-Laws, Fletch, and Soapdish. In fact these four Bergman movies, plus The Freshman, were nominated by the American Film Institute as among the greatest comedies of all time. In 2007 the Writers Guild of America awarded him the Ian McLellan Hunter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Writing.

Andrew Bergman has also written the Broadway hit Social Security, directed by Mike Nichols, which had a one-year run in 1986. His most recent work, the musical version of “Honeymoon In Vegas,” written with the composer Jason Robert Brown, ran on Broadway during the 2014-15 season. The New York Times called it “a classic Broadway musical…a revelation.”

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Eric Bogosian is an actor, a celebrated playwright, and author of three novels and most recently, a non-fiction history. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his play Talk Radio, and is the recipient of the Berlin International Film Festival’s Silver Bear award, as well as three Obie Awards and the Drama Desk Award. In the spring of 2015, Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot that Avenged the Armenian Genocide was published by Little, Brown. He is married to director Jo Bonney and lives in New York City.

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Marshall Brickman, born in Brazil of American parents, attended New York public schools and the University of Wisconsin, where he received a double baccalaureate in both science and music.

He entered show business first as a member of the folk group The Tarriers and then, along with John and Michelle Phillips, as one of The New Journeymen, a precursor of The Mamas and the Papas, whose flamboyant life-style and eccentric harmonies defined the post-folk era of tuning up, turning on and cashing in.

Trading in his Gibson Mastertone 5-string banjo for an IBM Selectric, he secured a position as writer/director on Candid Camera, America’s original reality show, a wildly successful early experiment in monetizing public humiliation, for which he hereby apologizes. His stint on Candid Camera lasted just over 3 months, about three days short of a nervous breakdown.

Fleeing Candid Camera as from a burning building, Brickman found solace as a writer and then head writer for Johnny Carson, whose late-night show on NBC emanated from ironically named Radio City in midtown Manhattan, a stroke of luck that allowed him to stay as far from Los Angles as possible while still retaining U.SA. citizenship. In 1970 he left NBC to become producer/head writer of Dick Cavett’s late-night show on ABC. Among the many ground-breaking events that Cavett introduced into the late-night formula was the night presidential hopeful George McGovern was interviewed by last-minute guest host Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics. The result was enlightening, frightening and similar to watching a python ingesting a small cow.

Meanwhile he had started a collaboration with Woody Allen, a young comic who opened for the Tarriers at Fred Weintraub’s Bitter End, the legendary coffee house that provided exposure to upcoming talent in music and comedy. They worked at odd hours on screenplays and material for Allen’s early TV appearances, which provided Brickman with the impetus and economic freedom to pursue work outside the restrictive area of TV. Eagerly seizing the opportunity, Brickman watched Mr. Allen negotiate both the creative and practical issues confronting an artist working in a commercial environment; it was an experience like no other; Brickman learned things that can’t be taught and never laughed as hard as the time spent roaming the city with a certified genius, and discussing art, politics, women, the state of the business, and why Durwood Kirby was considered funny, even by people with college degrees.

Mr. Brickman’s film work as author (or co-author with Woody Allen) includes Sleeper, Annie Hall (Academy Award), Manhattan, (AA nomination) and Manhattan Murder Mystery. As film writer/director): Simon, Lovesick, The Manhattan Project, Sister Mary Explains it All. In television: The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (head writer, 1967-’70); The Dick Cavett Show (head writer/co-producer, 1970-’72).

Brickman’s recording (with ex-Tarrier Eric Weissberg) of the soundtrack of Deliverance, released in 1970, contained the surprise hit “Dueling Banjos,” achieved platinum status, and remains a healthy seller over 40 years later.

His first foray into musical theater resulted in Jersey Boys, which won the Tony, Olivier, Helpmann, Grammy and many other awards worldwide, is in its eleventh year on Broadway, has been seen by twenty million people worldwide and is currently the 10th-longest running show in the history of Broadway.

Mr. Brickman’s other theatrical efforts include “Turn of the Century,” which played to capacity houses in Chicago, and “The Addams Family,” starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, which ran for two years on Broadway and to date has had over four thousand first and second tier productions internationally.

In addition to his work in film and theater, Mr. Brickman has published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Playboy and other periodicals. He is the 2006 recipient of the Writers’ Guild of America Ian McClellan Hunter Award for Lifetime Achievement.

His current project is a stage musical celebrating the life of western star Roy Rogers, scheduled to premiere early in 2017.

After over 40 years in the business, trying to balance talent with opportunity and watching the careers of colleagues, both successful and less so, he can reduce what he’s learned into one succinct bit of wisdom: above all, it’s important to be lucky.

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Fred Graver is the Creative Lead for TV at Twitter.  He works with networks, producers and talent around the world to create new and innovative ways to put TV and Twitter together.

Fred’s career spans comedy writing and producing (Late Night With David Letterman, Cheers, In Living Color, Jon Stewart), interactive producing (The MY Vh1 Awards, ZoogDisney), and creating shows that span the web and television (Best Week Ever). He has 7 Emmy Nominations (including one for the post-9/11 Concert for New York City) and 3 Emmys, as well as a NAACP award and a Webby.

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Lulie Haddad is an award winning documentary producer, director and writer.  She has worked on mostly on American History films for PBS. Earlier in her career she worked for ABC News, Wall Street Journal Television and VH1 as well as produced films in India and Mexico.  She helped launch the Veterans Writing Program for the Writers Guild Initiative and helped run the workshops during its first years.

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James V. Hart was born in Shreveport, Louisiana and grew up on Drive-In Movies and Saturday Matinees in Ft. Worth Texas. Soon after graduating from SMU in Dallas (class of ’69), he began producing films. His first feature film, Summer Run, opened the USA Film Festival at SMU in 1972.

Hart settled in New York City with his wife, son and daughter, and began his screenwriting career. His writing/producing credits include: Hook, directed by Steven Spielberg, based on an idea by Hart’s then six year-old son; Bram Stoker’s Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola; Muppet Treasure Island, directed by Brian Henson; Contact, directed by Robert Zemeckis; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, directed by Kenneth Branagh, as producer with Coppola and John Veitch; Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story, also directed by Brian Henson, a Jim Henson/CBS mini-series; and Tuck Everlasting, directed by Jay Russell for Disney, with Sir Ben Kingsley, Sissy Spacek and William Hurt.

Hart’s first novel, Captain Hook Adventures of a Notorious Youth, about the early days of James Hook at Eton before his adventures with Peter Pan, was published by Laura Geringer Books for Harper Collins in the fall of 2005. The novel was named one of the “Top Ten Young Adult Books” in 2006 by the American Library Association, and is due out in Germany in April, 2007. Hart is writing the sequel, Captain Hook Pirate King, for a 2009 release.

He adapted Clive Cussler’s best selling novel, Sahara, for Paramount Pictures and Baldwin Entertainment — starring Penelope Cruz and fellow Texans, Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn. Hart also contributed to Lara Croft – Tomb Raider II, also for Paramount and Lawrence Gordon Productions.

The Snow Goose, Hart’s adaptation of the Paul Gallico novel, is being directed by Christian Alvart, which Hart will also produce. He is currently adapting Ayn Rand’s classic and massive novel, Atlas Shrugged, for Baldwin Entertainment, starring Angelina Jolie.

J.V. is currently writing and producing his first animated spectacle with children’s book illustrator, home town friend and fellow SMU graduate, William Joyce, and the director-animator Chris Wedge who created Ice Age and Robots with Joyce. The new animated epic for 20th Century Fox, based on ancient faerie legends, will also be a series of books by Hart and Joyce beginning in 2009.

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Christopher Kyle’s film credits include Serena, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence; Oliver Stone’s Alexander; and two films directed by Kathryn Bigelow, K-19: The Widowmaker and The Weight of Water.

His plays include Plunge and The Monogamist, both of which premiered at Playwrights Horizons; The Safety Net, which premiered at Broken Watch Theatre in New York; and Boca, which premiered at Charlotte Repertory Theatre.

He is a former Guggenheim Fellow in drama and a graduate of the MFA program in playwriting at Columbia University.

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Richard LaGravenese was born in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Emerson College and NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing.

LaGravenese’s first professional gig was as a contributing writer for the Off Broadway revue “A MY NAME IS ALICE” directed by Joan Micklin Silver.

Screenwriting credits include; THE FISHER KING (directed by Terry Gilliam, Oscar nomination): THE REF, (directed by Ted Demme), A LITTLE PRINCESS(directed by Alfonso Cuaron)… UNSTRUNG HEROES (directed by Diane Keaton)….THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (directed by Clint Eastwood), BELOVED (directed by Jonathon Demme), RUDE AWAKENING (w/Neil Levy), and WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (directed by Francis Lawrence).

LaGravenese has written and directed: LIVING OUT LOUD starring Holly Hunter, Danny DeVito and Queen Latifah…PARIS J’TAIME, with Fanny Ardent and Bob Hoskins… FREEDOM WRITERS, starring Hilary Swank and Patrick Dempsey (HUMANITUS Award Winner for Screenplay) … and P.S. I LOVE YOU starring Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Kathy Bates Lisa Kudrow, Gina Gershon, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Harry Connick Jr.

He co-directed and co-produced with Ted Demme the Seventies film documentary for IFC, entitled “A DECADE UNDER THE INFLUENCE” (National Board of Review William K. Everson Award winner for film history and an Emmy nomination for best documentary). He has also taught a 14 week Master Class for Screenwriting at Emerson College.

He lives in New York City and Connecticut with his wife and daughter.

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Warren Leight is the showrunner and executive producer of the critically-acclaimed NBC/Universal Television drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” now in its 17th season.

Leight was formerly the showrunner and executive producer of HBO’s  “In Treatment” (Peabody Award, Humanitas nomination), the FX drama “Lights Out,” and NBC’s “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.”

Leight’s play “Side Man” won the 1999 Tony Award for Best Play and was a 1999 Pulitzer Prize Finalist.  Other plays include “No Foreigners Beyond This Point” (Drama Desk nomination), “Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine” (ATCA nomination), and the books to the musicals “Leap of Faith” (Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk nomination) and “Mayor” (Drama Desk nomination).

Leight is a current member of the Dramatists Guild Council, and is the former President of The Writer’s Guild of America, East.

Leight was raised in New York City.  He lives with his wife and daughters in New York.  Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/warrenleightTV

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Kenneth Lonergan is a Pulitzer- and Academy Award-nominated playwright, screenwriter, and director born in the Bronx, New York City, New York. He began writing in high school, later graduating from the NYU Playwriting Program.

His first success came with the play This is Our Youth, for which he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. This was followed by Pulitzer-nominated The Waverley Gallery, based on his grandmother’s Greenwich Village Gallery, and he Drama Desk Award-nominated Lobby Hero.

Lonergan’s film career began with his screenplay for the gangland comedy Analyze This. He was subsequently offered a job writing The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Lonergan directed his next screenplay for You Can Count on Me, which won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Drama and was Nominated for both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay. Lonergan went on to contribute to the screenplay for Gangs of New York, which was nominated the Academy Award and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay.

Most recently, he wrote and directed the film Margaret starring Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, and Matthew Broderick.

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Jenny Lumet  is the author of RACHEL GETTING MARRIED for which she received the 2008 New York Film Critics Circle Award, Toronto Film Critics Association Award, and Washington D.C Film Critics Association Award. She also received an NAACP Image Award. She is also the author of the screen adaptation of THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD, The Language of FLOWERS, and doctored REMEMBER ME, BOBBIE SUE, HONEYMOON WITH HARRY. She is currently at work on the UNTITLED MONSTERS PROJECT for Universal Studios.

She authored the pilots The Weissmans of WESTPORT, CRAZYTOWN, and THE BERESFORDS and consulted for Fox Television’s SLEEPY HOLLOW.

Jenny is presently at work on a series Pilot for Amazon Television, and a series Pilot for CBS Television she has authored several other original screenplays including KINGDOM OF LOUIE and SAMBO. She serves on the Council of the Writers Guild of America East and the Board of the Writers Guild Initiative. She generated and chairs the WGAE’s first Diversity Caucus. She is an Executive Director of BINDERCON, a conference