Tyler Perry says he has been screwed over by union and nonunion writers and decided to write his own stories.
Responding to widespread criticism that he doesn’t have a writers’ room and is the sole writer for his television scripts, Perry sat down with Level, a publication for men of color age 30 and up, for a question and answer interview where he set the record straight.
“So, when I first started my career, I got a deal with TBS. When it was time to staff, I went to DGA, SAG, and IATSE (all unions representing directors, actors, and stagehands) and I told them, “TBS isn’t paying me the money upfront — I’m financing these shows myself. I’m not Sony, I’m not Disney; I need to work out a deal for pay rates,” Perry told Level. “They worked out great deals for me. At the time, I had a bunch of writers who were nonunion, and I was unhappy with every single script they wrote. They were not speaking to the voice. They just didn’t get it.”
Perry said he was also negotiating with a Black, female lawyer to get Writer’s Guild of America writers on his show. “I told her, ‘I can’t afford to pay those rates that every other studio pays. I need to structure differently.’ It looked like the deal was going to go through so I fired the four writers and prepared to hire new writers through the WGA.”
Then the press went ballistic, Perry said.
“I’m getting calls that I fired writers for trying to unionize. What? I came to the WGA on my own to try to work with them! I fired the writers because they weren’t giving me what I wanted. Period. It was a mess. The press says I fired writers who were trying to unionize. Not true, and it pissed me off,” Perry told Level’s Aliya S. King.
Not deterred by the experience, Perry said he also brought writers on to help with one of his shows when his mom became ill. Again, he said the writers failed him.
“Later on, my mom got sick. So I put a writers’ room in place for one of my shows. Now we’re a WGA show and I’m paying WGA rates. Scripts they’re turning in? Ratings are going down. So now I have to go in and give notes on how to rewrite them. And if I still don’t like it, I have to pay them again for another rewrite,” Perry said. “At one point, I thought they were submitting scripts that would need rewrites in order to get paid multiple times. And these are Black people.”
On one occasion, Perry said his request for a rewrite resulted in a writer filing a grievance against him with the union. “They felt like I was asking for too many changes and would never accept the script. I was furious,” Perry said.
He said his decision to write his own stuff is because they routinely didn’t deliver what his viewers have come to love and also because of overpayments due to so many rewrites.
“Look, one year, we overpaid the WGA by a million dollars,” Perry said.
“So no more writers’ room?” King questions.
“After dealing with all that bullshit? No. I ain’t doing it,” Perry responded.
King then becomes our hero for reminding Perry of his responsibility to support writers. And we are totally here for Perry’s response.
“I do and I will. We have four shows coming up with showrunners who will have their own writers and their own writers’ room. There will always be opportunities at Tyler Perry Studios for writers. Always. But for these particular shows, my audience wants my voice,” Perry explains.
AND, the successful writer-director-producer-mogul left the door open in terms of dealing with new writers.
“Now that I understand. And I appreciate that. When I posted that (tweet), I wasn’t thinking about how it would look to people who want to work with me. That’s fair,” he acknowledges.