Our History

Established in 1966, the Writers Guild Foundation was founded by a group of Writers Guild members to raise money to help writers from Third World countries to attend an international meeting of writers held in Los Angeles that year. The purpose in setting up a foundation was to create a non-profit charitable corporation which could accept tax-deductible donations and undertake certain supplementary activities of value to the Guild and to film and television writers in general. The Foundation is registered in California as a 501(c)3 charitable and educational corporation.

The Foundation’s first President was James R. Webb. Other founding trustees included Mel Shavelson (who succeeded Webb and served as President for 22 years (photo below), Edward Anhalt, Fay Kanin (photo left), Christopher Knopf, Ernest Lehman, Isobel Lennart (photo below), and Allen Rivkin. Members of the Foundation’s early Boards also included Carl Foreman, James Lee Mahin, Nate Monaster, James Poe, Sy Salkowitz, Rod Serling , Leonard Spigelglass, Daniel Taradash and Billy Wilder (photo above).

Early Foundation programs included the Watts Writing Workshops in the late 60’s, tribute events (Robert Bolt, Julius Epstein, Phillip Dunne) and the film Words, a compilation of great moments in the movies which emphasize the writer’s role in the process.

Beginning in 1993, when it hired its first paid staff members, the Foundation worked to revise its charter and update its by-laws. It developed a mission statement and strategic plan, created new programs, and made major efforts to develop a Board that is both representative of today’s writing community and which has the prestige, influence and fundraising capacity to best fulfill the Foundation’s goals. New program initiatives added over the years have included the Visiting Writers Program, the High School Workshop program, an oral history program, a writing program for military veterans, workshops, seminars, and speaker series, and the highly successful Words into Pictures conference, held in 1997, 1999 and 2002.

The Foundation established its first library, the James R. Webb Memorial Library, on WGA premises in 1984. This first library was staffed on a part-time basis by the WGA and was open three days per week. In early 1996, when the WGA moved into its present headquarters, the Foundation conducted a successful small capital funding campaign to furnish and equip a new library on the building’s ground floor, which included the first administrative office for the Foundation on Guild premises. In 2003 the Guild granted the Foundation permission to plan a new and considerably expanded library and executive offices provided that all construction and furnishings costs would be the Foundation’s responsibility. Following a successful $2 million campaign, the Writers Guild Foundation Shavelson-Webb Library officially opened on June 18, 2005.

For a list of library donors, click here.