Warner's New 'Max' Lumps Together Writer and Director Credits, Pokes Hollywood's Already Irritated Creative Bear

David Zaslav and Graydon Carter
David Zaslav and Graydon Carter attend the Cannes Film Festival Air Mail /Warner Brothers Discovery Party at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on May 23, 2023 in Cap d'Antibes, France. (Image credit: Photo by Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images for Air Mail/Warner Brothers Discovery)

Highlighted in a Wednesday-morning  feature with a photo of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav palling with Air Mail founder and former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, the Wall Street Journal describes the cliffside French Mediterranean party thrown Tuesday by the pair as a kind of throwback Cannes Film Festival event, summoning "watery ghosts of Hollywood's happier past." 

“This is where we celebrate the great filmmakers and the great storytellers,” said Zaslav, who also described the soiree to WSJ as being thrown "to make a statement." 

With filmmaker Martin Scorsese and movie star Leonardo DiCaprio also pictured at the shindig, one unnamed attending entertainment publicist was also quoted as saying, "We needed this." 

Six thousand and fifty-five miles away, back in the Burbank, Calif. home office, WBD engineers were struggling Tuesday morning to work out the bugs with the relaunch of the erstwhile HBO Max. 

The technical issues appear to have been quickly smoothed over, but what might be a far more vexing one for Zaslav and WBD emerged in the late afternoon, when striking movie and TV writers began noticing how the newly christened "Max" handles credits for creative talent. 

Essentially, lead writers are lumped in with directors and other creative talent under the catch-all heading "creators." The tweet below shows how Max presents credits for the 1980 Scorsese classic Raging Bull

A Reddit page soon emerged -- it now has nearly 130 disgruntled comments at the time of this sentence typing. 

By Wednesday morning, the Writers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America had released a joint statement on the matter:

“Warner Bros. Discovery’s unilateral move, without notice or consultation, to collapse directors, writers, producers and others into a generic category of ‘creators’ in their new Max rollout while we are in negotiations with them is a grave insult to our members and our union,” DGA President Lesli Linka Glatter said in a statement. “The DGA will not stand for it.”

Added Writers Guild of America West President Meredith Stiehm: “This is a credits violation for starters. But worse, it is disrespectful and insulting to the artists that make the films and TV shows that and make their corporation billions." 

For its part, WBD responded quickly, declaring that it would "correct" the Max credits. 

“We agree that the talent behind the content on Max deserve their work to be properly recognized,” WBD said. “We will correct the credits, which were altered due to an oversight in the technical transition from HBO Max to Max and we apologize for this mistake.”

Be that as it might, the credits issue represents more friction for Zaslav and Hollywood's current culture of labor unrest, which could soon include striking DGA members, as well. 

While Zaslav has worked to play the part of a traditional film and TV mogul, even moving into the former estate of Greta Garbo and Robert Evans, and repeatedly iterating reverential rhetoric at retrograde industry events, his 2021 compensation ($246 million) is also frequently cited by the WGA rank and file as emblematic of the film and TV industry's unsustainable economic polarization. 

Indeed, as Zaslav's viciously heckled commencement speech last weekend at his alma mater further illustrates, the cost-cutting mogul has quickly emerged as the lightening rod for Hollywood's summer of union discontent. 

Notable was the closing quote from the WSJ's story about Zaslav's Cannes party. Asked by the writer what he thought the nostalgic event was really paying tribute to, singer Moses Sumney, star of HBO's forthcoming The Idol, remarked, "capitalism." 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!