WGA News – March 22, 2011

The WGA and the AMPTP have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract. Seeking to avoid another crippling strike, negotiations were concluded in just two weeks. The agreement has already proven to be controversial, with some WGA members applauding the deal as the best one possible in these difficult economic times and others condemning it for not addressing a number of key issues – primarily better compensation for work in new media – more aggressively. The agreement still has to be ratified by membership, so expect the debate to continue for the next several weeks.

Below is the text of an email announcing and outlining the agreement that was sent to WGAW members of March 20, 2011:

Dear WGAW Member,
We are pleased to inform you that our negotiators have concluded a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Talks began on March 3 and ended today at 3:30 p.m. The three-year deal features significant gains in contributions to our pension fund, improves payments in Pay TV residuals, increases our minimums, and takes steps to address important workplace issues for screen and television writers. Your Negotiating Committee will meet tomorrow to officially vote on sending the tentative agreement to the WGAW Board of Directors and WGAE Council for approval prior to member ratification.

Highlights of the tentative agreement include:

Pension Plan Increases: The contribution rate to our pension plan will increase by 1.5%, from 6% to 7.5% of applicable compensation and residuals. In this time of financial volatility this increase goes a long way toward allowing the fund to meet its obligations for the foreseeable future. We will also have the option to shift 1/2% from the increase in minimums in the second and third years of the contract to further support the fund. This is a necessary safety measure should continued volatility in the financial markets require its implementation. These two provisions combined make as much as 33% more funding available to the pension fund each! year.

Increased Payments in Pay TV: The annual reuse payments for one-half-hour and one-hour programs in Pay TV will increase by 20%.

Increased Minimums: Minimum scale rates will increase 2% per year.

Workplace Issues: Meetings of the Committees on the Professional Status of Writers for Screen and TV (CPSW) took place during these negotiations. The meetings provided a forum for writers to discuss a wide range of issues with film and television’s top executives. In screen, the topics included sweepstakes pitching and one-step deals. Additionally, contract provisions have been added that require each studio to send to its creative executives a bulletin stating clearly that spec writing is not to be condoned; and that each studio will facilitate an annual meeting with its creative executives and screenwriters from the CPSW. In television the topics discussed included product integration, promotional messages that appear on top of program content, and limiting writer employment option periods on series. Additionally, contract provisions have been added that increase funding for the Showrunner Training Program, provide acknowledgement that studio/network notes should be given in a timely fashion, and require each company to facilitate an annual meeting with its creative executives and television writers from the CPSW.

As part of this overall package the Guilds agreed to several concessions. Network Primetime residuals will now be frozen at the current rates for the term of the new contract. Business class and coach air travel will now be allowed for certain short flights. Promotional uses of clips in new media have been expanded slightly to include certain consumer pay formats.

Unfortunately, there are a few crucial areas where we were unable to make progress during this negotiation. Minimum compensation and residual rates in Basic Cable remain far too low and must still be addressed. We were also unable to clarify our jurisdiction over the rapidly evolving digital production technologies represented by motion capture. Both of these important issues will require our continued attention.
Additional details of the new contract will be included in the ratification mailing.

We wish to thank our talented professional staff led by WGAW Executive Director and chief negotiator David Young. This agreement could not have been reached without their tireless efforts on behalf of all writers.

Negotiating Committee Members
John Bowman (Committee Co-Chair)
Billy Ray (Committee Co-Chair)
Chris Albers
Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Andrew Bergman
John Brancato
Adam Brooks
Patti Carr
Tim Carvell
Jonathan Fernandez
Katherine Fugate
David Goodman
Chip Johannessen
Warren Leight
Damon Lindelof
Julie Martin
Ron Moore
Jeff Nathanson
Jeremy Pikser
Shawn Ryan
Melissa Salmons
Stephen Schiff
Mike Scully
Thania St. John
Steve Zaillian

4 thoughts on “WGA News – March 22, 2011

  1. Ray Morton

    Hi folks,

    The spec writing referred to in the agreement does not mean spec screenplays. It refers to studios asking writers to prepare material for free as part of the pitching/development process of projects already in the works. Keep writing your specs.

  2. John Washco

    Great question Liz! I was thinking the same thing while reading over the tentative agreement. I spent 20 years writing great “real” police reports. After retirement, another year was spent educating myself in screenwriting, which culminated in purchasing Final Draft software. Yes, I guess I would be described as an “old guy” by aspiring young screenwriters. Currently, everyone who has read my outline and first draft didn’t stop or slow down till they reached the end and said, “WOW! That’s great, you should write movies”. I explained, that’s what a real screenplay is supposed to look like, format wise. I’m very glad you enjoyed it and that’s my plan. Would this clause in the WGA Contract keep writers like me from getting their screenplays read? I’m also a former Marine from the mid 70″s and “where there’s a will there’s a way”. I’ll figure something out. See you all on Venice Beach!

  3. Liz Schroeder

    This looks like a good deal, but I stumbled over “spec writing is not to be condoned.” I understand the desire to use proven writers on script development; is this pushing for guild writer exclusivity? How will this affect students and/or beginning writers aspiring to WGA membership?