Studios Back WGA Payment Initiative

7:59 PM PST 01/23/2014 by Jonathan Handel

The AMPTP releases a statement agreeing that writers should get paid on time.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers released a statement Thursday agreeing with the WGA West’s push, announced yesterday, to get feature film writers paid on time.

“We agree with the Writers Guild of America that writers should be paid on time,” said the statement from the organization, which represents the production entities of the major studios  and the broadcast networks, as well as independent producers and entities affiliated with some cable networks. “We pledge our cooperation to address compliance in this important area. We encourage the Guild to advise us of instances when writers have not received timely payments in accordance with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.”

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That agreement requires payment within seven days after the writer delivers a script, treatment or other “literary material,” according to a statement on the guild’s website. But a 2012 survey of WGA members identified late payment as one of screenwriters’ top three complaints.

The new WGA effort enlists the cooperation of writers’ agents to inform the guild when material is delivered to producers, so that the union can then follow up and demand payment and interest if writers aren’t paid on time.

The effort is to “change the culture of late pay that persists in Hollywood,” in the words of a WGA announcement.

The issues identified by 2012 survey participants, in order of frequency, were free rewrites, sweepstakes pitching, late payment, free prewrites and idea theft. Of these, late payment may be the most objectively policeable.

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More broadly, screenwriters have suffered from notoriously low respect as far back as the 1930’s studio era. Still, the 2012 survey reflected that many writers believe the studios used the 2007-08 writers strike – and the Great Recession that coincidentally started later in 2008 – to reset the terms of the companies’ relationship with writers, with feature film earnings declining and the number of employed writers and mid-budget movies dropping as the business became more concentrated on fewer tentpoles.

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