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Members of the Writers Guild of America East and West have voted to institute an “Additional Literary Material” credit for feature films.
The credit will offer recognition to writers previously unable to receive feature film screen credits who are working under a Guild contract, have been employed in helping to craft the script or sold or licensed work for it and have submitted “literary material” to a script, though they cannot claim authorship of the script. 73 percent of voting members voted in favor of the credit. Voting on the screen credits referendum began on Nov. 2 and concluded Nov. 15.
The proposed credit seeks to acknowledge the work of writers who don’t have authorship over a film but nevertheless work on it: “Feature writers tend to have shorter, less complete and less accurate resumes than television writers with equivalent work histories,” the Guild said in an explainer and frequently asked questions document for members about the proposed change. The Guild’s Screen Credit Review Committee estimated that in 2020, about 185 writers that worked on films that the WGA determined credits for did not receive credit for their work, and would have with an “Additional Literary Material” credit in place.
With these vote results, starting Jan. 1, 2022, the WGA can offer an “Additional Literary Credit” to writers during the credit-determination process, with the credit eventually set to be displayed on IMDb and the WGA’s “Find a Writer” directory. The credit is not retroactive, and studios will have to determine for themselves whether to include the credit in the end crawl of films: For the Guild to require the credit be included in a film’s end crawl, they would have to negotiate that into a future minimum basic agreement, and the WGA’s current Theatrical and TV Basic Agreement is set to expire after May 1, 2023.
However, the Guild has noted that TV’s “staff writer” credit provides a precedent for how to institutionalize the credit: The “staff writer” credit began by being added into waivers, rather than into the Guild’s minimum basic agreement. “The Guild began permitting it in 2000, following codified language. It quickly became standard,” the Guild said in material provided to members about the proposed credit. The WGA has written up a draft waiver for writers to use in individual contract negotiations with employers.
Over the last few weeks the credit has provoked debate among Guild members, with some in favor arguing the measure will help marginalized writers and some opposed suggesting the credit will strip power from those with traditional screenwriting credits on a film. In a statement from the WGA West’s the Inclusion and Equity Group, signatories including Crazy Rich Asians writer Adele Lim and Insecure showrunner Prentice Penny said that underrepresented writers often join a project late in the writing process to “do dialogue polishes, targeted character work, or ‘authenticity passes'” and often don’t receive traditional credits. “Please join us in voting YES on the Screen Credits Referendum. Let’s end the erasure of the names of our hard-working fellow members,” they wrote.
A separate group that planned to reject the proposal, including writers Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Scott Frank (The Queen’s Gambit), meanwhile, said in a statement that the institution of the credit would damage writers as a whole: “It will cause increased bewilderment among an already-confused press and public, who will jump to conclusions about the sausage-making that will in most cases be unwarranted. And it will expose more of that sausage-making itself – an ugly enough process as is, and one that uniquely sullies the status of writers,” they wrote. Others who opposed the credit said it could open up writing credits to abuse by employers and individuals in other above-the-line roles, who could seek the credit for friends or talent that do minimal work on a script.
Over the course of the debate, writers including former WGA West presidents Howard A. Rodman and David A. Goodman and Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), John August (Aladdin) and Colin Trevorrow (Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker) came out in favor of the “Additional Literary Material” credit. Robert and Michelle King (The Good Fight) and Malcolm Spellman (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) publicly opposed the credit.
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