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WGA West screenwriters and TV scribes whose unproduced material has been shopped or purchased by a studio have until Friday to turn in their scripts and outlines.
The WGA has used such script-validation programs during at least three previous strikes as a means of ensuring that writers don’t secretly work for studios during a walkout. But as a practical matter, there’s little guild officials can do to enforce participation in the program.
On the TV side, an enforcement committee will attempt to correlate the number of scripts turned in and the number of episodes going before the cameras during the strike.
But WGAW general counsel Tony Segall acknowledged Wednesday that participation by screenwriters is “kind of an honor system.”
Still, the WGAW has demanded that writers comply with the program by turning in all such materials within four days of the pickets going up Monday. The WGA East has issued the same strike rule but hasn’t set a firm deadline for compliance.
Both orders rankled studio execs severely.
The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers sent a letter to the WGAW and WGAE on Oct. 19, ordering officials to cease and desist all efforts connected to their script-validation programs. Segall said the guild will ignore that demand.
“They sent the same letter back in 1988,” he said. “We didn’t comply then, and we won’t now.”
Separately, several AMPTP member companies sent letters to WGA members urging them to disregard the script-validation mandate in situations where the materials were written under a studio contract. That caused the guild to file an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, contending the letters attempted improperly to intimidate guild members.
“These are our properties, and for competitive reasons we don’t want them circulated, especially if they say unfinished scripts,” AMPTP spokeswoman Barbara Brogliatti said. “You don’t want unfinished scripts in third-party hands — I don’t care how trustworthy you think those people are.”
Segall said the security concerns are overstated.
“We offered to talk to them about any security concerns,” the general counsel said. “But we’re not going to let works that are proprietary get out there and circulate. They will be kept in envelopes and locked up and then will be destroyed after the strike.”
The Association of Talent Agents has been fielding frantic phone calls from the organization’s member literary agents.
By Wednesday, “many hundreds” of scripts had been received, Segall said. WGA members could turn in the materials at drop boxes at WGA headquarters in Los Angeles and New York, by mail or by providing an up-to-date online registration of the materials.
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