It’s contract renegotiation time!
Specifically, it’s that time when the Writers Guild of America sits down with the Association of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) and tries like hell to make our TV, film, and other electronic media writing lives happier, healthier, and more fulfilling.
In other words, we’re looking for ways to be more productive and creative and make more $$$.
This week we’ll be bringing you the full text of the latest missives from the Writers Guild of America negotiating committee on the Guild’s position regarding various issues of importance to TV (and film) writers.
comedy & variety writing concerns
Comedy-variety is perhaps the oldest television genre and it’s still going strong with more new shows being produced now than in any time in recent memory. And for the past few years this genre has been quite popular on subscriber streaming platforms.
Series like Patriot Act with Hasan Minaj, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson and The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show provide streaming platforms like Netflix with different types of entertaining content, which in turns helps those companies attract new subscribers.
Despite this growth, terms for comedy-variety programs produced for subscriber streaming platforms are entirely negotiable, which means there are no WGA minimums. As a result, companies are free to pay writers as little as they can get away with resulting in some of them not even earning enough over a season to qualify for WGA health insurance. In addition, residuals on a hit show barely amount to a few hundred dollars.
This is not just a problem for comedy-variety series made for subscriber streaming platforms. It could also impact the future of legacy broadcast comedy-variety series (e.g., The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel Live!) since the studios and networks are shifting programs over to a subscriber streaming delivery model where they can take advantage of these substandard provisions.
We have been successful in previous negotiations in establishing minimum terms for episodic series and feature films made for SVOD. It is time for comedy-variety shows to be treated the same way.
Another comedy-variety issue we need to address is discounted rates. Today the companies can reduce comedy-variety weekly rates (minimum rates that are already much lower than are required on episodic series) by as much as 20% below minimum in exchange for employing writers under “cycle” contracts. This greatly diminishes both initial compensation and residuals that writers receive for TV series.
Comedy-variety writing jobs make up a consistent and important source of employment for WGA members. We therefore need to ensure these jobs continue to pay the minimum rates and residuals that Guild members have worked many years to achieve.
MBA Negotiating Committee
Michele Mulroney, Co-Chair
Shawn Ryan, Co-Chair
Betsy Thomas, Co-Chair
Ashley Nicole Black
Dante W. Harper
Melissa London Hilfers
Lauren Ashley Smith
Patric M. Verrone
David A. Goodman, Ex-Officio
Marjorie David, Ex-Officio
Beau Willimon, Ex-Officio
Kathy McGee, Ex-Officio
Bob Schneider, Ex-Officio
Tomorrow: Part 5