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 where we are on what probably are the three most important issues.
Here’s #One – raising minimum payment rates
As you know, we usually lay out our bargaining agenda during membership meetings. Since many of those meetings had to be cancelled this year, we will give you an overview of our proposals to the AMPTP through a series of emails, starting with this one on minimums.
The MBA establishes minimums for writers’ initial compensation, as a means of maintaining our livelihoods and setting equitable standards for our industry. Although some of us earn more than the minimum, increasing minimums impacts all writers. For example, in television, pension and health fund contributions are usually paid up to 2 ½ times the applicable minimum. If the minimums increase, so do the contributions paid into the funds. As such, raising minimums is critical, both to individual writers and to the strength of our pension plan and health fund. Minimums are also the basis on which many of our residuals are calculated.
For these reasons, we are seeking across-the-board minimum increases, including weekly minimums for mini-rooms. We are also addressing a number of contract provisions which are out of date and undercut minimum standards. To that end, we are proposing:
LIMITING DISCOUNTS ON MINIMUMS: The MBA currently provides discounts on minimums in a number of areas that we think are unwarranted. We want to eliminate discounts for new writers altogether and increase the number of weeks of guaranteed work before studios can discount minimums for comedy-variety writers. The MBA also allows our employers to pay a reduced TV weekly minimum if they guarantee a certain number of working weeks. Yet, as more and more writers are being paid only the minimum when working in so-called “mini-rooms,” we need to increase the number of weeks that must be guaranteed before any discount is allowed.
FAIR SCRIPT FEES FOR FEATURES: We must also substantially raise minimum script fees for screenwriters and make sure that screenwriters working for streaming services receive the appropriate minimum compensation. Netflix, Amazon, and Apple released 50 feature films last year, and HBO Max recently announced that it will enter the feature film market. We must make sure that writers working for these services are paid theatrical minimums, whether or not their films are released in theaters.
RAISING MINIMUMS FOR TEAMS: Paying writing teams of two the same minimum salary as a single writer first appeared in the MBA at a time when a team could work enough to earn a comfortable living. But the growing prevalence of short order series has made working at minimum as a TV writing team financially unsustainable for many. We need to protect both screen and TV writers on teams by establishing a higher team minimum. Two or three individuals, even if they’re part of a team, contribute more than a single writer.
NEW STREAMING MINIMUMS: Some of us working for streaming services don’t earn minimum at all. For lower-budget streaming comedies and dramas, weekly compensation and script fees are completely negotiable, so we need to lower the budget breaks to ensure non-negotiable minimums for writers. Comedy-variety shows on streaming services – unlike on television – currently have no minimums either. This, too, must change.
Script fee and salary minimum increases have been part of every WGA MBA in history. But now more than ever, nothing can be taken for granted. Members need to understand why these proposals are essential. At a minimum.
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 2