Archived posts from this Category
Archived posts from this Category
Just got word…our credits proposal passed in a landslide! Approval percentages were in the 90′s in the East and the 80′s in the West.
This is so gratifying to me for two reasons:
It’s the single most significant change to our credits guidelines since they were first devised, and
It passed without rancor.
The second point is an important one; similar proposals had been shot down before in a hail of controversy and intra-Guild warfare. I want to thank the hard work of our wonderful Screen Credits Review Committee, the officers and board and council of the WGAW and WGAE, as well as the work of our Credits and Referendum staff (and member volunteers…I had the pleasure of chatting last night with the legendary D.C. Fontana, who helps supervise our votes).
My biggest thanks is due, of course, to you. The members. We really took a major step today toward a better way. Our work is far from done, but our credits are stronger and truer than ever before. On behalf of our Committee, I thank you all.
If you are a current member in good standing of the WGAw or WGAE, then you should have received your credits referendum ballot by now.
Please vote YES on all three proposals. It’s quick and easy…just punch three chads, and the postage is prepaid.
The arguments in favor of the proposals are in the booklet. For those who don’t feel like reading them, I’ll put our committee’s statement here. One thing to note: these proposals were approved unanimously by the Board of the WAGw and the Council of the WGAE. There are two statements with a ton of names in support in the ballot booklet, and no statements against.
Credits are a difficult thing to wrangle, but I believe our committee has…like last time…managed to craft a reasonable proposal that everyone can agree is change for the better.
Here’s our committee’s statement in support of Proposal #1. The other proposals are for television, and are largely academic in nature.
Again, PLEASE VOTE YES TODAY! We need every vote out there!
Credits Review Committee StatementFellow Writers:
In 2008, writers in the WGA West and East overwhelmingly approved your Screen Credit Review Committee’s three proposals for changes in our screen credits manual. Since then, those changes have done much to improve the fairness of both our rules and our procedures.
The Screen Credits Review Committee remains a philosophically diverse group composed of both WGAW and WGAE members, representing viewpoints from every part of the screenwriting spectrum and appointed to represent fairly all theatrical film writers. We are first writers and subsequent writers, hyphenates and non-hyphenates, studio writers and indie writers. Most of us have been all those things.
Now we wish to continue to update our rules in a way that reflects changes in our guild and changes in our industry. After much debate and deliberation, we are presenting you with a new proposal. Despite the many differences in our backgrounds, perspectives, and positions in the film industry, 14 of our 15 members voted in favor of this proposal. We hope you will as well.
In the case of non-original screenplays only, we propose that all writers be held to a 33% threshold for screenplay credit.
What does this change?
Our credits manual has special rules for so-called “production executives.” The term calls to mind a studio vice-president of development, but the fact is that in today’s film industry, those so-called “production executives” simply do not submit literary material for credit arbitrations. Per the credits manual, what the term really refers to is writer-directors and writer-producers: hyphenates who are members of our guild – who are, in short, us.
When the credits manual was first written decades ago, there were almost no such hyphenates in our union. Today, there are 1,400 members of the WGA who are also members of the DGA. In addition, as development slates and budgets continue to be squeezed, the committee feels that we should be encouraging writers to be entrepreneurial and take charge of the projects on which they write, whether as directors or as producers.
The more power we have as the prime authors of movies, the stronger we are individually and as a guild. Yet, as currently written, our guidelines state that if a writer-producer or writer-director isn’t the first writer, he or she shall be held to a more-than-50% standard for screenplay credit. So if a subsequent writer is offered a production credit, our rules force that writer to think twice about accepting the offer. He or she may be risking a hard-earned writing credit.
PLEASE NOTE: we do not propose any change when it comes to original screenplays, whether they are spec scripts or screenplays written from the writer’s original pitch or treatment. Original screenplays are a special breed, and they deserve special consideration. This is why the special protections that currently exist for writers of originals will remain exactly as they are now.
And in all cases, the inclusion of writer-producers and writer-directors among participating writers will continue to trigger automatic arbitrations.
But in the case of non-original screenplays (most typically adaptations, sequels and remakes), the committee is proposing that everyone be treated equally – those writers who happen to be directors or producers alongside those who are not.
In the case of non-original screenplays only, we feel that if you wrote more than a third of a screenplay, as determined by an arbitration panel of your fellow writers (and only if so determined), you deserve a credit. You would get one if you weren’t a hyphenate. We think you also should if you are.
As it is now, whom does the penalty hurt? Many of our most celebrated and talented members have produced or directed. Of our new members, who among us doesn’t aspire to produce or direct? Our dark imagination may conjure images of fat cats firing fellow writers and stealing credit. But the reality looks more like this: a writer has managed to crack a graphic novel everyone thought was impossible to adapt…but she’s afraid to accept a co-producer credit acknowledging her enhanced role on the project because she doesn’t want to risk losing her writing credit.
One of the most popular services the WGA west currently offers is a writer-director training program. We shouldn’t be surprised that it’s in such high demand. As we enter the new age of self-driven media, we will find ourselves increasingly wearing the different hats of writer, director and producer.
More and more, we are in charge. That’s a good thing.
For non-original projects only, the majority of this committee believes that we need to recognize that there is no “they” when it comes to this issue. “They” are “us.”
The combined WGA West and East Board and Council voted unanimously in favor. We hope you join all of us in supporting this proposal.
I just received word from Lesley Mackie McCambridge, who runs the WGAw Credits Department, that the issue with IMDB has been resolved. She and her department were on this one before any of us in the blogosphere even knew about it, and IMDB will not be moving forward with any plan to relocate writers’ credits from their rightful position.
All of your letters and feedback definitely supported the Guild’s efforts. Thanks to all of you and Lesley for winning this one.
This email was just sent out…
To Our Fellow Members:
We’re pleased to inform you that ballots have been tabulated, and members of the Writers Guilds, East and West have overwhelmingly approved all three proposed amendments to the Screen Credits Manual. A total of 1,619 ballots were cast with the following results:
Proposal #1 – Arbiter Teleconference – 90% in favor of adopting the amendment (1,455 yes; 154 no).
Proposal #2 – Elimination of Relaxed Standard – Percentage Requirements to Receive Screenplay Credit – 86% in favor of adopting the amendment (1,387 yes; 219 no).
Proposal #3 – Rules for Production Executive Teams – Elimination of 60% Rule – 83% in favor of adopting the amendment (1,344 yes; 268 no).
The amendments are effective immediately, and will apply to any project for which a Notice of Tentative Writing Credits is submitted on or after August 1, 2008. The text of the amendments may be found on each Guild’s website at www.wgaeast.org and www.wga.org.
Thanks to all of you who participated in this important referendum, yet another indication of our continued, growing solidarity. Special thanks to the members of the Credits Review Committee for their patience, commitment and hard work.
Michael Winship President, WGAE
Patric M. Verrone President, WGAW
Those numbers are very high for credit proposals, so it’s a resounding success. And now that we know we can agree on credit changes…we know we can agree on credit changes.
Sounds silly, but that was part of the point.
A big thanks to Patric and Michael for backing these proposals. We couldn’t have gotten these numbers without their support. In the West, we were aided by Tony Segall, Leslie Mackey McCambridge, Sally Burmester, Jennifer Burt and many others. Thanks to the East staff as well.
And of course, a big thanks to the committee itself, which figured out a way to find consensus in even this, our most contentious of subjects.
The Committee will be going back to work in a month or so. The next round will likely be a bit more radical, but ultimately, the approval rests with the membership.
Lastly, I’d like to acknowledge that despite my strident criticism of much of what WGAw leadership has been doing, Patric and the Board have been gracious enough to allow me to continue serving as co-chair of the CRC (no sarcasm…it is very gracious, for the committee serves at the pleasure of the Board). For all our disagreements, they are not personal, and I appreciate that there have been absolutely no repercussions sent my way. I care deeply about our credits guidelines and procedures. It’s an honor to have served, and it is an honor to continue to serve.
Just a remind to vote YES, please, on all three proposals. All the cool kids are doing it. Do it today!
Please vote YES on all three proposals. These proposals were unanimously approved by a diverse Credits Committee that included hyphenates, non-hyphenates, spec writers, rewriters…every kind of writer.
The best time to vote is right now, right away, get it done, no stamp required, stick it in the mail and be done with it.
Oh, and remember…no hanging chads!
If you haven’t received your voting materials within a few days, check with the Guild’s election and awards office, and they’ll get one out to you.
We cannot pass these proposals without you. Thanks for participating in the process.
Variety features an article about the upcoming credits proposals, and the overall effect is…
Let’s decipher the spin.
Their headline is:
WGA may simplify credit procedures – Rewrite teams could benefit from changesWrong and incomplete.
We’re not looking to simplify credit procedures. At least, not so this go-round. We’re simply looking to make them fairer and better. Yes, rewrite teams in which one member is a hyphenate could benefit from changes, but spec writers could also benefit, as well as spec teams, as well as single subsequent writers…why…every kind of writer could benefit!
I know. Boooooring! “Every writer” sounds too safe and cuddly. “Rewrite teams” definitely sounds scarier.
The Writers Guild of America plans to hold a referendum next month in a bid to simplify its Byzantine procedures for determining writing credits.Again, that’s not the purpose, and hats off to Variety for blending editorial (Byzantine!) and reportage. How…Brooks Barnesian.
The proposals are likely to stir debate within the WGA.Because Variety says so. Those of you who’ve read all two of the comments on the blog I posted with the proposals can really feel the heat coming off this stuff! It’s crazy controversial!
Of course there will be disagreements, but these proposals are (to me) far less divisive than some of the ones that have caused unionwide conflict in the past.
If you’re a member in good standing of the WGA, try and attend one of our outreach meetings. We’ll answer any and all questions, and we’ll also be taking notes on your ideas for the next go-round.
And when it’s over, you can Ankle Meeting.
Along with Robert King and Stephen Schiff, I co-chair the WGA Credits Review Committee for theatrical credits. Our committee has put forth three proposed rule changes to the membership. I’ll reprint our committee’s letter to the membership here.
It’s important to note that while Robert and I are on opposite sides of the philosophical divide over credits, we both agree that all three of these proposals are very good. While we’re far from perfecting our system, these proposals are good for writers of all stripes. We hope the membership passes them. Our next set of proposals will likely be more sweeping, but for now, we believe these are smart moves that advance the causes of both fairness and accuracy.
Credit for authorship goes to the very heart of what we do. It is an emotional topic, and at times the debates over credits have created schisms where unity is desperately needed.
The Credits Review Committee comprises writers like you, who are keenly aware that our system needs improving. How to improve it has always been the difficult question. In the past, some Credits Review Committees struggled to find common ground between disparate groups of writers.
This Credits Review Committee is different.
Composed of WGAW and WGAE members, the Committee is a philosophically diverse group appointed to fairly represent all theatrical film writers with differing viewpoints on credits, the role of the first writer, the role of subsequent writers, the role of “production executives,” and the manner in which credit arbiters perform their duties.
We are happy to announce three proposed changes to our Screen Credits Manual. This Committee has approved each of these proposed changes unanimously. Final approval rests with you. These proposals certainly don’t solve all our credits issues, but we believe them to be a strong first step, and we’re resolved that with your counsel and participation there will be more improvements to come.
The first proposal requires arbiters to consult with each other via teleconference in all cases where a decision is not unanimous. Currently, arbiters are not allowed to discuss their views with each other or communicate in any way. The Committee feels that by talking over their decisions in an anonymous, Guild-hosted teleconference, the arbiters will have an opportunity to give the reasons for their decisions to their peers and consider other interpretations of the material and the rules.
The Committee believes this proposal will go a long way toward improving the quality of our arbitrations and decreasing the number of split decisions.
The second and third proposals may appear to deal solely with “production executives” (writers who are also directors or producers), but in many ways, these proposals are designed to fix rules that are, in practice, hurting the very writers they were intended to help.
Currently, if you are a first writer on an original screenplay, our guidelines afford you certain protections. You are entitled to an “irreducible shared story credit.” In addition, you are only required to demonstrate a contribution of more than 33% to the final screenplay to earn screenplay credit, whereas subsequent writers must reach a threshold of 50% in order to receive screenplay credit.
If, as the first writer, you also direct or produce your own original screenplay, you lose much of your first writer protection. In such a case, according to a rule most members have never heard of, subsequent writers no longer have to reach a 50% threshold or even a 33% threshold. Rather, the Arbitration Committee may accord any other writer screenplay credit for “any substantial contribution” to the final screenplay.
The Committee is proposing that we eliminate the “any substantial contribution” rule. Instead, we propose that writers receive screenplay credit only if they can show a contribution of more than 33% as a first writer or a writer of an adaptation, or 50% if they are a subsequent writer on an original screenplay. In this way, first writers—including those who take on an additional role on their project—will not lose their protection.
Similarly, we have a rule that states that where a subsequent writer is a production executive team (where one or more members of the team is a hyphenate), the team must meet a threshold of “substantially more than 60%” for screenplay credit—even if one of the writers isn’t a production executive at all. We propose changing this threshold for production executive teams to more than 50%. The Committee strongly feels that if any writer or team proves they contributed more than half of a final screenplay, they deserve credit.
Today, many writers are becoming increasingly entrepreneurial in order to gain greater control over their material. Nevertheless, the Committee believes in continuing to protect writers who are not hyphenates. Hyphenates (and teams that include a hyphenate) will still need to meet a more than 50% standard as subsequent writers on adaptations and originals. Similarly, hyphenates will continue to trigger automatic arbitrations so that independent arbiters can ensure that the final writing credit is fair and accurate. In short, these proposals still hold hyphenates to a higher standard while preserving the special privileges that recognize the unique efforts of the first writer.
We know you’ll have questions. Please come join us at one of the upcoming information meetings to discuss these proposals. The meetings will also be an excellent opportunity to pass along any and all suggestions for the future. Our committee’s work never stops. Your input is both welcome and necessary to bring about the credit system we all deserve.
Robert King, co-chair, WGAW Craig Mazin, co-chair, WGAW Stephen Schiff, co-chair, WGAE Peter Atkins Neil Cohen Gloria Katz-Huyck Brian Koppelman Eddie Pomerantz Phil Alden Robinson Bob Schneider Garner Simmons
Adaptation?A: That’s a bit complicated for a quick answer.
But you’d think it would be easy, no?
I’ll start with what I think are the Academy rules, based on what the name of “Best Adapted Screenplay” used to be up until a few years ago. For a long time it was “Best Screenplay Based On Material Previously Produced Or Published”, and that pretty much says it all, right?
The Academy has an executive writers committee that meets to determine whether or not they feel a particular screenplay is an adapation. The WGA has far more rigid rules. It isn’t only concerned with prior publication or production. It is also concerned with unpublished and unproduced material of other natures that fall under the larger rubric of “source material”.
The WGA definition of an original screenplay is:
Original screenplays [are] those screenplays which are not based on source material and on which the first writer writes a screenplay without there being any other intervening literary material by another writer pertaining to the project. If a writer is furnished or uses research material, the screenplay is still considered an original screenplay.
Translation: no source material (discounting research material) and no other writer in between the start and completion of your draft. If that happens, it’s an original project.
Obviously, adaptations are therefore screenplays that are based, in any part, on source material. And what is source material?
…source material is material assigned to the writer which was previously published or exploited and upon which the writer’s work is to be based (e.g., a novel, a produced play or series of published articles), or any other material written outside of the Guild’s jurisdiction (e.g., literary material purchased from a non-professional writer). Illustrative examples of source material credits are: “From a Play by”, “From a Novel by”, “Based upon a Story by”, “From a series of articles by”, “Based upon a Screenplay by” or other appropriate wording indicating the form in which such source material is acquired. Research material is not considered source material.
Let’s go through that. First, there’s the obvious: published or exploited books, plays, essays, comics, etc. Interestingly, you can also include exploited story treatments by writers other than the first screenwriter. For instance, if John sells a treatment to a studio, and then George is hired to write the screenplay based on that treatment, the project is an adaptation because George has been given exploited literary material upon which to base his script.
Then, there’s the not-so-obvious. Let’s say John writes an original screenplay for a non-signatory company, i.e. a company whose dealings with writers isn’t covered by the WGA’s collective bargaining agreements, and then that company sells John’s script to a signatory studio like Disney. Disney then hires Sally to rewrite the script. If John had written that exact same script for a signatory, the project would be deemed an original. Since he wrote it for a non-sig, however, his script is considered source material, and John is not eligible for “story by” or “screenplay by” credit. The project is now considered an adaptation, with John’s screenplay functioning the way a book or play might.
That’s the one area where I imagine that the WGA and AMPAS might see things differently. From the WGA’s point of view, they must consider the non-sig script to be source material, because its ability to assign screenplay credit is entirely a function of its collective bargaining agreement, and the non-sig script doesn’t fall under that.
AMPAS, however, seems to be only concerned with what is, in actuality, an original or adaptation. In the example above, I think that the WGA would call John’s project an adapation, and AMPAS would call it an original.
This probably doesn’t come up too often.
The questioner specifically asked about Syriana, which AMPAS has apparently determined is an original rather than an adaptation. The WGA considers Syriana to be an adapation, because the screenplay was based (in some part) on a book. I believe the source material credit was “suggested by”, and that’s enough to make the script an adaptation. However, it appears the AMPAS writers committee felt that the script simply didn’t get enough of significance from the book, and thus they have deemed it an original screenplay.
Oh, me…I’ve talked before about an apparently intractable schism in the professional writing community–one on side you’ve got so-called “first writer advocates”, and on the other side, you have so-called “rewriters”.
Putting aside the relative sloppiness of those names, I’ve decided to lower my lance and tilt firmly at one of the most persistent and inaccurate myths of screenwriting.
The “first writer” does not necessarily do anything special or more difficult than subsequent writers on a project.
Going first isn’t harder. Going first isn’t special. Going first doesn’t earn you a halo or a special place in writer heaven for your sacrifice.
Going first is just…going first.
The martyrous argument sounds a bit like this. “Nothing is harder than the initial act of creation. The first writer faces a blank page, and the first writer creates a world out of nothing. Any writer brought in to revise the first writer is working from a head start. They’re standing on the shoulders of the first writer. Rewriting isn’t real writing…it’s something lesser and derivative.”
I say this as a writer who has done both. I’ve written originals and I’ve rewritten other writers. There is no correlation between chronology and difficulty or effort.
There are many instances in which a company commissions or purchases an original screenplay and then determines that little beyond the basic idea is worth saving. At that point, a subsequent writer may be brought in to do a “page one rewrite”, in which everything is reimagined. Having done a few of those, I will argue that page one rewrites are more difficult than writing originals. Why?
First, consider the nature of the first writer’s generous grant to the subsequent writer–the idea.
Having an idea doesn’t take effort, nor does it earn you any spiritual or professional regard. Ideas are worthless. Literally. They are not intellectual property. They are not possessable. They are not creditable.
The process of creating a fictional narrative from an idea is writing.
The original writer “has” an idea (and it’s not really original…seriously…find me an idea that no one’s already used in some form or another, and I’ll buy you a car) and then writes a narrative. The owner of the narrative says “this is bad” and hires someone else to fashion a new narrative.
That writer faces the exact same task as the first writer, with one slightly daunting difference: he has less creative freedom. He’s not free to make some of the bad choices that the first writer made. In fact, unlike the first writer, the second writer is aware that there are certain mine fields to be avoided at all costs.
Think that makes writing easier? Nope. It’s harder. It’s useful information, but the task becomes more difficult when you can’t take one or more of the readily apparent or easy paths the first writer was free to wander down.
Still, the first writers will say that the second writer has the subconscious gift…the advantage…of the first writer’s work. The first writer’s work necessarily spawns some kind of narrative “rolling start” that the second writer can use.
That would be a very convincing argument…if the first writer hasn’t read any books or seen any movies or television shows in his life.
We all have a rolling start when we write. The very nature of screenplay is grounded in the collective story sense we all carry in our heads, be it by instruction or genetic code. We constantly crib from mythology, from the Bible, from movies, from plays. My approach to writing an “original” draft is absolutely no different than my approach to a page-one rewrite.
Same process. Same effort.
Entirely different reward.
Ted and I had lunch today, and he told me a funny story that revolved around the phrase “post hoc ergo propter hoc”.
Yes, we have odd lunches.
Anyway, when it comes to screenplays, it seems that many people hold the fallacy of post scriptum ergo scriptum deterioris.
“After the screenplay…therefore a lesser screenplay.”
By the by, if anyone knows Latin, let me know if I’ve gotten the syntax correct.
First writer advocates may carry this slogan into their battle with rewriters, but the only writers they’re hurting are themselves, of course. By classifying rewriting as a lesser process, they’re giving away a secret about their own work process, and the news isn’t good. Rewriting can be, and often should be, just as difficult and demanding and important as the first draft. Only writers can be so odd as to think that a page filling process is superior to a page changing process.
If you have problems getting to the end of your screenplay, that might be true…but that’s not my problem. It’s your problem, and I don’t like be punished or discounted because you think filling pages is harder than deleting the whole mess of them and starting again.
Post scriptum ergo scriptum novum.
After the screenplay…therefore a new screenplay.
So climb down from the cross, wouldja, my fellow first writers?