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 received an interesting question via email today.
Apparently, a screenwriting professor at a major university is teaching his students that scene headers should be formatted like this:
INT LIBRARY DAY
That is to say, no period for the abbreviation of interior, no dashes, and exactly five spaces between the words. The professor is, according to the email, very strict about this.
The professor is also, of course:
completely and utterly wrong
Screenwriting formatting exists as it does for a number of reasons. Some make sense, some are anachronistic, and some are nothing more than tradition. Still, the format is the format. Are their acceptable variations? Certainly. For instance, I prefer to bold my sluglines, and I like two carriage returns before them, to indicate a new scene. Others don’t.
But those variations are minor. In the actual world of professional screenwriting (for which this professor is certainly charged with preparing his students), we never ever ever write sluglines like INT LIBRARY DAY.
It’s INT. LIBRARY – DAY
INT. LIBRARY — DAY
That’s it. That’s the variation you get. If you do anything other than that, it’s annoying and amateurish and, frankly, bizarre. Look, showing up at the prom in shorts and a t-shirt doesn’t make you a bad person. It just indicates to everyone else that you either don’t give a damn about general conventions, or you’re just dumb and didn’t know. Neither is a particularly good way to start out with folks.
And if you write that way for a studio, they’ll likely just throw it back to you and say, “Reformat the right way, please.” Paramount and Warner Brothers include a style sheet with their contracts when they hire you to write.
Trust me when I tell you that “INT LIBRARY DAY” ain’t kosher with their style.
Look, I’m always the guy who says not to fret about picayune formatting issues and just concentrate on the writing. But the last thing you want readers doing is picking up your script and saying, “Oh Jesus, another script with these weird frickin’ scene headings. Who’s TEACHING this crap to kids?”
Well, you are, Mr. Professor. Cut it out. It’s okay to be wrong. Happens to the best of us. Fix it and move on.
Someone sent me this Ask Men article about the top ten screenwriters, written by Craig Mazin.
It’s a different Craig Mazin (yeah, there are something like three or four of us in the world). I don’t write for Ask Men. I also don’t write lists of stuff.
And this list doesn’t include Larry Kasdan, so I don’t like it very much anyway.
…of all people.
Very relevant for our business, which has always struggled balancing chasing with leading.
Thanks to Phil Hay for sending it along.