Tag Archives: WGA

WGA may simplify credit procedures

The Writers Guild of America plans to hold a referendum next month in a bid to simplify its Byzantine procedures for determining writing credits.

WGA members will be asked to consider three proposals for overhauling the credit process, which has long been a contentious issue for scribes. Proposals on the table would reduce the number of split decisions among arbiters and improve the chances that rewrite teams would gain credit, provided they contribute more than half of the final screenplay.

Another proposal would ease the restrictions on writers who double as executives.

The WGA, which is the final arbiter on who receives screenplay and story credit on pics and TV shows, has skedded four informational meetings for members starting next week on the proposed changes to its Screen Credits Manual for feature pics.

The WGA last held a vote on revisions to the rules in 2002, when members spurned a change that would have abolished the “heightened” requirement that makes it tougher for directors and producers to receive writing credit.

A look at the proposed changes:

  * Arbiters would be required to consult with each other via teleconference in all cases in which a decision is not unanimous. Current rules prohibit arbiters from communicating with each other.

  * Writers would continue to receive screenplay credit if they can show a contribution of more than 33% as a first writer or writer of an adaptation or 50% if they act as a subsequent writer on an original screenplay. But language allowing the arbitration committee to award screenplay credit to subsequent writers for “any substantial contribution” would be eliminated.

  * Subsequent writers who are part of the production executive team (where one or more members of the team is a hyphenate) would have to meet a contribution threshold for the team of “more than 50%.” The current requirement is “substantially more than 60%.”

In a message to members sent Tuesday, the screen credits committee said the teleconference proposal would allow arbiters 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,” it added.

The panel said that the second proposal is aimed at protecting first writers who also direct or produce their own original screenplays since, under current rules, screenplay credit can then be awarded to a subsequent writer for “any substantial contribution.”

As for the third proposal, the panel said, “The committee strongly feels that if any writer or team proves they contributed more than half of a final screenplay, they deserve credit.”

The committee also noted that hyphenates (and teams that include a hyphenate) still need to meet a more-than-50% standard as subsequent writers on adaptations and originals and that hyphenates proposed for credit will continue to trigger automatic arbitrations.

“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,” the committee said.

The proposals are likely to stir debate within the WGA.

During the run-up to the 2002 referendum, proponents of abolishing the more stringent credit rules for production execs contended that doing so would give the credits system more credibility on the grounds that it would more accurately reflect the actual contributions of writers.

But opponents argued that such a move amounted to a power grab by top rewriters and production execs and asserted that the heightened requirements should be retained since execs already have significant control over the collaborative process. That side of the argument won, with the proposal voted down 57%-43%.

Source: Variety

WGA, studios return to corners

The majors and the WGA have gone back to the mat, with the companies filing an unfair labor practices charge against the guild for naming the 28 writers who filed for financial core status during the strike.

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers disclosed the filing with the Natl. Labor Relations Board on Tuesday afternoon, asserting that last week’s missive from WGA West president Patric Verrone and WGA East prexy Michael Winship violated federal law.

The WGA responded by saying the charges are “baseless and represent an intrusion by the studios into an internal union matter.”

The AMPTP took issue specificially with the portion of the letter that urged WGA members to shun the fi-core members. “This handful of members who went financial core, resigning from the union yet continuing to receive the benefits of a union contract, must be held at arm’s length by the rest of us and judged accountable for what they are — strikebreakers whose actions placed everything for which we fought so hard at risk,” Verrone and Winship wrote.

The AMPTP noted that the writers are within their legal rights to elect financial core status.

“As such, they are entitled to full coverage under the WGA’s collective bargaining agreement, including the same wages, residuals, health and pension benefits and protections afforded to all members,” the AMPTP said. “By publicly naming names and encouraging people who have the power to hire writers to keep them ‘at arm’s length,’ and saying they must be ‘judged accountable,’ it is clear the WGA leadership is seeking to deny employment to these writers in the future. That is a direct violation of federal labor law, and as the employers of those writers, we have a responsibility to defend them and the rule of law in this case.”

But in its response, the WGA noted it’s well aware that fi-core writers are entitled to all of the benefits of the new union contract.

“That fact — a requirement of federal labor law — is part of the reason why the resignations were ethically wrong,” the guild said. “Contrary to the studios’ claim, the Guild has not encouraged anyone to refuse to hire a resigned former member.”

The WGA also contended that it was appropriate to disclose the names of the 28 writers — most of them working on soap operas. It also said going fi-core is a public act that carries impact on other WGA members.

“It is not a private act, because it directly affects the livelihood of all guild members, especially during a strike,” the WGA said. “Accordingly, the guild leadership believes that it was appropriate to inform all members of the actions of these former members.

By going fi-core, writers withhold the portion of dues spent by the WGA on noncontract activities — while still being able to write scripts. Fi-core writers pay 1.9% less in dues than regular members; they also can’t run for guild office or vote on contracts or in any WGA election.

When the strike rules were issued in October, the AMPTP responded with information on its website showing how to go fi-core and pointing out that WGA members who take that step can’t be disciplined for working during a strike.

The guild has yet to make any announcement as to other strikebreaking beyond saying that the process of investigation is continuing.

Jonathan Handel, an attorney with TroyGould who’s a former WGA counsel, told Daily Variety that the Verrone-Winship letter — which he called “punitive and infantile” — would probably receive an extensive review at the NLRB.

“The key aspect that the letter raises is whether the WGA is still legally fulfilling its duty of fair representation to the members who went fi-core,” Handel said. “At best, the guild’s skating very close to that line.”

Source: Variety

WGA: 28 writers quit during strike

In a post-strike missive, WGA leaders on both coasts sent out a joint letter Friday to its membership revealing the names of 28 members who resigned from the union during the 100-day strike.

“In the face of enormous personal and financial hardship on the part of many, you sacrificed in the knowledge that your refusal to work would reap benefits not only for yourselves but countless others in the creative community, now and in the future,” WGAW president Patric Verrone and his counterpart in the east, Michael Winship, said in a statement. “Yet among the many there were a puny few who chose to do otherwise, who consciously and selfishly decided to place their own narrow interests over the greater good.”

The 28 writers elected to file for financial core status, in which writers resign from the union, but still pay a percentage of the dues but do not face fines from the WGA for working during the strike. Covered under the National Labor Relations Act, the WGA must still represent fi-core writers in bargaining and the writers do not lose any rights under their contract.

But Verrone and Winship sharply criticized the decision by those writers, writing they “must be held at ar’s length by the rest of us and judged accountable for what they are strikebreakers whose actions placed everything for whic we fought so hard at risk.”

A Web site link was included in the letter to the WGA West’s Web site publicly listing 21 West Coast fi-core writers, while the WGA East chose to make their list of seven writers accessible only to members through their log-in. The majority of the 28 have worked on daytime soap operas, including “The Bold and the Beautiful,” “Days of Our Lives” and “All My Children.” (Read the full letter)

Listed for the WGAW were: Maria Arena, Marlene Poulter Clar, John F. Cosgrove, Paula F. Cwikly, Clem Egan, Barbara J. Esensten, Jeanne M. Grunwell, Dena Higley, Mark Christopher Higley, Meg Kelly, Michelle Poteet Lisanti, Terry Meurer, Shawn Morrison, James E. Reilly, John Ridley, Hogan Sheffer, John F. Smith, Darrel R. Thomas Jr., Gary Tomlin, Janeen A. Vogelaar, Garin Wolf.

The WGAE members included: Pricilla Kay Alden, James Harmon Brown, Michael Conforti, Victor Gialanella, Josh Griffith, Frances Myers and Pete T. Rich.

Reps for some listed could not be immediately reached.

As result of their actions, the 28 writers can no longer vote in the guild’s elections, run for guild office, attend meetings and other events or participate in the WGA awards.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

WGA talks ratification

One of the final acts in the WGA strike passed quietly Monday night, as fewer than 20 members showed up for a brief contract ratification meeting at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills.

Confab sets the stage for the afternoon’s announcement of voting results on the ratification ballot sent to members 11 days ago. Members had the option of voting by mail or showing up at the meeting with a ballot.

WGA West president Patric Verrone, WGA West exec director David Young and WGA West counsel Anthony Segall staffed the dais during Monday’s 15-minute session.

Verrone told members he was least pleased with the deal’s 17- to 24-day promotional window for Internet streaming of TV series — an assertion he also made during the Feb. 9 membership meeting at the Shrine Auditorium. Along with a lack of improvement in cable, the terms for ad-supported streaming were the most unpopular aspects of the WGA deal among members due to concerns over the fast-growing migration of TV viewing to the Web.

In response to a question about upcoming negotiations for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, Verrone expressed “100% support” for the actors. He noted that he expects SAG — the WGA’s closest ally during the strike — to take a strong stance at the bargaining table.

The ruling boards of the WGA West and WGA East recommended the new three-year deal unanimously on Feb. 10, pointing to gains in new-media jurisdiction and compensation. The ratification vote is expected to come in around the same high level of support — 92.5% — achieved in the vote to end the strike on Feb. 12.

Terms of the new deal will go into effect immediately, and the contract will run to May 1, 2011.

Source: Variety