WGAW to rethink credit changes

Proposed changes in the writing credits for film and TV caused a small squall at the board meeting of the Writers Guild of America West late Tuesday, as more than 30 members disrupted the meeting and managed to convince the board–after six hours of discussion–to reconsider an earlier decision to approve the changes.

As things now stand, the board has decided to send the entire text of the writing credits bylaws and the proposed changes to the membership. To date, the members have only received an abridged version.

A series of meetings will be held in upcoming months to get more input from WGAW members.

The changes have been proposed to more accurately reflect a writer’s actual contribution to a project, including the increase in the number of writers who can share credits from twoto three and, in arbitration instances, to four.

The changes would also liberalize the rules allowing directors and producers, often termed production exex, to gain writer credits, which has turned into a very thorny issue.

“What it could end up doing is taking some of the clout away from the struggling freelance writer who originated the idea,” a board member noted, “and give it to the more powerful in-house person brought in to do a rewrite.”

Under these new changes, a production executive could receive screenplay credit if he or she could prove they contributed 25% of the final script, under arbitration, if three other writers are also attached. If two writers are attached, the production exec would have to prove a 33% script contribution.

“What it basically comes down to is whether you think of writing as a creative issue or as a craft,” another board member said.

Everyone concluded, at the end of six hours of debate, that it is a complex issue that needs a good deal of further discussion before any decisions are made.

“Our fear is that some of these changes could diminish the standing of all writers,” noted Larry Gelbart, among those who attended the meeting. “The problem here is that you always get in trouble with a system that tries to quantify creativity.”

After the membership receives the entire bylaws and proposed changes, there will be two meetings scheduled over the next several weeks. The credits review committee will then report back to the board in three months with any new changes or revisions.

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