Inside Move: WGA steps on 1-step deals

Riskin: Practice highly disrespectful of writers

WGA West prexy Victoria Riskin has issued a strong denunciation of one-step screenwriting deals, indicating the guild may include the issue as part of its contract proposal in upcoming bargaining.

Riskin’s move comes as “one-step” deals are on the rise — meaning the traditional deal for a first draft, two sets of revisions and a polish is discarded in favor of hiring one writer for a single phase of the script.

Writing in the current WGA West member newsletter, Riskin said, “One lamentable practice which members are currently expressing great concern about has never been subject to collective bargaining before nor — because it is so new — has it had to be: the recent imposition of the one-draft contract in features.”

Riskin asserted such deals are structured to allow studios and producers to fire writers after one draft.

“Not only is this practice highly disrespectful of writers, it is based on the mistaken belief that great screenplays always can and should happen the first time round,” she said. “More than that, a one-draft deal penalizes the writer for not knowing or anticipating what a studio or producer or director or star may want.”

One-step deals, Riskin added, also mean writers are expected to violate the WGA contract and deliver free rewrites before their official “first” draft is submitted to the studio.

“They should never be subjected to the abuse that can and sometimes does accompany a one-draft deal: Either give us an illegal free rewrite to prove yourself or goodbye,” she said. “If a producer or studio cares enough to hire a writer, it must give the writer a chance to do a decent job.”

The WGA has not set a date for starting negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers to replace the current contract, which expires May 1. Riskin said other priorities include improvements in health insurance; increases in DVD and video residuals; jurisdiction over reality and animated TV; higher residuals in pay, cable and foreign TV; improvements in reacquisition; and addressing the problem of late payments.

“No issue that concerns writers will be ignored by the board and the negotiating committee,” she said.

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