The Writers Guild of America’s new pact with the producers will provide significant gains for the interactive reuse of material, an upgrade of wage scales for the Fox network and the beginning of an end to the thorny possessory credits issue, sources said Feb. 1.
The WGA announced that it had formalized its agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers over the weekend of Jan. 28-29. Though the union refused to divulge any details at press time, sources called the pact “groundbreaking” in its advances for scribes.
Neither the WGA nor the AMPTP would comment on the agreement until a mailing had been sent to the more than 10,000 WGA members. The WGA West board of directors voted unanimous approval for the pact Jan. 30. It was considered by the Council of the Writers Guild of America East Feb. 2. A source said that they approved the contract Feb. 2.
“We’ve made considerable advances in new areas,” said WGA veepee Carl Gottlieb.
Sources said one of the biggest gains was an agreement to seriously limit the possessory credits that directors can take. Those are the credits that state “A Film by…” at the beginning of a pic.
For the last few months the guild has denied that possessory credits were even an issue.
The contract apparently spells out a proposal that includes both the WGA and the Directors Guild of America. It stipulates that long-term tripartite negotiations to assess possesories with the WGA, DGA and AMPTP will take place over a four-year period.
If meaningful progress is not achieved in that period, then the companies will balance the credits for the WGA by implementing these possibilities:
* Creating separate publicity for writers, including featuring writers in press kits and promoting the scribes in the pic’s advertising;
* Contributing more readily to a publicity fund for writers;
* Negotiating a “balancing credit” to appear in addition to the guild-determined credit. That would be something that said, “A Film by… from a screenplay by…”;
* Any other method that the parties agree upon.
Throughout the process, the AMPTP promises to monitor the doling out of possessory credits a little more closely. The WGA has long complained that any director, regardless of experience or talent, can ask for and receive such a credit.
“It finally shows some respect for the writer and the fact that he or she is the instigator of the vision,” said one union source.
Insiders added the guild was also pleased over a deal for re-use of material in interactive arenas. “There is a financial precedent involved that is quite wonderful,” said one source. “In a way that we hadn’t predicted, we were able to get a groundbreaking deal from management.”
Another source praised Contract Adjustment Committee chairman John Furia for “getting a piece of the pie” for interactive pix in a way that the WGA failed to do regarding cable TV in negotiations in the 1980s.
On the contentious issue of the Fox network and whether it should pay full web rates, the AMPTP agreed to raise the rates for Fox, but not as high as the WGA would have liked.
“It’s not as good as we had hoped,” said a union source, “but it’s where the AMPTP was stuck. Rupert (Murdoch) wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The issue had been ornery enough for the other webs – ABC, NBC, CBS – to break away from the AMPTP and negotiate directly with the guild.
Now, guild sources said, the union will have to meet with the major webs in coming weeks to restructure some of the deals they agreed to with the AMPTP.
According to a source, the guild gave the AMPTP a better deal on some smaller points that the WGA board felt should be extended to the Big Three.
“Out of their respect for us, we’re trying to do something for them,” said the source.
WGA sources mostly praised the Contract Adjustment Committee, which negotiated the deal for the guild. The committee was created three years ago to informally negotiate with the producers. It was intended to avoid the last-minute pressure of the bargaining table.