Screenwriters polled about studios

WGA asks for details on treatment

The Writers Guild of America is polling its screenwriter members this month on how they’re being treated by studios.

WGA West president Christopher Keyser had told members in October that the guild’s board had authorized a Screenwriters Survey/Report Card to provide members with a “detailed picture” of the working conditions of screenwriters, including issues of free rewrites, sweepstakes pitching, and late pay, as it varies from studio to studio.

The WGA West said in a message Friday that an invitation from Keyser and the board to take the condfidential survey will be sent Feb. 13 to members who have actively pitched on feature film projects or have been hired to write for features during 2011.

The survey is being conducted by the research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz.

The WGA West disclosed last July that reported writer earnings declined 2.9% in 2010 to $928 million, thanks to a 9.9% plunge in feature film salaries as the number of writers employed fell 11.2%. The six major studios have focused more of their resources on tentpoles while making fewer mid-budget feature films.

In the announcement, Todd Amorde of the guild’s member services department urged members to participate. He also noted that it’s an understatement to say the movie industry has changed throughout the past decade.

“Industry consolidation means fewer employers developing fewer films,” he said. “Technological changes and a risk-averse business environment are spawning new business models that redefine which movies get made and how they are developed, produced, and marketed. Unfortunately, in this highly concentrated environment, employment practices detrimental to screenwriters are more pervasive.”

As a result, the board decided that members need to have information on employers treat writers. It plans to share the “final report card” to WGA members as well as release it publicly.

“The business of filmmaking might have changed, but the value of a great screenplay written by a professional writer has not,” Amorde said. “More than ever, screenwriters need to know which employers are the most respectful of their craft so that they can better focus their time and energies in the right places.”

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