A Writers Guild of America survey shows that more than 60% of independent filmmakers have had problems receiving initial compensation and/or backend payments on a film.
The guild said nearly 60% of those surveyed had a producer credit on at least one of their own productions but less than a third of those paid themselves any sort of compensation.
“Writers craft great stories and draft great scripts, which make it possible to attract financing and talent and get the movie made and distributed,” said WGA East exec director Lowell Peterson. “Yet writers are often called upon to sacrifice their compensation. The desire to get a film made and released should not be an excuse for being treated unfairly.”
The WGA East released the survey, which polled about 100 filmmakers, during the middle of the Sundance Film Festival. The guild also urged members to use the year-old WGA low-budget agreement, which covers films with budgets under $1.2 million with options for reduced upfront payments or newly defined fee deferments.
The survey also showed that more than 50% of respondents reported having entered into a “bad” distribution deal. The guild noted that growth of digital distribution deals based on complicated formulas for backend resulted in writers recouping very little – if any – income once the project is released.
“One of the strongest ways to prevent filmmakers from being taken advantage of is community building and information sharing, which is why the WGAE hosts an indie caucus that is open to everybody, including non-guild members,” said Ursula Lawrence, lead strategic organizer. “Writers, often isolated, meet through the caucus and can exchange ideas and advice about producers, deals, and more.”