The Writers Guild of America West has launched a campaign to urge its members not to work for free.
“All writers need jobs, and especially when it’s early in their careers, it can feel like they have to do whatever it takes to get hired,” said screenwriter and WGA West board member Michele Mulroney. “But leaving behind a treatment for a producer or executive is the equivalent of writing for free. It opens the door to what can often be months of more free work like getting notes on the treatment and revising it multiple times. Guild rules do not allow for uncompensated work and members need to know that they simply don’t have to give in to these requests.”
The WGA West said a recent survey showed that screenwriters reported that after initial meetings, they were frequently being asked by producers and executives to leave behind or submit via email written materials.
“This is referred to as prewriting because it is work created by a writer before being hired and can include outlines, notes, and treatments,” the guild said. “Prewriting is essentially free work prior to employment and the push by producers and executives to have it submitted was cited in the survey as one of the most pressing issues screenwriters are facing.”
The campaign is being promoted online using the hashtags #NoWritingLeftBehind and #NoFreeWork.
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“Everyone wants to be a pal, to be obliging. But this is a situation where helping out is hurting yourself and other writers,” said screenwriter and WGA West board member John August. “If you hand in your pages, you make it harder for every other screenwriter to say no when they’re asked. Things don’t change unless we all say no.”