The Guild has the sole authority to determine writing credits on theatrical and television projects written under its jurisdiction. A company cannot guarantee that you will receive writing credit, or any particular form of writing credit. Before you enter into a deal with a production company to perform writing services or to sell your written material, there are a few important questions you need to ask.
Is It Covered by the WGA?
Make sure you are dealing with a company which has become signatory to the WGA Theatrical and Television Basic Agreement, commonly called the Writers Guild Minimum Basic Agreement or MBA. Guild Working Rules prohibit members from working for a company which is not signatory to the MBA. A company that has asked for, or signed, an application to become signatory may not have completed the process. It is important that you personally call the Guild's Signatories Department to check the company's status. Do not rely on an agent, manager or attorney to check for you. If you are employed by a company which has not become signatory to the MBA, then in all likelihood, the Guild will not determine the writing credits.
Are You A Professional Writer?
If you are selling material to a signatory company, you must be considered a "professional writer" to be eligible for writing credit. The MBA generally defines a "professional writer" as a person who has received employment for a total of thirteen weeks as a television or theatrical motion picture writer; or received credit as a writer on a television or theatrical motion picture (including series); or received credit for a professionally produced play or a published novel. You may also negotiate with a company to be treated as a "professional writer" even if you don't meet the MBA criteria. Writers Guild membership does not automatically qualify you as a professional writer. If you have questions about whether you qualify as a professional writer under the MBA, please contact the Guild and we will help apply the MBA contract language to your situation.
Are there other writers on the project?
You should know whether there are other writers who have worked on the project before you or are currently working on the project. Article 18 of the MBA requires a Company to notify you of any writer assigned to the same project, whether that writer wrote prior to, concurrently or, in certain circumstances, subsequent to your work on the project. If you are invited to pitch on a project, you should inquire as to whether an invitation has been extended to other writers. Don't rely on the Company to volunteer this information. You should raise this issue with the Company before you agree to write or sell anything. Also, you should inquire as to whether there is any assigned source material. Generally, source material is defined in the MBA as published material written outside of the Guild's jurisdiction such as a novel or a produced play. It is important to know whether other writers have worked on the project since this information is critical in making informed employment decisions. It also may affect the likelihood that you would receive writing credit. If you are writing on a remake, the credited writer(s) of the earlier television or theatrical motion picture(s) will be eligible to compete for writing credit on the remake so long as the prior motion picture was written under the Guild's jurisdiction. The Guild has an "Article 18 Notice" form letter available to facilitate your request for information from the Company regarding other writers on the same project. Please contact the Guilds' Contracts Department to obtain this form, or download it now.
Are You Receiving Credit as a Producer or Director?
If you are employed as a director or a producer in addition to your writing services, or if you negotiate any form of producer credit, whether or not you actually perform services as a producer, when the credits are determined you will be subject to specific rules pertaining to production executives. This means the writing credits will be subject to the automatic arbitration provisions of the MBA if the production executive is proposed for credit and there are other writers on the project who are not production executives. In screen arbitrations, this may change the percentage necessary for each writer to receive credit.