Look For A Notice of Tentative Writing Credits
All writers employed by the company on the project or "professional writers" who sold literary material to the company are considered "participating writers" and are eligible to compete for credit. At the end of principal photography the company must send a Notice of Tentative Writing Credits ("Notice") and a copy of the final shooting script ("FSS") to the Guild and to each participating writer. The Notice will include the names of all participating writers and production executives, the company's proposed writing credits and source material credit, if any. If you have not received a Notice and you know that principal photography has been completed, please contact the Guild's Credits Department immediately. Delays can seriously interfere with your rights.
Residuals and other ancillary rights are based on credit. For instance, if the Guild receives a residuals payment but never received a Notice to determine the writing credits, this may result in a delay in distributing residuals checks to writers. This is another reason it is imperative that you notify the Guild immediately if a project you wrote is produced and/or released and you do not receive a Notice. This is true even if you are the only writer on the project.
Make Sure the Company Has Your Current Contact Information
Although it is the company's responsibility to send the Notice properly, it is in your best interest to make sure the Guild and the company always have your current address information to ensure proper and timely delivery. Frequently, a writer's contract will contain a provision directing the company to send all correspondence or notices to an agent and/or other representative of the writer. If you have a provision like this in your agreement(s), you should take due care to ensure that this information is updated whenever necessary. Remind your agent or other representative to forward all notices to you in a timely manner so that you do not miss important deadlines. If you have changed agents, it is even more important to make an effort to inform the company where to send your copy of the Notice and FSS.
Are You Receiving Credit under the Proper Name?
In reviewing the Notice, make sure that your name appears exactly as it is on file with the Guild. It is Guild policy that writers must take credit exactly as their names appear in Guild records. For example, if your name in Guild records is Deborah R. Jones, you cannot take credit as Debbie Jones unless you have registered this nickname/pseudonym with the Guild. If you listed your name with a middle initial at the Guild, make sure that the middle initial appears on the Notice. Following this policy will avoid the confusion of two writers receiving credit under the same name.
Agreement Among Writers
The MBA provides that all participating writers have the right to agree unanimously among themselves as to which of them shall receive writing credits. Participants also have the right to agree to the form of credit so long as: 1) the form agreed upon is in accordance with the terms of the MBA; and 2) the agreement is reached in advance of arbitration. If there is a chance that you would agree to a particular credit, then please inform the Screen or Television Credits Administrator. The Guild will help by facilitating communication between the writers. In the case of an automatic arbitration, as discussed below, the Guild has the right to make the final determination of writing credits.
How Do I Initiate An Arbitration?
A writer's timely protest of the company's proposed tentative credits is what triggers a Guild arbitration in most cases. The Notice will list a date by which you must protest the tentative credits or they will become the final credits. Before deciding whether to protest the tentative credits, you should read the final shooting script carefully to determine how much of your writing contribution remains. If you decide to have the Guild arbitrate the credits, you must send a written protest to the Guild and to the company before the deadline stated on the Notice. Your protest should state that you are protesting the company's tentative credits, the name of the production and how you believe the final credits should read.
It is not necessary to send a protest if the credits are subject to automatic arbitration. The provisions in the MBA and Credits Manuals for automatic arbitration generally cover five instances:
- a production executive is proposed for writing credit and there are other non-production executive writers;
- three writers are proposed to share screenplay or teleplay credit;
- a "screen story" or "television story" credit is proposed;
- when an "Adaptation by" credit is proposed and
- in the case of television only, when a "Developed by" credit is proposed. (Please note: "Created by" is not subject to automatic arbitration.)
In the case of an automatic arbitration, or if there is a timely protest, an employee in the Guild's Credits Department will contact you to discuss arbitration procedures.