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Preparing For Arbitration

Read the Credits Manual Carefully

The Credits Manuals contain many specific rules that govern how writing credits are determined. It is critical that you read the Manual carefully before the arbitration process begins. If you need a copy of the Manual or have any questions regarding it, contact the Credits Department immediately and someone will assist you.

The Guild's exclusive authority under the MBA to determine credits exists for a specified number of days. Time is almost always in short supply. There is a deadline for every step in the process. No writer can afford to delay learning credits fundamentals, or important rights may be lost.

Verify All Materials

At the time of arbitration, the company is required to submit three copies of each writer's literary materials to the Guild, and in some cases, copies of source material. The underlying work for an adapted script, such as a published novel or produced stage play, would be "source material."

Once the materials are received, someone from the Guild staff will contact you to verify that the materials are accurate and complete. If your materials are not complete, you may be asked to provide a copy of the missing materials to the Guild, which will then be sent to the company for further verification.

It is each participating writer's responsibility to verify the accuracy and completeness of materials to be submitted to the Arbitration Committee as authored by you. It may be necessary for you to come into the Guild to review the materials. Verification of materials must be done before the Guild sends them to the Arbitration Committee.

Anonymity of Participating Writers-"Coded" Arbitrations

"Coded" arbitrations generally refer to arbitrations in which the names of the writers are not revealed to the Arbitration Committee. Each writer is referred to as "Writer A", "Writer B", etc., depending on the sequence in which the writers worked. In television, all arbitrations are coded automatically. In screen, arbitrations are coded whenever any one of the participating writers makes a written request to do so. The other writers may not concur, but the Credits Manuals require all participating writers to abide by the coding procedures when writing their statements.

Statements To The Arbitration Committee

Each participating writer has the opportunity to submit a statement to the Arbitration Committee to support a claim to credit. There is no one right way to prepare your statement. There is no minimum or maximum length or magic formula. In some cases, a writer's statement simply says, "I agree with the tentative credits proposed by the company." If you decide to write a more detailed statement, it is important to focus on your contributions as they remain in the final shooting script. This is the most relevant information you can provide since the Arbitration Committee is required to base its decision solely on how they analyze the literary materials, and in particular, each participant's relative contribution to the final shooting script.

Statements should not contain information pertaining to the development process that is not directly germane to the arbiters' analysis of the literary material. For example, the fact that a project was "greenlit" after a certain draft is NOT important in determining credits. The Arbitration Committee must base its decision on each writer's relative contribution to the final shooting script, and not on the perceived quality of certain scripts or other extraneous factors. In addition, statements may not contain information irrelevant to the written work, which may unduly prejudice any writer in the process. For example, statements should not refer to another writer's difficulties in working with executives or failure to turn in drafts on time. Your statement may not mention compensation issues, such as a contract calling for a bonus payment based upon credit.

Under the Credits Manuals, each writer has 24 hours after being notified that there will be an arbitration to prepare a statement. The Guild may be able to extend this time depending on the circumstances and time constraints of a particular arbitration.

Statements for Television Arbitrations

Since television arbitrations are automatically coded, writers must be careful in writing their statements not to make any comments which might reveal their identity, the identity of any other writer or whether a writer also functioned as a production executive. No references should be made to reveal the name of the production company or any of its staff. Be sure you use the correct letter code (Writer A, Writer B, etc.) to refer to yourself and the other writer(s) consistently throughout your statement.

Statements for Screen Arbitrations

The writer does not have the same restrictions in screen unless the Guild tells you that the arbitration is coded.

Deletions to the Arbiters List

A list of all eligible arbiters will be provided to each participating writer prior to the arbitration. Any participating writer may delete a reasonable number of names from the list of potential arbiters for any reason. Although the Guild does not inquire as to why a writer deletes certain potential arbiters, the main purpose of deletions is to give writers an opportunity to strike arbiters from the list for any perceived bias or prejudice.