Screenwriter Survey FAQs
Q: What is the purpose of this survey?
A: Industry consolidation means fewer employers producing fewer films. Unfortunately, in this highly concentrated environment, employment practices detrimental to screenwriters have become more pervasive. In 2010-11, the WGA’s Committee on the Professional Status of Writers met with studio executives to discuss workplace concerns, with few tangible results. In the wake of the 2011 MBA negotiations, the Guild decided to gather data and issue “report cards” on how particular producers and studios treat their writers. We are as interested in acknowledging good employers as we are in calling out bad ones.
Q: What sort of business practices are you asking about?
A: The survey covers issues in two major categories: pre-employment practices, including sweepstakes pitching and pre-writes; and practices during employment, such as one-step deals, free rewrites and late pay.
Q: Who is conducting the survey?
A: The survey was developed by WGAW staff and screenwriter members, with guidance from an experienced research firm and in collaboration with the WGAE. That firm, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, will be responsible for administering the survey, analyzing the results and helping the Guild prepare a report of the findings.
Q: You say that my answers are confidential. What exactly does that mean?
A: Each participant is given a unique link that allows the research firm FM3 to connect responses to demographic information from the Guild’s records and to insure that only Guild members are completing the survey. Responses will only be analyzed in the aggregate, and no individuals will be identified directly in the survey results.
Q: But it says that some writers may be contacted by the research firm for a follow-up interview. How does that work if my answers are confidential?
A: The unique link that connects your demographic information and contact information will only be seen by those analyzing the survey results. Individual writers may consent to a follow-up interview by the research firm. Even the results of those interviews, however, will be kept confidential, and the names of writers who participate will not be publicly disclosed.
Q: The survey asks me to identify specific projects, studio executives and producers. Won’t that allow a savvy employer to figure out from whom the information came?
A: The Guild will take into account the size of the data pool in deciding whether or not to release information about specific projects or individuals. The presentation of the findings will always err on the side of protecting individual writers.
Q: Who is invited to take the survey?
A: The survey seeks information from screenwriters who were employed on a theatrical project, or who pitched for such employment, during 2011. To locate that group, we have sent notices regarding the survey to all screenwriters who reported at least $30,000 in screen earnings since 2006.
Q: How will the findings be presented?
A: The goal is to collect sufficient data to issue a statistically-valid report card for each studio and major producer. The findings will be shared with screenwriters first. The Guild will then determine if and how the report cards will be shared with the Companies and the public at large.
Q: Why are you only asking about the calendar year 2011?
A: Our goal is to conduct this survey during each year of the 2011-14 MBA. The ability to compare the findings from year to year will help us assess the effectiveness of the report card strategy, and may provide useful information for future negotiations.
Q: Okay. So the survey results will tell me how each studio or employer treats writers, but will a report card actually have any real effect on their business practices?
A: We can’t be sure. But the industry is competitive--no studio wants to be known as the worst place to work or to bring an original project to. At a minimum, the information will be useful to writers in making their career decisions.
Q: I have a few more questions. Who can I talk to?
A: If you have questions, please email screensurvey@. wgaeast.org