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Screenwriter Survey FAQs

Screenwriter Survey FAQs

Q: Isn’t this the same survey I took a couple of years ago? Why should I take it again?

A:  Yes, the first run of this screenwriter survey produced baseline results for pitching and employment experiences during calendar year 2011. The Board then authorized the Committee on the Professional Status of Writers (CPSW) to meet with executives from each of the studios to deliver the findings and give notice that the results would be compared against those of future surveys to monitor changes. This second run of the survey that covers experiences in calendar year 2013 will provide a measure of which studios have improved and which have gotten worse.  Therefore it’s essential that as many screenwriters as possible provide information on their experiences this year, including those of you who took the previous survey.

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. The Board of Directors has engaged a professional research firm to gather data on how particular producers and studios treat their writers.  We are as interested in acknowledging good employers as we are in calling out the 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.  That firm, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3), 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 ensure that only Guild members are completing the survey.  Responses will only be analyzed in the aggregate and no individuals will be identified 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 publically disclosed.  

Q:  The survey asks me to identify specific projects, studio executives and producers. Won’t that allow a savvy employer to figure out where the information came from?

A: The Guild will take into account the size of the data pool in deciding whether 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 2013.  To locate that group, we have sent notices regarding the survey to all screenwriters who reported at least $30,000 in screen earnings since 2007.

Q: How will the findings be presented?

A: The survey responses will be collected, processed and analyzed by FM3 and presented to the Board of Directors. The Board will determine how these findings will be presented to the membership and the studios.

Q: Why are you only asking about the calendar year 2013?

A: Our goal is to conduct this survey on a regular basis.   The ability to compare the findings from a particular calendar year to another 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 really 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.   At a minimum, the information may 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