Documentary Screenplay Contract

What is the Documentary Screenplay Contract?

The Documentary Screenplay Contract is a contract designed to meet the demands of the documentary film business as well as ensure the rights and benefits for writers of theatrically released documentaries budgeted at $1.2 million or below.

How does it work?

Many documentaries are financed by filmmakers themselves. Before this contract, working under the WGA agreement was cost-prohibitive to most filmmakers who stretch every dollar to create their works of passion. Now, writer-directors and writer-producers can work under the protection of the WGA and use partial or complete deferments instead of having to pay all writing fees upfront.

In addition, the agreement makes it easier on theatrical documentary producers who want to hire writers under the WGA agreement by allowing for partial deferments of writing fees in accordance with various budget breaks. And in the event a documentary screenplay is purchased prior to the start of principal photography, fees for the purchase of such literary material may also be at least partially if not completely deferred. Deferred payment terms are “most favored nations” with the person who performs directing services.

Read a financial summary of the Documentary Screenplay Contract. This contract was revised in 2013 to include a new deferment definition.

Please note: The Documentary Screenplay Contract is only used when requested by the Writer, and the Company must also file required Documentary Screenplay Contract documents and Signatory paperwork.

If the Contract’s terms are included in a personal agreement but no additional Documentary Screenplay Contract documents are filed and approved by the WGAE, the Writer is NOT ensured that the Documentary Screenplay Contract will apply to the project.

What are the benefits?

Writers protected by the Documentary Screenplay Contract may receive benefits such as:

  • Premium health care coverage
  • Pension plan earnings
  • Residual payments for work rebroadcast on television and distributed on DVD and other media
  • Qualification for WGA membership and the benefits that most film and television writers have known for decades

How do I file a Documentary Screenplay Contract for a theatrical documentary film project?

Download the Documentary Screenplay Contract filing documents then contact us for additional information.

What else do I need to know?

If your documentary screenplay meets certain criteria, you may be eligible to join the Documentary Caucus– a forum for professional writers in the field of documentary film which aims to enhance and protect the rights of theatrical documentary writers and filmmakers through programming, engagement and outreach. The Documentary Caucus holds 3-4 meetings annually and hosts many other events throughout the year.

Who should I contact?

If you are filing documents, contact Signatories, Contracts, and Agency Administrator Rochelle Rubin at (212) 767-7837 or via email.

Writers who are filing Documentary Screenplay Contract documents may also be eligible for membership in the Guild’s Documentary Caucus. We encourage documentary filmmakers to contact the Guild’s Caucuses Manager, Jenna Bond, to discuss the benefits of participating in Caucuses.

Become a Guild Signatory

The Company must also file required Documentary Screenplay Contract documents and Signatory paperwork.

The WGA Documentary Screenplay Contract requirements should not be confused with the Guild’s Signatory documents and process. If you would like to become a Guild Signatory Company, find out how by visiting Become a Signatory. If you have Signatory questions, call (212) 767-7837.

If the Contract’s terms are included in a personal agreement but no additional Documentary Screenplay Contract documents are filed and approved by the WGAE, the Writer is NOT ensured that the Documentary Screenplay Contract will apply to the project.

The Documentary Screenplay Contract is only used when requested by the Writer, and the Company must also file required Documentary Screenplay Contract documents and Signatory paperwork.

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