Getting the Best Deal: Weekly Versus Episodic Pay
With the rise of short seasons and mini-rooms, it has become harder for TV writer-producers to make sure they’ll be paid fairly.
The Guild’s MBA sets a minimum weekly pay for writer-producers working on an episodic series, but compensation is often negotiated as a payment per episode (“episodic fee”).
When that happens, how can you know what you will actually be paid each week or if the deal is good for you? How much are you actually making in overscale? And how can you avoid getting weekly paychecks for only the Guild minimum?
The short answer is that your contract should include a specified weekly rate.
Now, you and your reps can use this calculator to help determine what your weekly pay should be under different types of deals, whether an episodic deal or a weekly deal might be better for you, and if additional deal terms are necessary to make sure you get your overscale pay promptly.
To use the calculator below, just enter your episodic fee and the number of episodes in the season. If you know how many weeks you expect to work, you can enter that, too—or just leave it blank. The calculator will automatically use the MBA span provision of 2.4 weeks per episode to calculate weeks of work covered by your episodic fees. (But please note that if your compensation exceeds certain amounts, you may not be protected by our span provision. Review “Are You Protected By Span?” for more details.)
Are You Protected by Span?
Writer-producers are covered by the MBA’s span provision when:
- earning less than $400,000 for 12 or fewer episodes on a broadcast series.
- earning less than $375,000 for 14 or fewer episodes on a cable series.
- earning less than $400,000 for 14 or fewer episodes on a high-budget SVOD series.
When covered by span, each episodic fee can cover only 2.4 weeks of work. If you are not covered by span, you can work to negotiate for similar overscale protections.
Article 14 Weekly Minimums
Writer-producers cannot be paid less than Guild minimum per week. The weekly rates vary depending on how many weeks you are guaranteed to work. Use this table to see which minimum applies to your job.
|Up to 9 weeks
|20 or more weeks
Understanding Your Pay & Negotiating the Best Deal
This calculator tells you what you should be making on a weekly basis by dividing your episodic fee by 2.4 weeks. For deals where span applies, it will also tell you how many weeks of work are covered by your episodic fees. If you work more than that number of weeks under a deal protected by span, you are due additional pay.
If you know how many weeks you are expected to work, you can see what your weekly rate will be if you are covered by the MBA’s span provision—and if you aren’t. You can also see what your total compensation will be if you are protected by span—and if you aren’t.
Because the MBA’s span provision doesn’t guarantee overscale pay or cover all writers, here are some questions to consider as you negotiate your deal:
1. Are you making overscale on this deal? Are you being compensated for your experience?
By comparing your effective weekly rate under “Your Results” with the Guild’s Article 14 minimums, you can see how your weekly pay measures up against WGA scale. If your weekly rate from this calculator is less than Guild minimum, you will be paid Guild minimum. But that means you aren’t being paid any overscale, and your reps should be pushing for a higher episodic fee or negotiating a deal with a set weekly rate (for example, scale+ 20%).
2. If you are not covered by the MBA’s span provision, how can you make sure you are paid a fair weekly rate?
For writer-producers on series with longer episode orders or who make more than $400,000 (or $375,000 on a cable series), the MBA’s span provision will not apply. The Guild will continue working to expand span protections in future MBA negotiations. In the meantime, you and your reps can negotiate for overscale span protections or a deal with a weekly rate to ensure that you are paid appropriately for your work. Your deals can include a set weekly rate that you will be paid, specify a limit on the number of weeks you will work, or specify that each episodic payment covers only 2.4 weeks (or some other specified number of weeks) per episode. These terms ensure that you receive your actual overscale pay instead of being worked for so long that you only make Guild minimum.
3. Should you negotiate an overscale payment schedule?
For writer-producers on episodic deals, companies often pay Guild minimum before the start of production. That’s because the negotiated episodic fees in many writer deals are payable when episodes are “produced”—not written. Without express contractual language stating the timing of payment of your overscale compensation, you could be working at Guild minimum for a long time. With extended production schedules arising from COVID-19—and with more writing and producing services done prior to production—it is important to consider negotiating a contract with an overscale weekly rate or payment schedule that ensures overscale isn’t held until production and that your effective weekly rate is what you get paid each week.