Title: 2023 Writers Strike Spotlights Ongoing Issues Regarding Payment for Scripts
Subtitle: The battle between film writers and studios over free revisions and fair compensation continues amidst the 2023 writers strike
In the midst of the ongoing 2023 writers strike, emerging concerns surrounding artificial intelligence and the surge towards streaming have dominated headlines. However, for film writers, a crucial issue at the forefront of their agenda is the need for fair compensation for their work once scripts are completed.
One of the major hurdles faced by screenwriters is the expectation to engage in free revisions before submitting their “first draft” to the studio. This triggers the payment process; however, it also gives rise to the contentious concept of “free work.” The Writers Guild of America (WGA), the screenwriters’ union, has been grappling with this issue since the 1990s but has found it challenging to reach a definitive solution.
A significant concern among writers is that refusing to partake in free revisions may lead to their reputation being tarnished as being “difficult” to work with, potentially resulting in their removal from the project. Moreover, the rise of “one-step” deals, where writers are solely hired to complete the first draft, exacerbates the problem, as writers feel pressured to revise without receiving additional compensation in order to remain involved in the project.
It is worth noting that only around 2,000 individuals earn money from writing for film during a given year, further exacerbating the income gap between top-tier writers and their counterparts. Recognizing this issue, the WGA is pushing for a guaranteed second step for writers earning less than 250% of the guild minimum. Additionally, they advocate for implementing weekly pay for film writers to alleviate the demand for free revisions.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), responsible for negotiating on behalf of the studios, has rejected the proposal for weekly pay, adding another layer of complexity to the dispute. The most recent offer from the AMPTP includes a guaranteed second step for “original” screenplays but excludes projects based on pre-existing intellectual property, straining the negotiations further.
The fight to establish fair compensation practices for film writers spans beyond the immediate concerns of the 2023 writers strike. Industry experts recognize the imperative need for a long-term solution that respects the creative contributions of screenwriters while also ensuring a stable and sustainable future for the film industry as a whole. As discussions continue between the WGA and the AMPTP, all eyes remain on how this struggle for fair pay will ultimately unfold.