Contract Essentials

The WGA Basic Agreement (MBA) requires that a writer’s  contract contain certain elements, many of which are  enumerated below for your reference. Please make sure these provisions are included in contracts and feel free to contact the WGA Contracts Dept. (323/782-4501) if there are any questions. (Number references are to specific MBA articles.)

Also, ALL contracts must be filed with the Guild within one week after execution – please ensure contracts are forwarded to the Guild.

THEATRICAL

Delivery of contract:  Generally, a contract for a theatrical motion picture must be delivered to the writer and/or the writer’s representative within 2-3 weeks after employment; acquisition contracts within 1 month after agreement.  (13.A.3. and 19.B.)

Theatrical Contracts Must Contain:

  • a separate sheet listing all conditions that must be completed prior to commencement of writer’s services (attached to first document memorializing the agreement). (13.A.3.)
  • a list of all assigned or source material. (13.A.1.b.)
  • the names of all writers currently or previously employed on the same project (or from whom literary material was acquired) and whether the material is in turnaround from another company, and if so, the name of such company (18.A.).
  • date(s) of employment (Article 2.B.)
  • services to be rendered or term of employment (13.A.)
  • a provision that if the writer fails or refuses to become and/or remain a member in good standing, Company has the right to terminate the employment agreement. (6.E.2.)
  • the place where and name(s) or function of person(s) to whom delivery is to be made, a person who is at a level not higher than President of Production. (13.A.14.)
  • the names of person(s) authorized to request revisions, a person who is at a level not higher than President of Production. (13.A.14.)
  • the weekly compensation to be paid for each week services are to be rendered (on week-to-week agreements). (13.A.)
  • any rights reserved (other than those reserved in Article 16).
  • notice if writer is expected to provide annotations, with guidelines and standards, if any. (13.A.18.) 

Theatrical Contracts May Not:

  • waive any minimums in the MBA  (9)
  • contain any provisions that contradict any provision of the MBA (19).
  • require the writer to waive the right to defend himself/herself in the event of a legal action (28)
  • require the writer to warrant or indemnify that literary material will not defame or invade rights of third party unless the writer knows or should know such person will or might claim the person’s name, likeness, characteristics or personality was used in such material (28)
  • require the writer to warrant or indemnify with respect to third party claims when material is based on an actual person if the writer accurately provides all reasonable information so that the Company can evaluate risks (28)
  • require the writer to indemnify the Company based on alleged rather than actual breach of warranty or violation of the rights of third parties (28)
  • contain a penalty if writers agree to writing credits (when permissible under the MBA)

TELEVISION

Delivery of contract:  Generally, the Company must deliver a contract for television within 10 days after commencement. (19.C.)
Many are unaware, but there is a standard form agreement in the MBA for television (Television Schedule B), and all TV contracts must contain at least the provisions found in that form, which include:

  • the names of the parties
  • the date of the agreement
  • the form of writing (e.g., story, first draft, etc.)
  • delivery dates, if any
  • a provision that Company may not withhold monies if there is a claim of breach of warranty until there is an adverse judgment
  • compensation (including any amounts over double minimum which are to be credited against residuals). 1
    - Including installments if multiple steps
    - Including theatrical release
  • a provision that the contract is subject to the provisions of the MBA
  • a provision that if the writer fails or refuses to become or remain a member in good standing, Company has the right to terminate the employment agreement.

Television Contracts Must Also Contain:

  • a place where and name(s) and function of person(s) to whom delivery is to be made (13.B.9)
  • the name(s) of the person(s) authorized to request revisions (13.B.9.)
  • the name(s) of all writer(s) currently or previously employed (or from whom literary material was acquired) and whether the material is in turnaround from another company, and if so, the name of such company (18.A.)
  • a separate sheet listing all conditions precedent to commencement to writer’s services (attached to first document memorializing the agreement) (13.B.12.)
  • notice if writer is expected to provide annotations, with guidelines and standards, if any. (13.B.11.)

Television Writing Contracts May Not:

  • provide the writer will agree in a separate Upset Price agreement to sell reserved rights.  Reserved rights must be separately negotiated and memorialized in a separate document if the writer has been paid at or above the level in Article 16.B.5. (16.B.5.)
  • waive any minimums in the MBA (9)
  • contain provisions less favorable to the writer than, or inconsistent with, or violative of, the applicable terms and conditions in the MBA (19.C.)
  • require the writer to waive the right to defend himself/herself in the event of a legal action (28)
  • require the writer to warrant or indemnify that literary material will not defame or invade rights of third party unless the writer knows or should know such person will or might claim the person’s name, likeness, characteristics or personality was used in such material (28)
  • require the writer to warrant or indemnify with respect to third party claims when material is based on an actual person if the writer accurately provides all reasonable information so that the Company can evaluate risks (28)
  • require the writer to indemnify the Company based on alleged rather than actual breach of warranty or violation of the contract for writing credit (28)
  • contain a penalty if writers agree to writing credits (when permissible under the MBA)

For daytime serials, the writing contract must state the type of cycle and employment, which defines when the writer must be notified of termination.

For made-for-pay specials, the contract must state if the program is a holiday show.

For made-for-basic cable programs, the contact must state the residual formula chosen.

For long-form dramatic television, the contract should state if the producer is authorized to request revisions or if network approval is required.


1The Company may only credit initial compensation against residuals if the writer’s initial compensation is over double minimum and the writer’s individual contract allows crediting.  The Company may attempt to provide for crediting in language that does not specify what will be credited, so these provisions need to be read carefully.