Writers Guild of America, west, Inc.
Protecting and Extending WGA Jurisdiction
1998 HOLLYWOOD WRITERS REPORT
In the early 1980s, the Guild’s Committee of Women Writers undertook an informal study of the employment of women writers in television and film. For the first time, there was statistical evidence of gender inequities in access to employment opportunities and compensation in the entertainment industry.
Subsequent to the initial report, the Board of the Guild decided to commission regular statistical reports to track employment trends of writers in all protected class categories, which included not only women, but also minorities, older and disabled writers.
Last October, the 1998 Hollywood Writers Report was published. From this report, it was clear that even with all the Guild’s efforts, spearheaded by the Employment Access Department, there is much further to go. The entire contents of that report can be found on the Guild’s Web site at www.wga.org.
While there have been improvements in minority membership in the Guild, it stands now at only 6% of our total membership.
The experience for women writers remains static in terms of their share of writing opportunities. Writers who are women represented only 21% of assignments in 1987 and represented only 23% of assignments in 1997.
Writers between the ages of 41-50 experienced a 46% employment rate in 1997. The employment rate for writers aged 51-60 dropped to 32%. At the same time, writers under 30 had a 73% employment rate. This disparity is dramatic, and continues to be of concern to the WGA.
Over the last ten years, the Guild has initiated numerous programs aimed at improving access. We have hosted seminars, panel discussions, and receptions; we’ve met one-on-one with company executives to press for improved access. Still, most companies still do not have adequate access programs to open up the submission process.
The area of employment access for minority, women and older writers remains a priority for the Guild. In the words of President Daniel Petrie, Jr., America has a lot of stories to be told. As an industry we must commit ourselves again to be sure we’ve included all of our stories and given opportunities to all of our writers to prove their talents.
STRIDES IN ORGANIZING PRIMETIME ANIMATION
During the past year, the Guild made unprecedented strides on behalf of writers in primetime animation.
In August, 1998, the WGA announced an agreement to extend coverage of the MBA with Twentieth Century Fox to writers of the primetime animated series The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Futurama and Family Guy. Prior to that, a similar agreement was reached with Imagine Television for The PJs.
In February of 1999, the Guild came to terms with Castle Rock on the primetime animation series The Downtowners.
The agreements established the principle of parity for writers of primetime animation with live action counterparts.
These agreements lay the framework for similar contracts in this genre. Currently, the Guild’s Industry Alliances Department is aggressively working to extend MBA coverage to any other primetime animated shows currently in production or development.
ANIMATION WRITING AWARD
The WGA broke new ground as this year ends by issuing its first low budget feature waiver. As part of its strategy for making this creative area more available for WGA writers, the Guild's Board of Directors renewed its openness to such waivers in its approval of this first agreement to modified terms of employment. Many projects can be effectively covered under existing Guild provisions, though some, such as this film with a budget less than $500,000, warrant modified terms. Writers interested in such alternative terms should contact the Guild asking about an independent film waiver at 323.782.4568.
The Guild also continued its alliance with the Independent Feature Project, West (IFP West), serving as the official theater of their Independent Spirit Awards and as the host of the bimonthly New Visions screening series for quality independent films seeking distribution.
EMPLOYMENT ACCESS PROGRAMS
The first-ever WGA Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award was presented to Gordon Bressack in October, 1998 at the AWC’s Annual Meeting and Reception. The newly created award is given to that member of the Animation Writers Caucus and/or the Guild who, in the opinion of the Board of Directors, has advanced the literature of animation in film and/or television through the years, and who has made outstanding contributions to the profession of the animation writer.
Bressack, whose credits include Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Tiny Toons, Darkwing Duck and Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys, received a Daytime Emmy for Achievement in Animation for Animaniacs.
In 1994, the WGA formed the Animation Writers Caucus (AWC) to address the issues of working conditions in the field of animation, as well as to provide a forum in which animation writers could gather to exchange information and address methods of organizing. The AWC working with the Guild’s Industry Alliances Department sponsors seminars, events and other outreach activities to promote the image of the animation writer.
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