Screen Credits Manual

III. Guild Policy on Credits


1. Writer

The term "writer" is defined in the Minimum Basic Agreement. In general, the term "writer" means a person employed by a Company to write literary material or a person from whom a Company purchased literary material who at the time of purchase was a "professional writer," as defined in the Minimum Basic Agreement.

For purposes of credit, a team of writers, as defined in the Screen Credits Manual Section I.B., is considered as one writer.

If literary material covered under the Minimum Basic Agreement is written by one member of a team, separate and apart from the work of the team, such literary material shall be considered separate from the literary material by the team for purposes of assessing contributions to the final shooting script. Therefore, such individual is eligible to receive writing credit as an individual writer and/or as a member of a team.

2. Literary Material

Literary material is written material and shall include stories, adaptations, treatments, original treatments, scenarios, continuities, teleplays, screenplays, dialogue, scripts, sketches, plots, outlines, narrative synopses, routines, and narrations, and, for use in the production of television film, formats.

3. Source Material

Source material is all material, other than story as hereinafter defined, upon which the story and/or screenplay is based.

This means that source material is material assigned to the writer which was previously published or exploited and upon which the writer's work is to be based (e.g., a novel, a produced play or series of published articles), or any other material written outside of the Guild's jurisdiction (e.g., literary material purchased from a non-professional writer). Illustrative examples of source material credits are: "From a Play by", "From a Novel by", "Based upon a Story by", "From a series of articles by", "Based upon a Screenplay by" or other appropriate wording indicating the form in which such source material is acquired. Research material is not considered source material.

4. Story

The term "story" means all writing covered by the provisions of the Minimum Basic Agreement representing a contribution "distinct from screenplay and consisting of basic narrative, idea, theme or outline indicating character development and action."

It is appropriate to award a "Story by" credit when: 1) the story was written under employment under Guild jurisdiction; 2) the story was purchased by a signatory company from a professional writer, as defined in the Minimum Basic Agreement; or 3) when the screenplay is based upon a sequel story written under the Guild's jurisdiction. If the story is based upon source material of a story nature, see "screen story" below.

5. Screen Story

Credit for story authorship in the form "Screen Story by" is appropriate when the screenplay is based upon source material and a story, as those terms are defined above, and the story is substantially new or different from the source material.

6. Screenplay

A screenplay consists of individual scenes and full dialogue, together with such prior treatment, basic adaptation, continuity, scenario and dialogue as shall be used in, and represent substantial contributions to the final script.

A "Screenplay by" credit is appropriate when there is source material of a story nature (with or without a "Screen Story" credit) or when the writer(s) entitled to "Story by" credit is different than the writer(s) entitled to "Screenplay by" credit.

7. "Written by"

The term "Written by" is used when the writer(s) is entitled to both the "Story by" credit and the "Screenplay by" credit.

This credit shall not be granted where there is source material of a story nature. However, biographical, newspaper and other factual sources may not necessarily deprive the writer of such credit.

8. "Narration Written by"

"Narration Written by" credit is appropriate where the major writing contribution to a motion picture is in the form of narration. The term "narration" means material (typically off-camera) to explain or relate sequence or action (excluding promos or trailers).

9. "Based on Characters Created by"

"Based on Characters Created by" is a writing credit given to the writer(s) entitled to separated rights in a theatrical or television motion picture on each theatrical sequel to such theatrical or television motion picture.

Where there are no separated rights, "Based on Characters Created by" may be accorded to the author of source material upon which a sequel is based.

10. "Adaptation by"

This credit is appropriate in certain unusual cases where a writer shapes the direction of screenplay construction without qualifying for "Screenplay by" credit. In those special cases, and only as a result of arbitration, the "Adaptation by" credit may be used.


In determining relative contribution, the relevant factors shall be what material was actually used, not the Arbitration Committee's personal preference of one script over another.

A team of writers shall be treated in all respects as a single writer.

1. "Written by"

(See Section III.A.7.)

2. "Story by"

(See Section III. A.4)

Story credit may not be shared by more than two writers.

A story may be written in story form or may be contained within other literary material, such as a treatment or a screenplay, for purposes of receiving a "Story by" credit.

3. "Screen Story by"

(See Section III. A.5)

Screen Story credit may not be shared by more than two writers.

If the writer is furnished source material but takes from it only a springboard, a characterization, an incident or some equally limited contribution, creating a substantially new and different story from the source material, he/she may receive "Screen Story by" credit but only as the result of arbitration. In such cases, the author of the source material may be given credit that specifies the form in which such material was acquired -- for instance, "From a Play by," "From a Novel by," "From a Saturday Evening Post Story by," "From a Series of Articles by," "Based on a Story by," etc.

4. "Screenplay by"

(See Section III. A.6)

Screen credit for screenplay will not be shared by more than two writers, except that in unusual cases, and solely as the result of arbitration, the names of three writers or the names of writers constituting two writing teams may be used. The limitation on the number of writers applies to all feature length photoplays except episodic pictures and revues.

a. Percentage Requirements

Any writer whose work represents a contribution of more than 33% of a screenplay shall be entitled to screenplay credit, except where the screenplay is an original screenplay. In the case of an original screenplay, any subsequent writer or writing team must contribute 50% to the final screenplay.

b. Original and Non-Original Screenplays

For purposes of determining "Screenplay by" credit only, two categories of screenplays are recognized:

(1) Original screenplays (i.e., those screenplays which are not based on source material and on which the first writer writes a screenplay without there being any other intervening literary material by another writer pertaining to the project).2 If a writer is furnished or uses research material, the screenplay is still considered an original screenplay; and

(2) Non-original screenplays (i.e., screenplays based upon source material and all other screenplays not covered in (1) above, such as sequels).

c. Additional Guidelines for the Arbiters in Determining Screenplay Credit

In each case, the arbiters read any source material and all literary material provided to them in connection with the development of the final screenplay in order to assess the contribution of each writer to the final shooting script.

The percentage contribution made by writers to screenplay obviously cannot be determined by counting lines or even the number of pages to which a writer has contributed. Arbiters must take into consideration the following elements in determining whether a writer is entitled to screenplay credit:

* dramatic construction;

* original and different scenes;

* characterization or character relationships; and

* dialogue.

It is up to the arbiters to determine which of the above-listed elements are most important to the overall values of the final screenplay in each particular case. A writer may receive credit for a contribution to any or all of the above-listed elements. It is because of the need to understand contributions to the screenplay as a whole that professional expertise is required on the part of the arbiters. For example, there have been instances in which every line of dialogue has been changed and still the arbiters have found no significant change in the screenplay as a whole. On the other hand, there have been instances where far fewer changes in dialogue have made a significant contribution to the screenplay as a whole. In addition, a change in one portion of the script may be so significant that the entire screenplay is affected by it.

It is possible to consider the writer of a story or treatment as eligible for screenplay credit, but only in those cases where the story or treatment is written in great detail, to an extent far beyond the customary requirements for a story or treatment.

d. Selection from Source Material

As a guideline for arbiters in cases involving a non-original screenplay based upon source material, it is a fundamental principle that selection of screenplay elements from the source material is a part of the creative process of writing the screenplay. Arbiters should give weight to any writer's original and unique utilization, choice, or arrangement of source material when it is present in the final shooting script, but not the employment of basic story elements which any other writer may have also selected. (See screenplay elements - Section III. B. 4.c. See story elements - Section III.A.4.)

5. "Adaptation by"

(See Section III. A.10)

Because of the strong feeling against a multiplicity of credits, the Guild is opposed to the general use of the "Adaptation by" credit. However, the Guild recognizes that there are certain unusual cases where credit is due a writer who shapes the direction of screenplay construction without qualifying for "Screenplay by" credit. In those special cases, and only as a result of arbitration, the "Adaptation by" credit may be used.

6. Irreducible Story Minimum

In the case of an original screenplay, the first writer shall be entitled to no less than a shared story credit.

7. No Other Credits Approved

Any form of credit not expressly described in this Manual shall be used only upon receipt of a waiver from the Guild. Fewer names and fewer types of credit enhance the value of all credits and the dignity of all writers.


The term "production executives" includes individuals who receive credit as the director or in any producer capacity. The following rules govern writing credits of production executives who also perform writing services when there are other writers involved on the same project.

1. Automatic Arbitration Provisions

Schedule A of the Minimum Basic Agreement provides:

"Unless the story and/or screenplay writing is done entirely without any other writer, no designation of tentative story or screenplay credit to a production executive shall become final or effective unless approved by a credit arbitration as herein provided, in accordance with the Guild rules for determination of such credit."

2. Notice Requirements

If a production executive intends to claim credit as a team on any literary material with a writer(s) who is not a production executive, he/she must, at the time when such team writing begins, have signified such claim in writing to the Guild and to the writer(s) with whom he/she claims to have worked as a team. Failure to comply with the above will preclude such production executive from claiming co-authorship of the literary material in question, and such literary material shall be attributed to the other writer.

3. Percentage Requirements to Receive Screenplay Credit

At the time of the credit arbitration, the production executive or production executive team must assume the burden of proving that he/she/they had, in fact, worked on the script as a writer and had assumed full share of the writing. If the production executive or production executive team is the second writer he/she/they must have contributed more than 50% of the final script to receive screenplay credit. His/her/their contribution must consist of dramatic construction; original and different scenes; characterization or character relationships; and dialogue.

As in all cases, decisions of Arbitration Committees are based upon literary material. Therefore, production executives, as well as other writers, should keep dated copies of all literary material written by them and submitted to the Company.


In the case of remakes, any writer who has received writing credit under the Guild's jurisdiction in connection with a prior version of the motion picture is a participating writer on the remake. As such, those prior writers are entitled to participate in the credit determination process and are eligible to receive writing credit pursuant to the rules for determining writing credits. The final shooting script written by a prior writer(s) shall be considered literary material.

If under the "Rules for Determining Writing Credits" (Section III.B.) the Arbitration Committee determines that such prior writer(s) is not entitled to receive writing credit, the Arbitration Committee may, within its discretion, accord such prior writer(s) a credit in the nature of a source material credit, such as "Based on a Screenplay by...."

However, the rules do not preclude a prior writer(s) from receiving both writing credit and a credit in the nature of a source material credit at the discretion of the Arbitration Committee.

Remakes shall be considered non-original screenplays under Section III.B.4.b.(2) of this Manual.


Prior to the time a credit question has been submitted to arbitration, a writer may withdraw from screen writing credit for personal cause, such as violation of his/her principles or mutilation of material he/she has written. If the other writer-contributors do not agree, the question shall be referred to arbitration. The Arbitration Committee in such cases shall base its determination on whether there is such personal cause.

After screen credits have been determined by arbitration, a writer may not withdraw his/her name from screenplay credit. He/she may, however, by notification to the Guild, withdraw from any other form of credit.

Withdrawal from writing credit will result in loss of any and all rights accruing from receipt of writing credit. Use of a pseudonym rather than withdrawing from credit will not result in such a forfeiture. (See H. below.)


Pursuant to the provisions of the Minimum Basic Agreement the Guild has the right to protest credits proposed by the Company. The Guild may act irrespective of the wishes of any of the participating writers in order to ensure that the credit rules are properly applied.


The order of writers' names in a shared credit may be arbitrated. Generally, the most substantial contributor is entitled to first position credit. Where there is no agreement among the arbiters as to order of names, or where the Arbitration Committee determines that the credited writers' contribution is equal, then the Arbitration Committee shall order the writers' names chronologically.


The Minimum Basic Agreement provides that any writer who is entitled to credit on the screen and who has been paid, or is guaranteed payment of, less than two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) for writing services or literary materials relating to the particular motion picture shall have the right to be accorded credit on the screen, in advertising or otherwise, in a reasonable pseudonymous name. A writer must exercise this right within five (5) business days after final determination of writing credits. None of the writer's rights, including but not limited to compensation of any kind, shall be affected by use of such pseudonym.

Before using a pseudonym a writer must register it with the Guild by sending a written notice to the Membership Department with the writer's Social Security number, if any. A pseudonym may not duplicate the name or pseudonym of another writer or the name of a public figure.

Subject to the terms of a fully-executed strike settlement agreement between a signatory company and the Guild, the Screen Credits Administrator shall be empowered to obtain the true name and identity of any writer listed by pseudonym on any Notice of Tentative Writing Credit submitted to the Guild. In the event that the Company or writer refuses to reveal the true identity of a writer listed by pseudonym on a Notice of Tentative Writing Credit on which the names of one or more other writers also appear, such writer listed by pseudonym shall not be entitled to receive writing credit, and credit shall be awarded to the other writers as the Arbitration Committee or the Screen Credits Administrator determines.


Decisions of Arbitration Committees are based upon literary material. Claims of authorship must be supported by literary material appropriate for submission to the Arbitration Committee. In the event of conflicting claims, literary material always prevails.


If, after screen credits are finally determined, material changes are made in the literary material, either the Company or a participant and the Guild jointly may reopen credit determination by making a claim within 48 hours after completion of the writing work claimed to justify the revision of credits; and in such case the procedure for the original determination of credits is followed.


The Minimum Basic Agreement and Guild Working Rules provide that no writer shall claim credit for screen authorship on any motion picture prior to the time when the credits have been determined, and no writer shall claim credits contrary to such determination. In addition, the Guild believes that it is in the best interest of all writers that certain facts relating to any particular credit determination should remain confidential. For example, participating writers are asked to refrain from commenting in the press or media about issues related to pre-arbitration hearings, arbiters' written decisions or Policy Review Board hearings.


These rules and procedures have been derived from the experience and practice of the past years. Although they remain the guiding policy by which credits are determined, they are not to be considered rigid or inflexible. The Guild has the discretion to depart from precedent when new conditions, new problems, or new methods of work may require an alteration of the rules or a new application of an existing rule to a unique set of facts and circumstances.

It is now accepted that administration of writers' credits belongs to the writers themselves. It is their responsibility to see to it that credits are administered wisely and well, that the written work product of participating writers is credited as accurately as possible, and that the overall result leads ultimately to a recognition of the importance of the writers' contribution to the screen.

2 In the case where a team writes a story, and there is no source material, and one member of the team goes on to write a screenplay without there being any other intervening literary material by any other writer, the screenplay shall still be considered an "original screenplay."

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