New Provisions in the 1995 Writers Guild Basic Agreement on Prohibition of Rewrites

(March 1996)

Writers are often asked to perform extra-contractual services for no additional money. While everyone knows that this violates the Writers Guild Basic Agreement, that does not make it easier for writers to refuse to do them. New provisions in the Minimum Basic Agreement ("MBA") are designed to make refusal easier, and unified efforts between the Guild, writers and their agents to enforce these new provisions will help writers individually as well as collectively.

The 1995 MBA provides that every contract must state the name(s) of the person(s) who may request revisions of the material, and the name(s) of the person(s) to whom delivery of the material must be made. The Company must notify the writer in writing of any change in this information. If a person is not designated in the writer's contract to request or receive revisions, he or she may not so ask, and both the writer and the person requesting will know that. The writer will therefore know not to perform the services, or, if he or she does so, it is at the writer's own risk of not being paid. Writers and agents may use the information in the contract to their best advantage, citing the MBA as requiring the writer's refusal to perform additional (uncompensated) services or to deliver material to anyone other than the person(s) listed in the writer's contract.

Another provision involves long-form television. In an above-scale deal, the steps are generally a teleplay, two sets of revisions and a polish. Unfortunately, often the writer hands in the first draft to the producer, who wants to add his own ideas to the script before it goes to the network, but that hasn't counted as the first set of revisions. The parties now have agreed that that "producer's rewrite" will be the first set of revisions, triggering the next step (payment for the first draft, and commencement of the first set of revisions), so the network can see it in the best shape possible, The only caveat is that the Company and the network have to agree that a particular producer has the right to ask for such a rewrite, and it is the responsibility of the writer and/or agent to determine if the producer has that right. The producer should be named in the writer's contract. In the AMPTP agreement, the producer is presumed to have that authority, and in the Network agreement, it is the network's decision whether to approve the particular producer's authority. Please check with the Guild's Signatories Department (323) 782-4514 to determine to which Agreement the employment is subject.

Please call the Contracts Department (323) 782-4501 if you have questions.