THE "VANITY CREDIT" CAMPAIGN
The Guild's anti-vanity credit campaign continued this year including monitoring of the number of vanity credits granted by the studios. The vanity credit, an extra credit for the director of a film usually in the form of A ___ Film or A Film by ___, has been the subject of a formal agreement between the studios and the Guild since 1995 and the object of long-standing objection for many years before that. The Guild believes that by generating the false impression that the director is solely responsible for the film, this credit denigrates the contribution of writers and all others who contributed to the picture. Under the 1995 deal, the studios agreed to reduce the incidence of these credits over a four-year period. The four-year period expired in May, 1999. While the studios report a reduction in the number of directors' deal memos granting the credit, the Guild's research indicates that over the period no meaningful progress has been made in diminishing the number of vanity credits appearing on-screen and in advertising. For this reason, the Guild recently asked the studios to enter into formal negotiations regarding methods to balance the granting of vanity credits to directors. These negotiations will be spearheaded by the screen branch of the Committee on the Professional Status of Writers.
THE COMMITTEE ON THE PROFESSIONAL STATUS OF WRITERS
This committee, which will take up its continuing talks with the studio leadership on vanity credits later this Summer, also recently met with this group about its broader creative rights agenda. While its work is still in progress and not ripe for reporting, the committee continues to receive the input of some of the most knowledgeable and active writers in the Guild and to bring its agenda to the attention of the policy-setters at the studios. Creative participation is at the top of the list. Also under discussion are other subjects from the daily experience of feature writers, including late payments and so-called "free rewrites" - as creative issues. A television counterpart to the feature committee is also slated to pick up earlier discussion about television issues with the leadership of the television industry.
WGA TAKES ON FREE REWRITES
The WGAw Board of Directors is committed to aggressive enforcement of the MBA. One area of particular concern to members is the troubling practice of free rewrites (and polishes). In an effort to curtail and eventually eliminate these contract violations, the Guild is pursuing non-traditional methods of enforcing the MBA. Over the past several months, the Guild has been conducting a broad investigation to identify Companies which ask writers to perform script revisions, including rewrites and polishes, without paying at least the minimum compensation mandated by the MBA, plus pension and health contributions.
The Guild has hired an attorney specifically to lead the new attack on free rewrites. Working with the Guild's Contracts and Legal Services Departments, the attorney has filed arbitration claims on theatrical and long-form television projects. At Guild outreach meetings and in informal conversations, writers have responded overwhelmingly positively to the Guild's efforts to pursue problem Companies through stepped up enforcement initiatives.
Although there is unquestionably a give and take in the creative process, the Guild's elected leaders believe that all writers will gain the respect they deserve both economically and creatively if abusive practices are eliminated. For this reason, when the Guild finds instances where writers have been asked or required to perform free rewrites, it will file arbitration claims without writers having to come forward and put themselves on the line. In doing this we are acting on behalf of the Guild, in the interests of writers in general, and not on behalf of the individual writers. In fact, the Guild will pursue these claims even over the objections of the writers involved. The Guild, in effect, becomes the bad guy.
The road to eliminating free rewrites is not expected to be a smooth one, but it is clear it is a road that must be traveled to reverse years of this practice which serves only to diminish the value of what writers do.
To date, the Guild has officially corrected the writing credits on 82 films to reflect the true authorship of films made during the blacklist era. In March, 1999, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Warren Beatty (Bulworth) joined former WGA Presidents George Kirgo and Del Reisman for a press conference to announce changes in the credits of six films (released between 1948 and 1961) written by blacklisted writers. In attendance was one of the writers affected by the credit revisionsNorma Barzman (screenwriter of Luxury Girls).
The credit corrections were the result of a unanimous vote of the Guild's Board of Directors. The WGA's Blacklist Credits Committee recommended the changes after conducting an investigation using written material, correspondence and first-person statements. The committee includes Kirgo and Reisman, working in conjunction with members of the Guild staff including Director of Credits Cathy Reed and researcher Jeff Blitz. The late Paul Jarrico, himself a blacklisted writer, was also a member of this committee. The writing credits for the films of that era either omitted a blacklist writer's name or used a pseudonym or front.
The following are the credit corrections announced most recently:
Luxury Girls, Written by Norma Barzman.
The Magnificent Rebel (a/k/a Schicksals-Sinfonie), Written by Joan Scott. The Two-Headed Spy, Screenplay by Michael Wilson & Alfred Levitt, based on a magazine article by J. Alvin Kugelmass.
El Cid, Screenplay by Philip Yordan and Frederic M. Frank and Ben Barzman. Story by Frederic M. Frank.
The Prisoner of Zenda, Screenplay by John L. Balderston and Noel Langley. Adaptation by Wells Root from the novel by Anthony Hope and the dramatization by Edward Rose. Additional dialogue by Donald Ogden Stewart.
Ruthless, Screenplay by Alvah Bessie and S.K. Lauren and Gordon Kahn, based on the novel Prelude to Night by Dayton Stoddart.
The Writers Guild began correcting writing credits in 1986 with the majority of corrections taking place in the last three years. There are approximately 100 more films being reviewed for possible credit corrections. A full list of all corrected credits to date is available on the Guild's website at www.wga.org.
In February, the WGA Awards were once again held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and brought together the cr me de la cr me in the field of writing to give members an opportunity to honor their own. The awards always garner national and international press coverage, providing a vast public audience with a glimpse into Hollywood and the world of America's Storytellers.
Honorary awards were also presented: the Screen Laurel Award to Paul Schrader; the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television to David Milch; Valentine Davies Award to Barry Kemp; the Morgan Cox Award to Del Reisman; the Edmund H. North Award to Frank Pierson; and the Paul Selvin Award to Frank Military for Blind Faith. The rarely bestowed Lt. Robert Meltzer Award for bravery was posthumously presented to the late Paul Jarrico and accepted by his widow, Lia Benedetti.
Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen:
Shakespeare in Love
Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
Out of Sight
Screenplay by Scott Frank, based on the novel by Elmore Leonard
Original Long Form
Labor of Love, Written by Nina Shengold
The Love Letter
Teleplay by James Henerson, Television story by James Henerson, based on the short story by Jack Finney
Proofs for the Existence of God (Nothing Sacred)
Written by Bill Cain (a.k.a. Paul Leland)
Frasier's Imaginary Friend (Frasier)
Written by Rob Greenberg
Ellen: A Hollywood Tribute,
Written by Tim Doyle
Dennis Miller Live
Written by Eddie Feldmann, David Feldman, Jose Arroyo, Leah Krinsky, Dennis Miller, Jim Hanna and David Weiss
All My Children
Written by Agnes Nixon, Megan McTavish, Lorraine Broderick, Hal Corley, Frederick Johnson, Peggy Sloane, Victor Miller, Craig Carlson, N. Gail Lawrence, Juliet Law Packer, Karen Lewis, Michelle Patrick, Bettina F. Bradbury, Judith Donato, Kathleen Klein, Caroline Franz, Charlotte Gibson, Elizabeth Page and Sharon Epstein
Telly as Jack (Sesame Street)
Written by Christine Ferraro
Once Upon A Time in Arkansas
Written by Michael Kirk and Peter J. Boyer
Truman (The American Experience)
Written by David Grubin
Bulletin or Breaking Report (tie)
Farewell to A Princess
Written by Jerry Cipriano and L. Franklin DeVine
Written by Thomas A Harris, CBS
Theodore Kaczynski's Brother (Good Morning America),
Written by Edmund Levin
The Nature of Giving
Written by Ruth Davis
World News This Week
Written by Stuart H. Chamberlain, Jr.
(Please note: This is a three-way tie.)
Written by Andrea Smith Stapleton
Sinatra (Dan Rather Reporting)
Written by Greg Kandra
Frank Sinatra: The Final Curtain
Written by Hank Weinbloom
Written by Nancy McColgan
Sinatra (Dan Rather Reporting)
Written by Greg Kandra
Designed by Beth Leudesdorf
Designed by Beth Leudesdorf