If you are a writer interested in selling or developing an animated project, you can negotiate WGA coverage, even though not all types of animation are automatically covered by the MBA.
You must be clear upfront that you want your project to be Guild-covered and in some cases be willing to push hard for a Guild deal. Securing WGA coverage for your animated project has significant benefits, which can include:
- Pension and health benefits including paid parental leave;
- Guild-determined writing credit;
- Safeguards such as Options & Exclusivity and Span;
- WGA minimum compensation, including script fees; and
- Separated rights in original story material.
The Guild has successfully negotiated coverage for multiple animated series. See a list containing information on the various shows the Guild currently covers.
And for feature animation, the Guild has successfully secured coverage for animated features and hybrid live-action/animation projects such The Lego Movie, Peter Rabbit, and Spongebob: Sponge on the Run, to name a few.
If you are offered a deal for an animated project, 1) insist upon WGA coverage at the outset, and 2) make sure that the company in question uses an existing signatory to the MBA or becomes a signatory to cover animation.
If you are not yet a WGAW member, writing on a Guild-covered animation project will give you units towards qualifying for Guild membership.
WGA Animation Checklist
If you’re developing an animated project for TV/streaming, here are the steps you can take to ensure your pilot/series is covered under a WGA agreement.
1. As soon as you begin development, contact WGAW Animation so we can provide you with contacts, support and resources. All conversations are confidential.
2. Make sure your team, including reps, producers, co-writers, talent, etc. understands that Guild coverage is a priority and enlist their support. Some helpful arguments can include:
- Without a Guild deal, it might be difficult to find WGA writers to take staff jobs and if they do, they will likely have one foot out the door and jump at the chance to staff on a Guild show when there is an opportunity.
- Guild coverage is essential for Guild members to qualify for health insurance, vest in the pension plan, or build for retirement.
- Guild members should be able to work under the protections of their own union and not be forced to work without protections or to join another union.
3. If you can, plan to pitch to multiple companies and be upfront from the start about the importance of a WGA deal. If you receive multiple offers you are better positioned to leverage Guild coverage.
4. Use the Guild’s animation list as a resource to push back against companies when they claim they don’t do WGA deals.
5. Use the Guild to connect with fellow writers who have successfully covered shows at the same company and/or can give strategic advice and support.
6. Be prepared to use your leverage and walk away from the deal, if Guild coverage is important to you.
If you’re developing an animated feature project, here are the steps you can take to ensure your film is covered under a WGA agreement.
- As soon as you begin development, contact WGAW Animation for support and resources. All conversations are confidential.
- Make sure your Reps understand that Guild coverage is a priority and enlist their support. Guild coverage is essential for members to qualify for health insurance, vest in the pension plan, or build for retirement.
- Make sure that the company in question uses an existing signatory to the MBA or becomes a signatory to cover animation.
- Be prepared to use your leverage and to walk away from the deal, if Guild coverage is essential to you.
Writers have had the most success getting projects covered when there has been a live-action component.
Are animated projects automatically covered by the WGA and Working Rule 8?
No. Animation writing can be covered by either the WGA or the IATSE Local 839. As a result, writers can insist that their animated projects be WGA but the WGA can’t require them to get their work covered, it must be voluntary. Working Rule 8 prohibits WGA members from performing writing services for a non-signatory company but Federal labor law prevents the WGA from enforcing this rule in cases where there is another union.
In the early 1970s, animation writers asked the WGA to petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to sever animation writers from Local 839’s multi-employer unit. The Labor Board denied the petition for many reasons, including the long historical precedent of animators and writers in one unit. The only other strategy for writers to opt out of jurisdictional coverage by Local 839 would be a decertification by the entire bargaining unit (animators and writers), an anti-union approach we do not endorse or encourage. The only path forward for WGA coverage in animation is for writers to demand it both individually and collectively.
How do I get a WGA agreement for my animated project?
You will need to insist that project be Guild at the outset. Since animation is not automatically covered under the MBA, coverage is negotiable. Please contact WGAW Animation to work with you and any other writers on the project to gain coverage. Because we regularly communicate with writers of animated projects who have recently secured WGA deals, you can benefit from their experiences.
Once the company agrees to cover your project, the Contracts Department at (323) 782-4501 can help negotiate your deal.
Are there special minimum rates for animation?
The WGA Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) has negotiated rates for live action projects that can also apply to animation projects. So can MBA provisions regarding residuals, credits, separation of rights, span, exclusivity, paid parental leave, and pension and health contributions. Some animated projects have terms that are better than MBA minimums. The goal is to get the best possible deal for writers. The MBA Schedule of Minimums is posted on the WGAW’s website.
I'm not sure if the project is going to be live action or animated, so how is that handled?
It will benefit you to secure a WGA contract whether the project originates as a live action or animated project. You or your representative should email or call the WGAW Contracts Department at (323) 782-4501 to get help in negotiating language that covers all contingencies.
Can I join the WGA if I'm already a member of another union that covers animation?
You may join the WGAW even if you are a member of another union.
Having a WGA agreement in place would be great, but how do I go about communicating with fellow writers who work in animation?
We welcome your participation! Contact WGAW Animation to find out about opportunities to get involved in animation organizing.