Dear new Writers Guild of America, West member,
This is serious stuff. You are now a professional writer. You had about a five times better chance of hearing your name read at the Major League baseball draft this year than of getting this letter.* Make sure your parents know that.
As a member-led union of writers, the Guild is a place that you should consider your home. You probably know already that being a writer carries with it great opportunities, but also unique challenges that often only other writers truly understand. Generations of writers have worked hard to give you access to the tools you need to meet these challenges and to find camaraderie with your fellow writers. The New Members Committee is committed to helping you learn about and access those tools - so please take advantage.
David ShoreChair, New Members Committee
*Approximately 1500 players drafted into Major League baseball every year; approximately 300 new members admitted to the WGAW every year.
For information on how to join the Guild, visit How to Become a Member.
Credits, Minimums, Residuals, Your Rights and more!
The Minimum Basic Agreement is the collective bargaining agreement which covers most of the work done by WGA writers. The terms are negotiated every three years by the Guild and its “bargaining partners,” the companies that are signatory to the agreement. Read What Every Writer Needs to Know for a quick checklist of some of the rights to which you're entitled under the MBA. News writers are covered by the CBS News agreement and those who write for PBS by the PBS agreement. One of the Guild’s main functions is to enforce these agreements as well as writing services and literary material purchase agreements with signatory companies. If you encounter a problem in one of the areas below, contact the Guild for help.
If you discover a problem with the writing credits accorded on a Guild project, contact the Credits Department. The Credits Department will investigate and demand correction of any violation of the MBA credit provisions. Go to the Credits page to find forms, booklets, and answers to questions regarding the credits process, including the Credits Survival Guide, and the Screen Credits, and TV Credits Manuals.
As a member, you're entitled to receive at least the Guild minimum compensation from a Guild signatory company for your writing services. Refer to the Schedule of Minimums for rates under the current contract. If a signatory company fails to pay you for writing services or for the purchase of your literary material, contact the Legal Department. You should contact the Contracts Department if you see that your literary material has been used in a publication, piece of merchandise, video game, or some other derivative use.
The Contracts & Compensation page lists many of the other Guild documents and services vital to working writers including the Low Budget Agreement, Standard TV and Theatrical Contracts, Agency Contract/Rider W, and New Media-related documents.
If you write original material under Guild jurisdiction, the Guild’s MBA provides you with certain additional rights. These “Separated Rights” differ for theatrical and television projects so if you believe you qualify for these rights and a signatory company might have violated them, contact the Contracts Department.
The Guild monitors compliance with the MBA’s Creative Rights provisions to ensure that writers receive the rights we bargain for. These rights include being offered the opportunity to view a cut of a film prior to its being locked, participating in press junkets, and being invited to the premiere or film festival at which a picture is first exhibited. Contact the Credits Department if you believe a company has violated your creative rights.
Residuals, script publications fees, etc.
Just what are “residuals” and how do they work? To find out, read the Residuals Survival Guide and sign up for a myWGAW account to track your Residuals Online. If a signatory company fails to make any of the payments which you believe you are due, contact the Residuals Department.
In 2007, Writers Guild members achieved a historic victory by winning jurisdiction over the emerging area of “new media.” The WGA Guide to New Media Booklet outlines what the Guild considers to be “new media” and details what is covered under the terms of the MBA. For an overview of how to cover your writing services in new media and other new media-related contracts and other information, go here.
The Hotlist keeps Guild members abreast of the latest new media trends by featuring some of the most cutting edge content on the Web.
Health Coverage, Pension and other good stuff
Meet other writers, learn about your union and eat free!
Making it as a professional writer is not an easy thing to do. And now that you've gotten your foot in the door, we want to make sure you have the right information to develop your career. If you're a new Current member, at the New Members Reception, you will:
All this--and we’ll throw in a meal and booze to boot. For information about the next reception, email Sheila Boyd or call us at (323) 782-4567.
You can also familiarize yourself with the Guild and its functions by reading FYI: Guide to the Guild and visiting the Web site’s FAQs. For contact information about a specific department within the Guild and descriptions of departmental functions, go to our Contact Us page.
Learn from other writers
The WGAW’s award-winning Written By is the premiere magazine written by and for writers, providing a unique look into the art, craft, and business of writing in Hollywood. The Craft gets writers’ behind-the-scenes takes on how they crafted the scripts for today's most popular, exciting and original films and TV shows while The Masters presents candid, one-on-one conversations with some of the most legendary and influential names in screenwriting. Go to the Guild’s YouTube channel, YouTube.com/wgadotorg for video interviews with screenwriters, and other screenwriting-related content.
Need hard-to-find technical information for your next script or project? The Ask the Expert: FYI Listings provide contact details to individuals and organizations that have volunteered to answer writers’ questions about their field of expertise while, Technically Speaking is a monthly column that interviews technical advisors and asks them for their favorite resource sites.
The ultimate writers’ resource
The Writers Guild Foundation is a non-profit educational organization whose programs include the Writers Guild Foundation Shavelson-Webb Library, a writer-focused collection of scripts and other materials related to writers and writing. Founded in 1984, the library is now home to over 22,000 items consisting of produced film, television, and radio scripts – many of which have received major writing awards – books, periodicals, DVDs, videos, a digital script-reading facility, and other materials on the history, biography, art, craft, and business of writing for entertainment media. Search the catalog and get information about library hours as well as Foundation classes, seminars, events, and other projects on their Web site.
FAQ’s, Advice and all things Guild in mind-numbing detail
Check out this list of Guild publications that contain vital information about the MBA, your career, and your rights as a Writers Guild member. Titles include Creative Rights for Writers, the Credits Survival Guide, Understanding Separated Rights, and What Every Writer Needs to Know. Writing for Episodic TV provides informal job descriptions and practical working tips, while rendering relevant WGA rules into reader-friendly language. Writers & Publicity: Advice from an Expert describes the elements of a successful publicity campaign so writers can understand the process and make it work better for them.
Did you know that it’s possible for a writer to buy back the rights to a script that’s been optioned but never produced? It’s true. Writers can reacquire scripts if they meet certain criteria. Go here for information about how the Guild can help.
Make sure your voice is heard
Since 2007 members of the Guild have volunteered their time, talent, and energy to serve as captains and stewards. These volunteers are responsible for communicating with and mobilizing a team of fellow writers to support the Guild’s collective bargaining, enforcement, organizing, and public policy goals. Teams are organized in a variety of ways including worksites (writing rooms), or by genre, affinity group, or neighborhood. Field representatives from the Member Services Department convene meetings with captains and members in writing rooms, members’ homes, and other venues. In the CBS news units, stewards serve the same function as captains and represent writers at each worksite. If you would like to explore serving as a captain or would like to be on a team, contact Member Services at (323) 782-4713.
Your vote matters!
Your union is a democracy, and it needs your participation to succeed. The very least any member can, and should do, is vote. The WGAW is run by a Board of Directors and three officers: President, Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer. hey are all writers, like you, and donate their time in service of the Guild. The Board members and officers are responsible for setting the Guild’s agenda and priorities, implementing changes and initiatives, addressing member concerns, and strategizing for the future. See the current list of officers and board members and contact them here. The minutes from the Board meetings are available for download here. The Constitution and By-Laws of the Writers Guild of America, West contain the Working Rules that govern the Guild and its members.
The WGA is more than just film and TV
Writers who work on non-Guild shows often face many workplace hardships without benefits like health care and pension benefits that their colleagues who work under WGA contracts receive. The most effective way to raise standards at work is to organize. To advance collectively we need each other. By standing together in an effective strategic campaign, writers will be able to negotiate contracts that will provide them with industry standard benefits. Thousands of U.S. workers throughout the country are engaging in this process to gain recognition and win a union contract.
Due to the combined efforts of the Organizing Department staff and WGAW Caucus members, the Guild has achieved success in organizing writers in the areas of animation, independent film, newswriting, nonfiction, videogames, gameshows, and “reality television.”
When you enter into an employment or purchase agreement on a theatrical, television, new media, or videogame project, ask for the deal to be Guild-covered, then contact the Organizing Department in order for the Guild to negotiate an agreement with the production company.
Reaching beyond Hollywood
The Guild’s Political Department provides members with up-to-date information about critical public policy debates, and the WGAW's positions and involvement in a host of issues, including combating piracy, media consolidation, Internet freedom (net neutrality), and independent production. The WGAW is committed to an effective public policy program that protects the financial welfare and rights of creative talent, and advances the interests of writers.
The WGAW Political Action Committee (PAC) allows WGAW members to make voluntary contributions to a fund that works to elect public officials who are sympathetic to the difficulties of making it as a professional writer. Click on the link to get information, contribute, and get involved. (You must have a myWGAW account to view this page.)
The Guild has adopted working rules that govern member conduct and the working relationship between members and employers, agents and others. Violation of any of these rules is grounds for discipline. The rules can be found here.
Opportunity for all!
The WGAW feels strongly that writers from diverse backgrounds should have a chance to succeed in film and television. The Diversity Department works to encourage positive change in hiring practices and to increase awareness of the unique obstacles often faced by diverse writers.
The mission of the Writer Access Project is to identify excellent diverse writers in order to provide a hiring resource for television writer-producers and increased access to WGAW members from groups that have been historically underemployed in television.
The Diversity Department also works with eight WGAW member committees to develop events which range from panel discussions on various aspects of the craft of writing to networking opportunities. Go to the Guild Calendar for a list of upcoming events and contact the Diversity Department to find out how to become involved.
See the Diversity Department’s Resource List for further industry talent development opportunities.
Committees and Caucuses are a great place to start
Active members are the lifeblood of the Writers Guild. Please contact your Field Representative for ways that you can get involved today. You may also consider joining one of the Guild’s Committees or Writing Caucuses, attending a Guild event, or would like to let us know if you were offered work that isn’t covered by the Guild but should be. We encourage you to be active and to participate in the community of writers. You are the WGA. Your involvement and efforts won't go unrecognized or unrewarded.
More information that you could possibly need
Check the WGAW Press Room on the home page for the very latest press releases and announcements.
Posted monthly, the Guild Calendar lists all WGAW and Writers Guild Foundation-sponsored events. With its goals of working to preserve and promote excellence in writing, and advancing the recognition of the writer’s contribution to the art of film and television, the Foundation sponsors craft workshops, interviews, panel discussions, receptions, festivals, and many other writer-oriented events. You can reserve a seat at WGFoundation.org.
The calendar page also includes Buzz, a list of member-related events, happenings, and announcements. The Guild also maintains a list of members' Web sites. Contact the Web site editor if you’d like the Guild to link to your site.
Since 1948, the Guild has honored the outstanding achievements in film, television, and radio writing at the annual Writers Guild Awards, which are often seen as a precursor to the Oscars®. If you have questions regarding eligibility rules or the awards show, call (323) 782-4569.
Are you on Facebook? Become a friend of the WGA West or follow us on twitter to keep abreast of members-only events, find links to writer-centric articles, see WGAW photos, and be entertained with writerly wit and trivia.