Late payments have been a longstanding and frustrating problem for writers. There are many different causes for this, and each one has different potential solutions. Generally, late payments may be classified in three catgories of problems: commencement monies, free rewrites and paperwork delays.
Very often, writers are instructed to commence services before a contract is signed and before any payment has been made. The MBA provides that, for theatrical motion pictures, television pilots and long-form television movies, writers must be paid at least the WGA minimum by the next regular payday in the week following the Company's instruction to commence. The theatrical minimum for commencement is 10% of the monies due on delivery of the first piece of material, or one week's salary at the term employment rate, whichever is greater (Article 13.A.3.). For pilots and long-form, the minimum for commencement is 10% of the monies due on delivery of the first required material (Article 13.B.7.f.).
The additional difficulty is that writer's contracts often have conditions which must be met before the Company will make payment: signing of the writer's deal, obtaining rights in underlying material, signing of the producer's deal, etc. While a contract may provide that above-minimum monies may be contingent on these kinds of elements, WGA minimum may not be so conditioned, provided the writer has been instructed by an authorized representative to commence. Writers should be instructed not to commence until pre-conditions have been met and/or they have been instructed to commence (preferably in writing) by a person authorized by the Company to do so.
The MBA also provides that contracts must be delivered to the writer within certain time limits: in theatrical films, generally within two to three weeks of agreement on the major deal points (depending on the type of contract); in television, generally within ten days of employment. The writer's agent or attorney is obligated to respond expeditiously and compel the Company to complete the process, as late payments may not become due unless the Company is held to be at fault in the delay of the contract.
It is suggested that writers not deliver any material unless and until all pre-conditions in the contract have been met, the applicable monies have been paid, and all major deal points have been agreed to.
PRODUCER'S POLISH (FREE REWRITES)
Previous bulletins have dealt with this subject. Producers often ask for additional services (the "producer's polish") before paying the writer. Thus, the money for delivery is late, as it is paid upon delivery of the next draft, and the writer has been asked to perform uncompensated services.
The MBA prohibits free services. Writers must be paid not less than WGA minimum for all services, and contracts must state who is authorized to request additional services after delivery of material. The writer's contract must also state to whom delivery of the literary material should be made (Articles 13.A.14, 13.B.9). Additional provisions have been established in long-form television to permit the producer's polish, but the provisions also provide for payment upon delivery of the first draft and the producer's polish (Article 13.B.7.f). Please call the Contracts Department at the WGA (323/782-4501) if you have any questions.
PAYMENT UPON DELIVERY
Often, both writers and Companies are unaware of the rules regarding payment upon delivery of material. The MBA provides that writers must receive the applicable payment within 48 hours of delivery of material, but not more than seven days after such delivery. PAYMENT SHALL NOT BE CONTINGENT UPON THE ACCEPTANCE OR APPROVAL OF SUCH MATERIAL (Articles 13.A.14, 13.B.9).
If Companies are uniformly late in payments to writers, the WGA must be informed to enable it to strengthen its enforcement procedures, as appropriate. Please contact the Contracts Department (323/782-4501). If necessary, this may be done on a confidential basis.
Sometimes a delay in payment can be explained by something as simple as a missing or incomplete I-9 or W-4 form. The following list has been compiled to assist in determining the status of a payment the writer is expecting. When your client delivers literary material to the contractually mandated creative executive or producer, one of the following individuals is requested to cut a check once s/he determines all of the necessary documents are in order. Therefore, if your client is expecting a payment, you or your client may call the appropriate person on the following list to determine the status of that payment. In any event, these people should be able to help your client get the check more quickly. If you have any questions, call the Contracts Department (323/782-4501) for assistance.
(She will direct caller)
Columbia Pictures (Theatrical)
Tri Star Pictures (Theatrical)
Columbia Television & Tri Star Television
PARAMOUNT PICTURES CORPORATION
Spelling TV - Episodic
Renee Del Gigante
Spelling TV - Development, MOW's, Pilots, Mini-Series
TWENTIETH CENTURY-FOX FILM CORPORATION
UNIVERSAL CITY STUDIOS, INC.
Kathy Mendelsohn White
WALT DISNEY PICTURES AND TELEVISION
Valerie Vanden Bossche
All Others Entities