An all too frequent occurrence is for the Guild to receive a call from a participating writer on a project, after the deadline to protest proposed writing credits, stating that the writer did not receive the Notice of Tentative Writing Credits ("NTWC") for the project. Further investigation by the Guild reveals that in most instances the Company properly sent the NTWC to the writer's agent and that the agency received the NTWC, but the agent failed to forward the NTWC to the writer in time for him/her to register a timely protest.
The instances in which an agent neglects to forward the NTWC to his/her client are few when compared to the hundreds of NTWCs issued each month. However, any instance in which the agent fails to forward the NTWC to his/her client is one too many; its a tragic occurrance which may have tragic consequences for your client.
The following exchange is real. The names have been changed to protect the innocent:
Guild: We've received a call from Writer A stating that he did not receive the NTWC for The Movie. Agent X was designated to receive the NTWC on his behalf and the Company has verified that it was delivered on September 19th and signed for by employee John Doe. We're calling to confirm that it was received.
Agent's assistant: Oh yes. We got that a while ago. I filed it away.
In the instance described above, the failure of the agent to forward the NTWC to the writer in a timely manner resulted in the writer's lost opportunity to protest the proposed credits. Where the Company has complied with its obligations under the Minimum Basic Agreement ("MBA") and properly delivered the NTWC to the Guild and the participating writers, once the deadline to protest the proposed credits has expired without protest, the Company and other participating writers may rely on the fact that the credit is now final. The agent's failure to forward the NTWC to his/her client in a timely manner is no excuse for the failure to register a protest within the proscribed period if the writer designated the agent to receive the NTWC.
The previously described scenario is the result of the failure of agency personnel to understand the import of the NTWC. In fact, many individuals who prepare and receive the NTWC have little idea what the function of the NTWC is. As a result, this exceptionally important document sometimes falls through the cracks, usually to the detriment of the writer.
An explanation of the purpose of the NTWC hopefully will prevent these extremely unfortunate problems from occurring again.
Paragraph 11 of both Theatrical and Television Schedule A of the MBA requires that the Company submit to the Guild and to all participating writers written notice of the proposed writing credits on a project as soon as practicable after the completion of principal photography. The NTWC, along with the final shooting script, is sent to the writer directly or to the current agent of the writer if designated to receive the NTWC on the writer's behalf.
The NTWC serves several functions for both the Guild and the writer. For the Guild, the NTWC offers an opportunity to ensure that the proposed writing credit and any source material credit complies with the mandates of the MBA and Guild policy. The NTWC also advises the Guild of the participating writers and production executives on a given project and sets forth the information needed to determine whether the automatic arbitration provisions of the MBA are triggered by the proposed credits.
From the writer's perspective, the NTWC advises of the proposed credits and the deadline to register a protest of those credits or to elect to use a pseudonym. For theatrical motion pictures, a writer has twelve (12) business days from the date of dispatch of the NTWC to register a protest; for television programs, a writer has only seven (7) business days to register a protest. If an emergency credit determination is requested, the writer's time to register a protest is shortened to seven (7) business days for a theatrical project and only three (3) business days for a television project.
If none of the participating writers protest the proposed writing credits before the deadline and the credits are not subject to the automatic arbitration provisions of the MBA, the credits become final. Because of the brief window in which your client may protest the proposed writing credits, it is vital that when you receive a NTWC and final shooting script for a project you forward it to your client immediately. Your failure to do so could result in your client's losing the right to seek credit and any rights and benefits which flow from such credit had it been accorded. These rights include, but are not limited to, bonuses, residuals, and Separation of Rights.
It is imperative that anyone working in your office understand the import of the NTWC. It should not be filed away or tossed in your In-Box. Rather, it should be placed front and center, brought to your attention immediately, and forwarded to your client without delay. Only in this way will you avoid liability and protect and best serve your client.
If you have any questions, please call the Credits Department (323)782-4528.