WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, EAST
What is the guild?
The Writers Guild of America, East, (WGAE) is a labor union of thousands of professionals who are the primary creators of what is seen or heard on television and film in the U.S., as well as the writers of a growing portion of original digital media content.
Our members write everything from big budget movies to independent films, late night comedy/variety shows to daytime serials, broadcast and radio news, web series, documentaries, and animation. The WGAE works on their behalf to promote and protect the professional and artistic interests of this diverse community.
On joining the Guild, writers from an extraordinarily vast range of backgrounds and abilities unite to promote, protect, and maintain important artistic and professional principles. The Guild’s assistance is provided regardless of the writers’ degree of success.
What does the guild do?
The Writers Guild of America, East represents professional writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news.
The Guild is here to fight on behalf of writers concerning issues that affect their jobs. We negotiate contracts with companies that employ our members and step into the fray when your rights under contract have been violated.
The WGAE also enters into negotiations to make sure on-screen credits are fair and accurate. We are here to alleviate the burden of problematic interactions between writers and the companies that employ them.
The WGAE is more than just a union; it’s a community of creators. It conducts programs, training, seminars, and events on issues of interest to, and on behalf of, writers. In addition, it represents writers’ interests on the legislative level.
How can I make my non-union job guild covered?
Far too many writers end up short-changing themselves by doing non-Guild covered work. Just because you're working on a non-Guild production doesn't mean it can't become covered by a Guild contract. If you are doing nonunion work and want the benefits of Guild membership, such as employer contributions towards health insurance and pension, fair credit for your work and more respect on the job, then you need to contact us.
There are numerous strategies for changing your working conditions from nonunion to union:
Some writers make it a condition of working for a production company that the company becomes a Guild signatory.
Some discover that other people who are doing similar work for the same company already have a Guild contract and the non-members can leverage that to obtain their own contract.
The possibilities are many and the Guild wants to work with you to figure out the strategy that works best for your situation. Your call is kept confidential.
Call the Organizing Department at (212) 767-7808 and let's figure out the best way for you to get your work covered under a Guild contract.
Who can become a guild member?
The fundamental requirement for becoming a WGA member is that you are hired to write by an employer who is signatory to a WGA contract. Studios hire writers, small production companies hire writers, writers self-produce, and any of those scenarios can be Guild-covered work--many already are. However, if you are a working writer in one of our jurisdictional areas but are not covered by a Guild contract, it doesn't stay that way.
Which guild do I join?
The Writers Guild of America, East and the Writers Guild of America, West are two separate entities but work in concert with each other. Writers living east of the Mississippi River join the Writers Guild of America, East and writers living west of the Mississippi join the Writers Guild of America, West. However, after you join the Guild, your residence has no bearing on your Guild affiliation. You need only notify us of your new address.
Pension and Healthcare
As a Guild member you have access to health insurance benefits in a variety of ways, depending on your current work status.
Another benefit of belonging to the Writers Guild is the ability to participate in the Producer-Writers Guild of America Pension Plan. Upon retirement, participants are paid a monthly annuity for the rest of their lives. Payments may continue to a beneficiary in the event of the participant’s death, depending on the option the participant selects at retirement.
Minimum Basic Agreement: An Overview
Among the most important benefits of belonging to the Writers Guild are the rights and protections provided by the Minimum Basic Agreement
(MBA). This agreement affects writers’ salaries, benefits, pensions, working conditions, residual payments, and creative rights. Without
a Guild contract, each writer is on his or her own to plead for residuals, prompt payment, and credits. With a Guild contract, all of this
is worked out in advance so that you, the writer, receive your fair share of compensation and recognition for your work. The Guild steps in
to assist you if your employer does not live up to the contract.
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The Writers Guild offers a Low-Budget Agreement for narrative and theatrical screenplays and has a Documentary Screenplay Contract for
theatrical documentaries. The contracts are designed to meet the demands of the low-budget film market while ensuring the rights and benefits
writers are due. No budget is so low that screenwriters should sacrifice Writers Guild protections and benefits. The agreement applies to
films budgeted at $1.2 million and below.
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Other Guild Contracts
One of the valuable services the Guild provides to members is contract negotiation. Some members may feel overwhelmed by the idea of contracts,
so the WGAE steps in to make sure writers are compensated fairly. The Guild negotiates contracts on behalf of its members with companies that
employ writers. The union also offers legal and professional advice to members with private employment agreements. Once the contracts are in
place, the Guild actively enforces them to insure that members receive everything to which they are entitled.
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A writer’s position in the motion picture or television industry is determined largely by his or her credits. The writer’s salary status depends on the quality and number of screenplays, teleplays, or stories bearing his or her name. The administration of an accurate and equitable system of determining credit is therefore one of the most specific economic services the Guild performs for its members. The Guild administers the credits arbitration process though a confidential system dictated by the Screen Credits Manual or the Television Credits Manual.
RATES AND RESIDUALS
Residuals are compensation paid for the reuse of a credited writer's work. When you receive credit on produced Guild covered material, you are entitled to compensation if the material is reused. It is important to understand that the compensation is for reuse, and not the original use. For example, if you are hired to write an episode of a network prime time television series, the compensation you are paid for writing services includes the episode's initial broadcast. However, when that episode reruns on a network, in syndication, or in any other market, the Company must pay you for that reuse.
The Guild does not help writers in their quest to find an agent, or provide individual recommendations. But we do supply a list of agents who have signed an Artist’s Manager Agreement with the Guild. Anyone seeking an agent should first write or telephone the agency and find out whether your type of material matches the agency’s expertise. Each agency specializes in representing certain types of material. Some agencies have specialized divisions. You should briefly detail your background and describe your material. The agency will let you know whether or not it is interested and to whom it should be sent.