If you’re a working TV writer, or genuinely aspiring to become one, this matters more than most people realize. Our futures are at stake here, in so many ways:
“Progress Being Made” at WGA Contract Talks
by David Robb
After a week of hard bargaining, a source close to the ongoing WGA contract talks told Deadline that “there is progress being made and it’s very cordial.” The negotiations, which began Monday, are being held under a strict media blackout at the Sherman Oaks offices of management’s Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.
Rescuing the guild’s ailing health plan, which has run at a deficit in all but one of the past four years, is one of the hottest hot-button issues in the negotiations. Several sources have told Deadline that writers are “willing to strike” to maintain current levels of health coverage.
Another flashpoint for a potential strike is the downturn in weekly compensation for series TV writer-producers. The WGA West’s annual reports show that in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, TV writers earned $803 million in wages under the guild’s basic contract, which is over 75% more than the $454 million they earned in 2006.
But those numbers are only based on guild minimums and don’t include the money they make as writers employed in additional capacities, such as producers and executive producers. And that’s where TV writer-producers are taking it on the chin, according to a recent two-season survey conducted by the guild of some 2,000 working TV writer-producers, which found a 23% overall decline in their median incomes from the 2013-14 season to the 2015-16 season.
The leading cause for the downturn is the shortening of many shows’ seasons, with fewer episodes meaning fewer dollars for writer-producers. And that has hit writing teams especially hard because they afford producers two writers for the price of one. Prior to the talks, the guild said that it intended to “address inequities in compensation of writing teams employed under term deals for television and new media series….”