Even before thousands of Hollywood writers went on strike on May 2, their union sent a long list of prohibited activities during a work stoppage. Writing, pitching, revising, negotiating — all prohibited, according to the Writers Guild of America. Meeting or responding to notes? Forget it. And as the days passed, an FAQ webpage accompanying the listing was updated to indicate that activities such as “For Your Consideration” or film festival promotion are prohibited.
That, of course, is the whole point of a strike: to deprive an industry of union members’ contributions, to show how important they are to the ecosystem and to increase the power of workers at the bargaining table. But given the extraordinary circumstances, what can the WGA’s approximately 11,500 film and TV writers actually do while the strike lasts?
The short answer: not much when it comes to writing for the screen.
Notably, writers can still write “spec” scripts, or any uncommissioned script, per guild rules. But once it’s written, “neither you nor your representatives can buy, buy or sell the spec script,” the WGA writes. is instructing members, or “take any action to advance the future option or sale of the spec script, including developing the script with a producer, or associating talent or other elements with the project.” Once the strike is over, writers who have spec scripts to hand will be able to work with their reps to potentially reap the fruits of their labor.
If WGA members have an interest in taking their talents to other media outlets during the strike, they could theoretically still work for markets outside the scope of the negotiated contract, such as in books or opinion columns in newspapers. The WGA reports this in a statement The Hollywood Reporter, “While the Guild cannot prohibit members from writing in territories outside of our jurisdiction, working on projects that are nevertheless in the entertainment industry and run by affected companies undermines our efforts. Therefore, the WGA encourages all of its members not to accept writing assignments for affected companies, whether or not that work falls under the jurisdiction of the Guild.” When asked specifically about fiction podcasts and video games, a WGA representative referred to the guild’s strike rules, which state that the restrictions apply to fiction podcasts covered by the WGA, while writers of other fiction podcasts would notify the union on a case-by-case basis. should consult. base.
In general, writers should avoid performing “writing services for an affected company in connection with audiovisual or audio works intended for initial exhibition in any market covered by the MBA, including feature films, television and new media, as well as the option or sale of literary materials for that purpose,” the guild said. “Companies affected” include Universal Television, Walt Disney Pictures and Amazon Studios LLC, among many others.
Writers can’t write for film, television, or new media projects covered by the non-union contract, thanks to the guild Work rule 8, which prohibits members from taking employment from “any person, firm or corporation that has not signed up to the applicable MBAs”.
When it comes to animated projects, where the WGA covers writing in some cases and The Animation Guild (an IATSE Local) writes in others, the union advises that its strike rules apply to all WGA covered animated series. Anders: “Writers seeking to provide writing services in connection with fully animated feature films and television programs are advised to consult with WGA personnel to determine whether such writing is prohibited before performing or contracting writing services.”
So-called “hyphens” — writers who wear other hats, such as producer, artist, and/or director — are only allowed to continue doing explicitly non-writing work during the strike. The guild includes its so-called “(a) through (h)” services (a list of activities that can be done by non-writers on covered projects, per the WGA’s contract) in the list of prohibited activities for hyphens: Those services include including time reduction, “changes in technical or stage directions”, and any minor changes to dialogue or narration before or during the production of a project.
“The Guild firmly believes that no member should cross a WGA picketline or enter the premises of an affected company for any purpose. However, under applicable law, the Guild is not allowed to punish hyphens for pure execution non-writing services”, the WGA writes in his strike rules. It warns that the definition of “write” is broad, so says hyphens, “when in doubt, don’t.”
Also acceptable under the rules of the WGA is for union members to accept payment for writing completed before the strike began on May 2. Writers can accept leftover checks from past projects and can accept payment for any writing delivered before the strike was declared or for an option where every detail was completed except payment before the strike. “You may also accept payment for the sale of literary materials during a strike if an affected business unilaterally chooses to exercise a pre-strike option to purchase the literary material or if the affected business unilaterally material as long as you are not required to sign and/or deliver any transactional documents or literary materials during the strike,” the WGA has told its members.
The consequences for violating the WGA rules during a strike can be severe: “Discipline may include, but is not limited to, one or more of the following: expulsion or suspension from guild membership, imposition of monetary fines or censure said the guild. has declared. After the 2007-2008 strike, comedian Jay Leno famous face the WGA litigation committee for allegations that he violated the guild’s strike rules when he wrote monologues for the Tonight Show during the work break. The panel eventually cleared Leno, who famously supported picketers during that strike and was back on the WGA picket lines last Tuesday, handing out treats from LA’s Randy’s Donuts.