General News

Writers consider agreement

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May 08, 2001 | 3:00pm EDT

The next step in averting a crippling strike by Hollywood writers is for the 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America to ratify a tentative agreement reached Friday by the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers.

WGA negotiators feel they have struck one of the best deals for its members since a 1977 agreement with the producers, Reuters reports.

"Hallelujah! My hat goes off to the negotiators," Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan told The Associated Press. "They certainly had the welfare of the people of Los Angeles in mind."

Here are the highlights of the 2001 tentative contract:

Initial compensation minimums for screenplays and teleplays would increase by 3.5 percent in each year of the contract, amounting to a $41 million pay increase over three years. The WGA had sought a $100 million pay increase.

Movies

In the area of DVD and videocassettes, screenwriters would receive a mandatory script publication fee of $5,000 per movie. The WGA was seeking a 1 cent increase in the per sale royalty for DVD and videocassettes.

Writers would receive 1.2 percent of the exhibitors' payments for video-on-demand. The agreement covers all studio libraries dating back to July 1, 1971, and new productions.

The cap on foreign residuals would be removed and the buyout would be eliminated. Foreign residuals would be paid in perpetuity. Writers would receive 1.2 percent of foreign revenue after these sums reach specified thresholds.

In the area of creative rights, the companies agreed on an industry standard for writers. Writers would be present at cast readings and have the right to visit the set of the motion picture they have written. Directors would be required to have a creative meeting with the original writer prior to any decision to hire a new writer. The companies would acknowledge that the writer is part of the production, indicated by the fact that the writer would be listed on call sheets, staff directories or crew lists and would attend premieres, press junkets, festivals and cast and crew events. Writers would enjoy enhanced presence in press kits and electronic press kits and on DVDs.

Television

For the first time in its history as a broadcaster, Fox would be considered a full-fledged network. It would pay 100 percent of network residuals two years from now. This is a 50 percent increase over the current formula.

There would be substantial increases in the residuals formula for made-for-pay-TV, covering such programs as The Sopranos and Sex and the City on HBO and Soul Food on Showtime. This would result in significant residuals payments to writers.

Residuals for made-for-basic-cable programs, such as the Lifetime series Any Day Now and Disney Channel movies, would increase by 20 percent.

The future

Fear of strikes by writers and actors accelerated production schedules, especially for films. Things still may be slow through the summer because production came to a halt before the start of any potential strikes. Television production should go forward without major bumps in the road.

"The networks had a plan A and plan B, in case of a strike. Now, they'll simply go with plan A," TV producer Kim Rozenfeld said.

The next hurdle before Hollywood: a potential strike by the Screen Actors Guild. It has been assumed within the industry that an agreement with the writers would pave the way to smoother negotiations between the actors and the studios and networks. Talks will begin May 10.

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