Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Guild awards eligibility

Yesterday the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) announced nominations for its 2010 screenwriting awards. It's an impressive list but, as Dave McNary reports in Variety, the nominations were drawn from a smaller field than in recent years.

Part of the reason for the reduction in numbers is a more formal submission procedure that studios are still getting used to, but as McNary's article makes clear, a tightening up of eligibility for writers based outside the USA has also had an impact.
Previous language said the scripts had to be "under the jurisdiction" of one of the affiliate guilds; the revamped language specifies that the motion picture screenplays must have been written under "a bona fide collective bargaining agreement" of the Australian Writers Guild, Writers Guild of Canada, Writers Guild of Great Britain, Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild or the New Zealand Writers Guild.

We felt that the meaning of 'under the jurisdiction' was unclear," [WGAW assistant exec director Jeff] Hermanson explained. "So the six guilds, collectively operating as the Intl. Affiliation of Writers Guilds, agreed to the new language as part of establishing the organization's priority as encouraging collective bargaining."
So British writers, for example, who aren't members of the WGGB, the WGAW or another affiliate Guild are not eligible for the WGAW awards.

Commenting on the new eligibility criteria, Writers' Guild of Great Britain General Secretary, Bernie Corbett, said: “I salute the WGAW for ditching the fake chumminess of Hollywood and telling it straight: If you won’t join the Guild, or you won’t operate the Guild contract, why should you expect to receive Guild honours? In my view this new thinking has its roots in the great writers’ strike two years ago – in a fight like that you learn the hard way who your friends are and where your loyalty should lie.

“More than that, in the light of this example I shall be recommending the WGGB Executive to adopt similar guidelines for our own awards, starting this year. Our request for a modernised UK film writers’ agreement has been in the producers’ in-tray since 2002 and I found out recently that BBC Films – part of the corporation we have done so much to defend – has taken to putting a non-union clause in its screenwriting contracts.

“There is plenty of time before the 2010 WGGB Awards and the 2011 WGAW Awards to negotiate a new UK film agreement – and for writers who would like to be honoured by their peers to join them in their Guild.”


  1. "If you won't join the Guild... why should you expect to receive Guild honours?"

    Seems fair enough to me, especially in these embattled times.

    Also - terrible news about the BBC Films "non-union clause". What exactly does this amount to?

  2. What it means, Martin, is that the BBC, with whom the Guild works closely and negotiates with in good faith, put a clause in some contracts specifically stating they're to be non-union. That denies the writer(s) important rights and arbitration, etc, and certainly goes against the spirit of our relationship. Or, if I can sum it up in my own words, it's tacky.

    Naturally the Guild won't let it lie.


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