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The
Writers Guild of America The Writers Guild of America is the joint efforts of two different US labor unions representing TV and film writers: * The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), headquartered in New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New ...
(WGA) credit system for
motion picture A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is any pigmented liquid, liquefiable, o ...
s and
television program A television show – or simply TV show – is any content produced for viewing on a television set A television set or television receiver, more commonly called the television, TV, TV set, tube, telly, or tele, is a device that combines a ...
s covers all works under the jurisdiction of the
Writers Guild of America, East The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) is a trade union, labor union representing film and television writers as well as employees of television and radio news. The Writers Guild of America, East is affiliated with the Writers Guild of America ...
(WGAE) and the
Writers Guild of America, West The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) is a labor union A trade union (or a labor union in American English), often simply called a union, is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve many common goals, such as protecting ...
(WGAW). The WGA, originally the
Screen Writers Guild The Screen Writers Guild was an organization of Hollywood screenplay authors, formed as a union in 1933. In 1954, it became two different organizations: Writers Guild of America, West and the Writers Guild of America, East. Founding Screenwrite ...
, has since 1941 been the final arbiter of who receives credit for writing a theatrical, television or
new media New media are forms of media that are computational and rely on computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can p ...
motion picture written under its jurisdiction. Though the system has been a standard since before the WGA's inception, it has seen criticism. A determination process for screen credits first sees the production company submit proposed credits; about a third of these are challenged and taken to arbitration. A complex arbitration process asks all writing parties involved to provide evidence and supporting statements to help determine how much of the final product was each writer's work. A variety of credit forms can be given, which can indicate technicalities like whether a writer contributed original material, the chronological order of contributions, and if people worked on a script together. Since its inception, writers must have contributed at least 33 percent of a final script to receive credit, and only a certain number of writers can receive credit.


Background


Rationale

Writing credits impact the career of writers, as well as their reputation and union membership. Writers trade on the reputation of their name;
John Howard Lawson John Howard Lawson (September 25, 1894 – August 11, 1977) was an American writer, specializing in plays and screenplays. After starting with plays for theaters in New York City, he worked in Hollywood on writing for films. He was the first preside ...
, the first president of the
Screen Writers Guild The Screen Writers Guild was an organization of Hollywood screenplay authors, formed as a union in 1933. In 1954, it became two different organizations: Writers Guild of America, West and the Writers Guild of America, East. Founding Screenwrite ...
(SWG; now the
Writers Guild of America The Writers Guild of America is the joint efforts of two different US labor unions representing TV and film writers: * The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), headquartered in New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New ...
, WGA), said that "a writer's name is his most cherished possession. It is his creative personality, the symbol of the whole body of his ideas and experience." Not having their name on a film's credits will not only cost the writer residuals, but also hinder them from finding future work, depending on the film's success. A writer may also be given a bonus if their name is in the credits, as films often have many more contributing writers than the credits show. The credit system can affect eligibility for membership in the union, as one way in which a person becomes a member of the
Writers Guild of America, West The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) is a labor union A trade union (or a labor union in American English), often simply called a union, is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve many common goals, such as protecting ...
(WGAW) is by accruing "points" based on the individual's writing credit. Membership points are also accrued through employment by, or sale or option to, a company signatory to the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA), a deal struck between the WGA and a collection of studios and production companies every three years, in which the companies agree to certain minimum fees, residuals, and other benefits for WGA writers they contract. It is negotiated by a committee of the WGA.


Screen Writers Guild credit system

The early industry had taken efforts to prevent writers from unionizing. Although the SWG was formed in 1933, it encountered resistance until May 1941, when it signed a deal with the studios that gave the Guild, among other rights, the final say on writing credits. The agreement was seen as weak, as it mostly covered the lowest paid writers, and credits were still unfairly given in the compulsory collaboration era when studios employed large numbers of independent writers on projects; at this point, the need for writers to have contributed 33 percent of the final script had been established, which left many out of credits on productions written by committee. The best paid writers, on the other hand, had always been respected and could often elect to work alone because of their status.


Credits process

All writers on a project have the right to know who else has written on that project. Under the MBA a production is required to tell all new writers who has preceded them; a writer may conversely ask the production for the names of those who contributed after them. Writers also bear responsibilities to make sure they are informed, and to inform other writers on the same project that they are working for it; they must also file their contract with the appropriate Guild within a week of receiving it. For television productions of a motion picture over 90 minutes, the production company must inform, in writing, all writers of the writers who follow them. The MBA stipulates also that the production company must supply all participant writers—anyone who has contributed, or been hired to contribute, written material; anyone who has been paid for their prior written material whether purchased or licensed; anyone who contributed in any of the aforementioned ways to the original script, in the case of a remake—and the Writers Guild a notice of tentative credits, and give all participant writers a copy of either the
shooting script A shooting script is the version of a screenplay used during the production of a motion picture. Shooting scripts are distinct from spec scripts in that they make use of scene numbers (along with certain other formatting conventions described belo ...
or latest revised script, promptly upon the conclusion of photography. Any participant writer, even deceased, has the right to be involved in the credit determination process (this may be through a representative, such as an agent). Up to three writers, or two teams of writers in film and three teams of writers in television, may receive credit for a production. The Writers Guild has the right to protest any company's proposed credits, regardless of whether the writers do. To determine credits, "it is vital that the writer keep copies of all work done", and submit copies to the Writers Guild promptly upon completion. Scripts as well as substantial story ideas and other literary material are counted for credit decisions. When there is more than one participant writer on a production, "all participants have the right to agree unanimously among themselves as to which of them shall receive writing credits on the screen and in what form", as long as the agreed form meets requirements. The MBA also establishes that the agreed form "shall not be suggested or directed by the roductionCompany". The Writers Guild also officially presumes that any writer has access to all prior material written for the project during their employment, underscoring credits given to prior writers who have been removed from projects. Materials used for research are not credited, but source material as defined by the WGA receives credits. The appropriate credit to use for source material is anything indicative of the nature and relationship of the source material and the final script, with the WGA providing the examples "From a Play by, From a Novel by, Based upon a Story by, From a series of articles by, Based upon a eleplay/Screenplayby". Once a writer has received both the notice of tentative credits and the final script, they can either agree with the production's tentative credits, in which case they do nothing, they can discuss the credits with the other writers through the Writers Guild, or they can challenge the tentative credits within a certain time period. If a participant writer disagrees with the credits, but there are other participants and it is seen that an agreement may be reached between them, the Screen/Television Credits Administrator must make a best attempt to arrange discussion between all writers before arbitration is sought.


Credit forms


Teams

Credits are handled differently for individual writers and for "teams". A team of writers is defined by the WGA as "two writers who have been assigned at about the same time to the same material and who work together for approximately the same length of time on the material"; the work of the two writers is considered a joint contribution, not creditable to only one of them or to one more than the other. For the purpose of credits (and to discourage later disputes), one of the writers must openly question the designation of their contributions being part of a team at the time the work is submitted to the Writers Guild if they wish to be credited in another way. A team is credited with an
ampersand The ampersand, also known as the and sign, is the logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, includi ...

ampersand
(&) separating their names. Team credits are more complex when one of the team has also been hired as an additional writer: both writers in the team must form an agreement to allow the additional writer to take the shared credit. Multiple writers who are not part of a team have the word "and" separating their names.


Written by

The "Written by" credit is for writers who can claim both the story and teleplay/screenplay elements, except when there is "source material of a story nature". There are some restrictions on
producers Producer or producers may refer to: Occupations *Producer (agriculture), a farm operator *Film producer, oversees the making of films *A stakeholder of economic production *Executive producer, contributes to the film's budget and usually does not w ...
and directors of a work being given writing credits, particularly that they cannot receive the story/screenplay/teleplay credit unless there are either no other writers for the story/screenplay/teleplay or the decision is taken to arbitration, and that the Writers Guild must have been notified of a writing team (intending to claim credits) that includes a producer/director and a non-producer/director at the commencement of the team's work together. In television, a written by credit is also usually given to writers on
variety show #REDIRECT Variety show#REDIRECT Variety show Variety show, also known as variety arts or variety entertainment, is entertainment made up of a variety of acts including musical theatre, musical performances, sketch comedy, magic (illusion), magic, a ...
s and audience participation shows.


Screenplay by

A "Screenplay by" credit may also be used, when the writers for the story and screenplay are different, or in similar circumstances to a screen story credit (either if the work is not mostly original, or in addition to the screen story credit). No more than two writers can share a screenplay credit except in cases of arbitration. From arbitration, screenplay credits can be given to either three individual writers or two teams of writers. For the purposes of arbitration, to be awarded a screenplay credit, the writer must have contributed more than 33 percent of the final screenplay. In the case of an original screenplay, Writers who did not write the original must contribute more than 50 percent to receive the credit. The WGA acknowledges the difficulty in determining such percentages. The television equivalent of the screenplay by credit is "Teleplay by", and it is used in the same way.


Story by

The MBA describes story as "distinct from eleplay/screenplayand consisting of basic narrative, idea, theme or outline indicating character development and action". A "Story by" credit is used when the writer was hired (as a WGA member) to write for story, when the story idea was purchased from the writer by a WGA signatory company, or when the resultant script is based on a sequel story devised by the writer under the WGA's jurisdiction. The "Story by" credit cannot be shared by more than two writers in film and three in television, and the story may have been written in different literary forms, including a
film treatment A film treatment (or simply treatment) is a piece of prose, typically the step between scene cards (index cards) and the first draft of a screenplay A screenplay, or script, is a written work by screenwriter A screenplay writer (also call ...
. A "Screen Story by" or "Television Story by" credit is used for the screenwriter when their work is based on, but substantially different from, source material and a story as they are defined by the WGA. Screen story credit also cannot be shared by more than two writers, and is a credit that is only handled through arbitration. The writer of the source material for the screen story may receive a source material credit.


Separated rights

Television also has a "Created by" and a "Developed (for Television) by" credit under a crediting structure known as separated rights. Writers entitled to created by credits will have developed a significant part of the format, story, and teleplay, and also get sequel rights to the material. Created by credits are given on every episode, while Developed (for Television) by credits are only given on the episodes the writer has explicitly contributed material to.


Other forms

Other writing credits that may be used are "Narration Written by", "Based on Characters Created by", and "Adaptation by". A "Special Material by" credit can be given to writers on some forms of television shows, when they have contributed written material that does not qualify for other credits; there are no limits to how many people may receive this credit. Screenwriter Scott Myers, a WGA member and arbiter on "perhaps 10 credit arbitrations", has questioned why more than three writers cannot be credited, saying:


Structure and exceptions

In credits, names are usually ordered by who did the most work. If the order is disagreed upon and the arbitration finds that all writers contributed equally, the names will be ordered chronologically. A
pseudonym A pseudonym () (originally: ψευδώνυμος in Greek) or alias () is a fictitious name that a person or group assumes for a particular purpose, which differs from their original or true name (orthonym). This also differs from a new name tha ...
may be used if the writer is to be paid less than (for film) or less than three times the applicable minimum in their MBA (for television), if the pseudonymous name is deemed reasonable, and if the writer requests this within five business days of the final credits being determined (for film) or within a preset time frame (for television). Before a pseudonym can be used, it must be registered with the Writers Guild. A writer may withdraw from credit "for personal cause" before the tentative notice is submitted; if the other writers do not agree, it shall be taken to arbitration. A writer cannot withdraw from credit after arbitration. Withdrawing from credit also includes losing rights to and compensation from the material; using a pseudonym does not remove these rights.


Arbitration

If there is no agreement on writing credits, the Writers Guild's Screen Credits Administrator (for film) or Television Credits Administrator (for television) will begin arbitration proceedings. Three members of the Writers Guild are selected as arbiters, as long as they have no interest in the decision; for film, the members must have either been a member for five years or have three screen credits, and for television, they must have been a member for at least one year and have at least three writing credits. At least two of the selected members must have been on at least two arbitration committees before and, where possible, members who are familiar with the type of writing involved will be chosen. The identity of arbiters is kept anonymous to everyone, including the other arbiters, except the Screen/Television Credits Committee. Also, before selecting the three members, the Screen/Television Arbiters List of all eligible members will be sent to all participant writers, who can preclude from selection a reasonable number of names on it; the selection will be made from the remaining names without question. A member of the Screen/Television Credits Committee will be designated to each arbitration case to advise the arbiters and help them to come to a decision. Film arbitration takes place over 21 business days, and television arbitration over eight. All participant writers and the production must also cooperate with the committees, most importantly by accurately submitting all written material (original and in triplicate) to be considered, and scrutinizing submitted material. The Writers Guild also advises all writers to submit a written statement to the arbitration committee, outlining their stance and detailing their claim to credit in line with Writers Guild policy; the statement cannot include anything irrelevant to the case, reference to compensation, letters of support from other people, or information on the development that will not help the arbiters in their purely analytical review. Participant writers have 24 hours to give their statements, their only means of providing supporting evidence to the arbiters, to the guild. Statements submitted late will be accepted as long as they come before a decision is made. The arbiters thus each receive the tentative writing credits, the writers' statements, a summary of the issues to be determined in the case, all the written material with a chronological record, a copy of the Screen/Television Credits Manual, and the request that their decision be communicated to the Screen/Television Credits Administrator first by telephone and then in writing. The writers' statements are kept private by the WGA. Additionally, the writers' identities are kept anonymous from the arbiters. In situations where there is doubt over the authenticity of the submitted written material, a hearing may be held before arbitration, where the writers each provide testimony and evidence as to the authorship, sequence, and legitimacy of the material. The Writers Guild may also request a descriptive script of a film called a "cutting continuity", or a television production called an "as broadcast" script, which the production must provide if available; particularly, a writer may ask that the Writers Guild request this if they believe the final script is not reflective of what was actually filmed. The arbiters may not come to unanimous agreement. When this happens, they teleconference with the advisor to, while remaining anonymous to each other, discuss the reasoning for their choices in an attempt to come to a decision. In the absence of a unanimous decision at this stage, a majority decision shall be accepted. The arbitration committee's decision, once written confirmation has been received by the Screen/Television Credits Administrator, is communicated to the interested parties. A participant writer may then request an appeal before an internal Policy Review Board of the Writers Guild, within 24 hours of the arbiters' decision being communicated to them. That board consists of three members of the Screen/Television Credits Committee, usually including either the Chair or Vice-Chair; none should have an interest in the decision. The Policy Review Board only serves to determine if there was any "serious deviation from the policy of the Guild or the procedure as set forth in he Screen/Television Credits Manual through the process of the arbitration, and do not read any of the submitted written materials nor judge the writers' contributions. The Policy Review Board may annul an arbitration decision, but only if policy regarding decision-making has been broken; if they find this, the arbiters may be asked to reconsider, or a new arbitration committee selected. Should the screenplay be rewritten after the final credits decision has been made, arbitration may be reopened within 48 hours of the final changes. WGA members have criticized how the process handles existing material, such as a book that is adapted to film. ''
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New York Times
'' reporter Michele Willens suggests that the first writer to work on such a project will write the most cinematic elements of the story, but other teams that subsequently work on the script may base their work on the original text, rather than the first draft.
Barry Levinson Barry Lee Levinson (born April 6, 1942) is an American filmmaker Filmmaking (or, in any context, film production) is the process by which a film is made. Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages including an initial story, ...
, the director of ''
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'', and a disputant over screenwriting credit for the film (which was adapted from a novel), said:


Notable conflicts

Frank Pierson Frank Romer Pierson (May 12, 1925 – July 22, 2012) was an American screenwriter and film director.Byrge, Duane (July 23, 2012).
rank Pierson, Former Movie Academy President, Writer and Director, Dies at 87. Rank is the relative position, value, worth, complexity, power, importance, authority, level, etc. of a person or object within a ranking, such as: Level or position in a hierarchical organization * Academic rank * Diplomatic rank * Hierarchy * H ...
''The Hollywood Reporter''Yardley, ...
, former WGAW president (and former president of the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS, often pronounced ; also known as simply the Academy or the Motion Picture Academy) is a professional honorary organization with the stated goal of advancing the arts and sciences of motion ...
), said that "the large majority of credits are still straightforward and uncontested utwhen they go wrong, they go horribly wrong." Writer-director
Phil Alden Robinson Phil Alden Robinson (born March 1, 1950) is an American film director and screenwriter whose films include ''Field of Dreams'', ''Sneakers (1992 film), Sneakers'', and ''The Sum of All Fears (film), The Sum of All Fears''. Early life and education ...
has said that "no one can trust the writing credit. Nobody knows who really wrote the film." From 1993 to 1997, there were 415 arbitrations, about a third of all films with credits submitted. When Hunter S. Thompson's ''
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ''Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream'' is a 1971 novel by Hunter S. Thompson and illustrated by Ralph Steadman. The book is a roman à clef, rooted in autobiographical incidents. The story follows ...
'' was adapted for the screen,
Alex Cox Alexander B. H. Cox (born 15 December 1954) is an English film director, screenwriter, actor, nonfiction author and Television presenter, broadcaster. Cox experienced success early in his career with ''Repo Man (film), Repo Man'' and ''Sid and N ...

Alex Cox
and
Tod DaviesTod Davies (born 1955) is a writer, publisher and producer. Biography Davies was born and grew up in San Francisco,Jeff Baker (April 15, 2011"Tod Davies finds her new book under a big fir tree south of Ashland" OregonLive.com. where she attended Con ...
wrote the initial adaptation. When
Terry Gilliam Terrence Vance Gilliam (; born 22 November 1940) is an American-born British film director, screenwriter, animator, actor, comedian and former member of the Monty Python Monty Python (also collectively known as the Pythons) were a Briti ...

Terry Gilliam
was brought in to direct it, he rewrote it with
Tony Grisoni Tony Grisoni (born 28 October 1952) is a British screenwriter. He lives in London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. The city stands on the River ...
. The WGA initially denied Gilliam and Grisoni any credit even though Gilliam claimed that nothing of the original adaptation remained in the final film: "As a director, I was automatically deemed a 'production executive' by the Guild and, by definition, discriminated against. But for Tony to go without any credit would be really unfair." After complaints, the WGA awarded Gilliam and Grisoni credit in addition to Cox and Davies, but Gilliam resigned from the union over the dispute. Gilliam said the arbitration process "really a
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", claiming it took more work than the screenplay itself. Similar problems arose for the film '' Ronin''. According to director
John Frankenheimer John Michael Frankenheimer (February 19, 1930 – July 6, 2002) was an American film and television director known for social dramas and action/suspense films. Among his credits were ''Birdman of Alcatraz (film), Birdman of Alcatraz'' (1962), ''T ...
, "the credits should read: Story by J. D. Zeik, screenplay by
David Mamet David Alan Mamet (; born November 30, 1947) is an American playwright, film maker, and author. He won a Pulitzer Prize#REDIRECT Pulitzer Prize The Pulitzer Prize () is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, li ...
. We didn't shoot a line of Zeik's script." Instead, Mamet received credit under a pseudonym. After the controversy over credits for ''
Wag the Dog ''Wag the Dog'' is a 1997 American political satire black comedy Black comedy, also known as black humor, dark humor, dark comedy, morbid humor, or gallows humor, is a style of comedy that makes light of subject matter that is generally con ...
'', Mamet decided to attach his name only to movies on which he is the sole writer. A disagreement over the 2–1 arbitration decision denying
George Clooney George Timothy Clooney (born May 6, 1961) is an American actor and filmmaker. He is the recipient of three Golden Globe Awards The Golden Globe Awards are accolades bestowed by the 87 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association b ...
a writing credit for ''
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'' led Clooney to become a
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member of the WGA, rather than an active one. ''Variety'''s Michael Fleming wrote that "Clooney took a languishing 17-year old project and got a greenlight after personally giving the script a major overhaul that transformed it into a screwball comedy", with Clooney asserting that he wrote almost the entire script, but only Duncan Brantley and
Rick Reilly 200px, Rick Reilly Richard Paul Reilly (born February 3, 1958) is an American sportswriter. Long known for being the "back page" columnist for ''Sports Illustrated'', Reilly moved to ESPN on June 1, 2008, where he was a featured columnist for ES ...
, who came up with the original concept, were credited.


See also

*
Billing (filmmaking) Billing is a performing arts The performing arts are arts such as music, dance, and drama which are performed for an audience. It is different from visual arts The visual arts are Art#Forms, genres, media, and styles, art forms such as p ...
*
Credit (creative arts) In general, the term credit in the artistic or intellectual sense refers to an acknowledgment of those who contributed to a work, whether through ideas or in a more direct sense. Credit in the arts In the creative arts The arts refers ...
*
Motion picture credits Two types of credits are traditionally used in films A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art used to simulate experiences that communicate ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty, or atm ...
* WGA script registration service *
Writers Guild of America Award The Writers Guild of America Awards is an award for film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art used to simulate experiences that communicate ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty, ...


Notes


References

{{reflist


External links


WGA Screen Credits Manual (as of June 18, 2010)WGA Television Credits Manual (as of June 18, 2010)WGA Television Credits Procedures GuideWGA Credits Survival GuideWGA West page on writing creditsWGA East page on credit determinationIMDb's page on credit determination
Screenwriting credit system Credits system Film production