Earnings by members of the WGA West topped $1 billion last year for a fifth year in a row, although total employment was down 1.6% from the previous year, according to the guild’s latest earnings report.
Film writers, who have seen a steady erosion of income over the last 20 years, saw a 1.9% increase in earnings last year and employment was up 3.6% to 1,799 jobs. Even so, except for 2013 and 2014, last year’s $362.1 million in film earnings was lower than every year since 1997.
Television continues to be the booming marketplace for writers, who earned more than twice as much last year as film writers. And although TV writers saw a 2% decline in earnings from record levels in 2014, they topped $800 million for a second year in a row – double their earnings in 2000.
Overall, the guild reported that its own finances are on solid footing. According to the report, the WGAW ended the fiscal year with total net assets of more than $53 million, and had an operating surplus of $3.6 million based on revenues of $30.7 million. “The surplus was the product of growth in total writer compensation, a result of increased numbers of writers employed in the television and new media sectors,” the report said.
Meanwhile, residuals hit a record high of $400 million in 2015, up 3.4% from 2014. This marks the third year in a row residuals have exceeded $350 million, rising 5.6% in television but declining 0.5% in film.
Contract enforcement of unpaid residuals also set a record last year, with the guild collecting more than $45 million on behalf of writers – up more than $20 million from the previous year, and up nearly four times the amount collected in 2009.
The guild’s foreign levies program distributed another $12.4 million to writers and heirs during the last fiscal year. To date, the program has collected more than $218 million on behalf of guild members and their heirs.