Whenever you see TV writing credits in which two names are separated by an ampersand, it means they’re working as a team. In many cases, it also means they’re each working for half the guild minimum. That 2-for-1 deal is one of the WGA’s major bones of contention in its ongoing negotiations for a new film and TV contract.
Day 2 of talks are now underway today at the offices of management’s AMPTP in Sherman Oaks.
In the run-up to the negotiations, the guild said it wanted to “address inequities in compensation of writing teams employed under term deals for television and new media series.” That inequity can be found in the guild’s own contract, which currently values two-person teams less than three-person teams.
When two writers working as a bona fide team write a one-hour episode of a TV show, the contract states that together they may not be paid less than the guild minimum — $38,302. That’s $19,151 each, which is a great deal for producers, who get two writers for the price of one.
But if three writers working as a bona fide team write a one-hour episode of the same series, they get to share two times the guild minimum – $76,604, or $25,535 each.
The contract states: “If a bona fide team of no more than three writers offers, prior to employment on the script in question, to collaborate, the team as a unit shall receive in the aggregate not less than 200% of the applicable minimum compensation, of which each individual writer shall be paid not less than one-third of said aggregate compensation.”
That means producers are paying twice as much for an episode written by a team of three writers than they are for an episode written by a single writer or a team of two writers.
Clearly, when it comes to teams of three, companies recognize that they’re getting more bang for the buck because they’re willing to pay twice as much per episode. It may not be a strike issue, but the guild would like to see a recognition that there’s added value for teams of two as well.
Paying two-person teams more than a single writer might also provide a disincentive for those unscrupulous producers who violate the guild’s contract by forcing two writers to work together as a “paper team” and pay them each half the going rate even though they are aren’t really a bona fide writing team. That’s been a problem the guild has been trying to address for years.