In a move to curb free “prewrites,” the WGA West has launched a “No Writing Left Behind” campaign to let its members know that they shouldn’t leave written material behind after pitching their projects.
“Don’t do it,” the guild says. Check out a new video below that hammers home its point.
A recent guild survey found that screenwriters often are asked by producers and executives to leave written material behind or submit written materials via email after their initial meetings. This is referred to as “prewriting” because it is work created by a writer before being hired and can include outlines, notes and treatments. “Prewriting is essentially free work prior to employment and the push by producers and executives to have it submitted was cited in the survey as one of the most pressing issues screenwriters are facing,” the guild said.
“All writers need jobs, and especially when it’s early in their careers it can feel like they have to do whatever it takes to get hired,” said screenwriter and WGAW board member Michele Mulroney. “But leaving behind a treatment for a producer or executive is the equivalent of writing for free. It opens the door to what can often be months of more free work like getting notes on the treatment and revising it multiple times. Guild rules do not allow for uncompensated work and members need to know that they simply don’t have to give in to these requests.”
Added screenwriter and WGAW board member John August: “Everyone wants to be a pal, to be obliging. But this is a situation where helping out is hurting yourself and other writers. If you hand in your pages, you make it harder for every other screenwriter to say no when they’re asked. Things don’t change unless we all say no.”
To drive the point home, the guild has produced a video in which several prominent writers explain that free writing violates the guild’s contract. And if pressured, former WGA West board member Billy Ray advises that writers should just say, “I can’t. The guild would kill me.”
The two-minute video ends by telling writers to leave nothing behind after pitching. “No outlines. No notes. No treatments. No pages. Not even your grocery list.”