How to avoid getting screwed by writer's strike?
October 30, 2007 5:35 PM   Subscribe

How badly will the WGA strike affect a young screenwriter?

I'm fresh out of film school and an aspiring screenwriter. Currently I do not have any type of representation. Last week my writing partner and I won best screenplay at a prestigious LA based horror film festival. At the festival I got all kinds of business cards from producers and entertainment lawyers. I'm set to meet with some of these people very soon. My script was also on weekend read at CAA this weekend, so representation is a definite possibility. But I know that the writer's strike is coming up.

My question is, if the writer's strike happens am I required as a non-union writer to stop meeting with all producers and agencies? I know scab writing is an instant ban from the union and union members are prohibited from meeting, but can I meet with people? I know the buzz on me and my script is so limited and is getting smaller by the day, will this strike kill any forward momentum I might be making? Any ideas on how to keep this buzz alive? I'm really freaked that a great opportunity to get my name and my writer's partner name out there is about to be screwed by something I have almost no involvement with. Any industry people out there who know what I can do?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Potentially worthless secondhand information: Someone called into the Barely Legal radio program on Indie 103.1 last week (lawyer answers showbiz questions for an hour) with this exact question. The lawyer basically advised that if a strike happens, it's unlikely that many, if any, projects will get greenlit, and what the industry is looking at is lots of reruns, maybe some reality shows, etc. But he suggested taking the meetings anyhow, as it's great to make those connections when the networking is still fresh, so to speak, and if they're really interested it can be finalized after the strike.

There might be a tape of this call on the Barely Legal youtube page if you want to hear the exact wording of the advice.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 6:56 PM on October 30, 2007

This is my not-a-lawyer assessment of your situation:

Yes, you can meet with agencies.
Yes, you can get representation.
No, you won't be able to sell your script.
No, you won't be able to option your script.

As signatories of the WGA Minimum Basic Agreement, companies can't do business with non-union writers.

If you can take a general meeting with them is a grey area. Union WGA writers are not allowed to take meetings.
If I were you, I'd be careful about that, you don't want to end up on the wrong side of the WGA at this point in time.
posted by sharkfu at 7:21 PM on October 30, 2007

Here are the official strike rules.
posted by sharkfu at 7:27 PM on October 30, 2007

Thanks guys, I've got a meeting with an entertainment lawyer next week so I'll be asking him a bunch of stuff like this.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 7:37 PM on October 30, 2007

I work for the DGA, which is not at all the same entity, but we hear some things. The speculation that I've heard from people inside the community is that the strike will probably be a short one. It's going to be an interesting couple of years for the industry in general, though, because in addition to the WGA negotiating this year, the DGA and SAG will both be making revisions in 2008. Even if the WGA strike goes by quickly, there's the potential for DGA and SAG strikes to slow up business next year. I'm hoping that it won't come to that, but hope and anything less than three bucks won't get you a decent cup of coffee these days.

I would recommend to anyone in the business to start trimming the fat, because finances could get rocky for a little while in the very near future.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:18 PM on October 30, 2007

Funny, the majority of people I'm talking to are certain that the strike is going to be closer to 5-6 months, like it was in '88. I've even heard rumors that they're going to try and "break" the WGA. (Can they even do that?)

Of course this is all complete hearsay because no one knows for sure, but I guess I just know a lot more industry doomsayers than Parasite Unseen.
posted by np312 at 11:28 PM on October 30, 2007

Get ready for an entire lineup of reality shows!
posted by Rykey at 5:27 AM on October 31, 2007

Do whatever you can to sell now, even if you have to "make do" with WGA minimum. Studios are buying up projects all over the place so they've got something to make and if you sell now you've got that sale on your CV further down the line. If you don't sell, and have to wait 'til after the strike ends you might find yourself in a much more difficult situation.

Don't forget that if the WGA does decide to strike that they probably won't go on strike until June 2008 when the SAG/DGA contracts run out.
posted by alby at 10:27 AM on October 31, 2007

Don't forget that if the WGA does decide to strike that they probably won't go on strike until June 2008 when the SAG/DGA contracts run out.

If by 'June 2008' you mean 'Today'.
posted by skammer at 8:30 AM on November 2, 2007

It was my understanding that a writer's first script could be sold to a signatory company through the taft-hartley act.
posted by clockworkjoe at 9:27 AM on November 12, 2007

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