GA writers, particularly as they advance in their careers, often end up engaged in both their capacity as writers as well as in an additional non-writing capacity, such as executive producers. Article 14 of the WGA Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) is therefore an important provision to understand for both writers and anyone engaging them; it states that if a writer is engaged in such an additional capacity, but also provides writing services, those services are still covered by MBA and that writer is still entitled to at least a certain level of minimum compensation for writing services. Without Article 14 of the MBA, it would be difficult to determine what portion of a WGA writer’s time is spent writing, versus (for example) producing, and thus difficult to determine the writer’s minimum compensation. Article 14 was one of sections of the MBA that was updated as part of the May 2, 2017 three-year revision of the MBA, discussed here.
Specifically, Article 14 states that the “term of [a WGA member’s] employment as a writer in relation to a particular series, during a particular production season, shall be no less than the duration or term of his/her employment in the additional capacity in relation to such series.” Writers employed in additional capacities (“Article 14 Writers”) may be employed on either a week-to-week or term basis, and may be employed exclusively. Article 14 Writers must generally be engaged for the run of the season, but if more than two Article 14 Writers are already engaged on a project, then the two highest writers must be engaged for the run of the season and engagement of additional Article 14 Writers may be stopped and started.
Writing services and non-writing services can be addressed in either a single contract or in separate contracts, and such agreements do not need to set forth the portion of the compensation that is attributable to writing. Regardless, however, a writer must be paid at least the minimum compensation set forth in Article 14.K (such amounts were recently updated as part of the updated MBA), and agreements with writers employed in an additional capacity often state that such writer is to be paid “Article 14 minimum” compensation. Agreements with writers might also state that compensation paid in connection with (for example) executive producing services is inclusive of Article 14 compensation, to clarify that the relevant sums cover all of the Article 14 Writer’s services.
An interesting nuance for writer-producers is if a writer is employed in additional capacities, for example as an executive producer, and begins rendering writing services (with the consent of the production company) partway into the season, then Article 14 will kick in as of the time the writer begins rendering services. If that happens, the writer must be paid at Article 14 scale as of that time and must generally be engaged as a writer for the remainder of the season.
It also bears mention that the May 2, 2017 changes to the MBA included a change to Article 14 which applies to contracts entered into on or after May 2, 2018. Generally, under the new MBA, if a writer is engaged on an episodic fee basis, each episodic fee covers 2.4 weeks of work. If a writer works for longer than 2.4 weeks on a given episode, additional compensation must be paid. However, these so-called “span-of-work” requirements will only apply to broadcast series with fewer than 12 episodes ordered, or cable/digital series with fewer than 14 episodes ordered, and will not apply to writers engaged for a guaranteed amount of more than $350,000 per year (excluding script fees).
This blog post is intended to be an introduction to Article 14 concepts, as many nuances or exception are not covered here. Writers and production companies with specific questions should consult with an entertainment attorney well-versed in the WGA contracts.
Filed in: Film, Legal Blog
June 19, 2017