November 13

CAN I PITCH OR WRITE DURING THE STRIKE?

The Thinking Writer received these two questions…

Simon from Chicago asks:

can wga writers write for independent features while the strike is on (as long as indie co is not signatory)?

David from Carlsbad asks:

I recently attended the Screenwriting Expo in L.A. and pitched several of my scripts successfully with positive feedback and requests to have my contact information – WGA Strike – Silence!

I, of course, support the strike and the WGA and would like to think that my barren e-mail is due to the freeze. How useless was pitching right before the strike and can I now assume that my face and loglines will be forever forgotten?

To answer your questions, I have consulted with a senior agent at a major agency (who prefers to remain anonymous) and the WGA Strike Rules. Before I answer, the usual disclaimer.

Nothing contained on this blog should be considered legal advice. These are just thoughts on a blog.

As for Simon’s question, whether a WGA member can write on a non-WGA production during the strike, the WGA Strike Rules preamble states:

The basic principle behind these Rules is very simple: you (and your agent or other representative on your behalf) may not pitch to or negotiate with a struck company, and you may not provide writing services, sell or option literary material to a struck company.

The important phrase is “struck company.” Presumably, small independent companies that are not WGA signatories are not “struck companies” and, therefore, the WGA Strike Rules do not prohibit you from providing services to these companies. Two caveats: (i) make sure the company is not a “struck company”, and (ii) the WGA may have other rules that limit what services a member can provide to non-signatories regardless of any strike. You do not want to violate those rules. You should check with the guild to find out. For WGA West, you can contact:

Erika Zucker
Writers Guild of America, West, Inc.
7000 West Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Telephone: (323) 782-4521

UPDATE: The WGAw has a list of “struck companies” here.
As for the second question, whether a non-WGA writer can pitch material to a WGA signatory during the strike and whether the company will follow up on previous pitches, WGA Strike Rule 13 provides as follows:
Rules Pertaining To Non Members

The Guild does not have the authority to discipline non members for strike breaking and/or scab writing. However, the Guild can and will bar that writer from future Guild membership.

This policy has been strictly enforced in the past and has resulted in convincing many would be strike breakers to refrain from seriously harming the Guild and its members during a strike. Therefore, it is important for you to report to the Guild the name of any non member whom you believe has performed any writing services for a struck company and as much information as possible about the non member’s services.
According to the agent I consulted, struck companies are not likely to follow up on pitches during the strike.  More importantly, you do not want to jeopardize your own future by pursuing writing assignments during the strike.  The best you can do is to drop your company contact a note indicating that you hope to follow up on your pitch when the strike is over.
I hope these answers are helpful.



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Posted November 13, 2007 by TW in category "WGA Strike

9 COMMENTS :

  1. By MaryAn on

    While the rules don’t specifically warn non-Guild writers against pitching or negotiating with struck companies, it seems to me that professional writers on the picket line might perceive a writer as an opportunistic vulture undermining the point Guild members trying to make. That wouldn’t bode well for them later on.

    I wouldn’t want to be in the position of having to turn down a dream opportunity for integrity’s sake and I hope nobody actually has to face that nightmarish decision.

    The best thing for us wannabes to do (methinks) is not be out there pitching struck companies. We want to be professionals one day so it seems to me that the time to act like one is now.

  2. By TW on

    I think Rule 13 is intended to cover pitching and negotiating with struck companies since it refers to “strike breaking” and the other strike rules make it clear that pitching and negotiating by members is considered strike breaking.

  3. By DGB on

    Being a non-guild writer, I plan on continuing on with my spec efforts, with the hope that one day I will be able to generate interest in my work/ideas.

    Until then, I’ll play it safe (as I would very much like to be a ‘member’ of the WGA — if my work makes the grade).

    Best Regards,
    DGB

  4. By Rachel Cohen on

    It’s not just “small, independent” outfits that are non-signatory companies, at least in TV.
    Non Guild writers who chose not to work or submit in hopes of someday joining the WGA need to think realistically. Unless you’ve got the next Star Wars franchise tucked away in your spec, no one is going to care if you type, pitch or sell.

    The WGA doesn’t care what you do. Members don’t think you’re an “opportunistic vulture” because they don’t perceive you as competition. No one cares about beginning writers without representation.

    If you’re got an agent, he or she isn’t going to pitch a struck company. And if you don’t have an agent, no one is going to return your calls.

  5. By Bill on

    In my mind, that’s where unions are not helpful. Who are they to say that I can’t write something and sell it on my own?

  6. By Linda on

    Thanks for the info and the list of struck companies.

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