With the WGA strike two weeks old tonight, the demand for quality writers (or near-acceptable substitutes) is getting acute.
The Guild only has jurisdiction in the US; making Canadian or UK writers a potential writing resource during the strike. In other words, Canadian and UK writers living and working in their respective countries should be able to write for the studios and networks without retribution. However, reps with writing clients overseas – myself included – are advising caution.
As far as the Guild is concerned, the less writing anywhere, in any media, the better negotiating leverage they have with the studios.The Guild’s Strike Rules threaten non-union scribes with denial of future Guild membership if they’re caught scab-writing for struck companies. The Writers Guild of Canada made it clear it would turn in any Canadian writers caught working for struck companies during the strike. Although UK resident writers could likewise write during the strike, there is mounting pressure for them to stand down as well. Could India be next?
Here in Los Angeles, rep confusion abounds. I’ve debated with several agents and lawyers over what constitutes permitted writing for Guild members and non-members during the strike. For instance, can a WGA member: work for a non-struck company? work on an Internet-based project? work in animation? go to meetings for the writer’s optioned property? Not really, it depends, maybe and probably not. Not exactly a bright line.
The WGA Strike Rules prohibit its members from working for “struck companies;” typically companies that are signatories to the now-expired Minimum Basic Agreement. The distinction between struck (signatory) companies and non struck, non-signatory companies is a fallacy since WGA members are prohibited from working for non signatory companies. Although the Guild encourages its members to contact them for clarity, anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise as the Guild has yet to return any of my clients’ calls.
In the days ahead, I suspect that reps, writers and producers will step up efforts to clarify the confusion. In the meantime, caveat scriptor.