The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain is alarmed at the sinister and growing trend of writers being asked to undertake film and TV development work for free. It is making it impossible for those without independent means to launch or sustain a career. In time it will limit the diversity of voices on our screens.
How many great dramas of the past 30 years would have been written if the authors hadn’t been fairly paid for development? If they were starting now, could Alan Bleasdale or Mike Leigh survive a system that increasingly expects a writer to do so much work for free? And for so many years?
The failure of many production companies to pay writers for development work is undercutting responsible producers who want to build constructive relationships with their writers and invest responsibly in the creative resources that underpin a UK industry worth over £8 million an hour.
In partnership with a group of agents, producers and independent production company executives, WGGB has agreed the following principles:
• If we are to have a successful and sustainable film and television industry writers must be fairly paid for the work they do.
• It is acceptable to expect writers to develop an idea on their own to the point of a one or two page pitch document.
• Beyond this line, it is unacceptable to expect the writer to continue working for free.
• Beyond this line, writers must be fairly paid for their work.
• If producers want to ‘shop’ a writer’s idea around they must secure and pay for the right to do so.
Pressuring writers into work for free is NOT an option. Paying writers so poorly they can’t afford to provide for their families or heat the rooms where they work is not an option. Not if we want our writers to produce their best work. Not if we want voices on our screens that represent the rich diversity of UK society. Not if we want sustainable creative industries that are the envy of the world.
Chris Bryant MP (Rhondda)
Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton, Pavilion)
Sarah Champion MP (Lab, Rotherham)
Thangam Debbonaire MP (Lab, Bristol West)
Mark Durkan MP (SDLP, Foyle)
Mike Gapes MP (Lab, Ilford South)
Fiona Mactaggart MP (Lab, Slough)
Kerry McCarthy MP (Lab, Bristol East)
Dennis Skinner MP (Lab, Bolsover)
Earl of Clancarty (Crossbencher)
Filmmaker Ken Loach
Director Sir Richard Eyre CBE
Writer and broadcaster Sir Tony Robinson
Actress Julie Walters CBE
Film director Michael Caton-Jones
Writer, director, photographer Elaine Constantine
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady