The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have reached a tentative deal on a new film and TV contract, with negotiations continuing hours after the contract expired at midnight Wednesday.
The contract will now go to the WGA board for ratification before being sent to members for a vote. Full details on the contract will not be disclosed until and unless it is approved. The new contract, if approved, will remain in effect until May 1, 2023 and holds a price tag of approximately $200 million.
In a memo sent to members, the WGA said that the new agreement contains many benefits similar to those AMPTP agreed to in contracts with the Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, particularly concerning residuals for streaming projects. Among the gains earned by the guild include “increases in SVOD residuals, the lowering of SVOD budget breaks, and elimination of almost all SVOD grandfathering, as well as rollbacks, including syndication residuals.”
“We were able to fight off significant writer-centric rollbacks, which would have been very damaging if they’d made it into the MBA,” the committee added.
The eleventh-hour agreement comes after months of delays and tense exchanges between the WGA and AMPTP. Talks were initially set to take place in March but were forced to postpone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The two sides agreed to extend the expiration of the existing contract from May 1 to June 30 while a new date for remote negotiations was discussed.
In May, the two sides seemed to come to an agreement on a start time, but plans hit a speed bump after the guild asked the AMPTP to extend coverage for members on the WGA Health Plan who would not be able to meet earnings eligibility requirements because of the pandemic. When AMPTP President Carol Lombardini wrote in a letter that the organization would have to meet with member studios about the issue, WGA Executive Director replied, “There will be an agreement when both sides agree there’s one. You people are despicable.”
After Lombardini replied with an email asking for further clarification, the AMPTP announced last week that it would begin contract talks with SAG-AFTRA on April 27, seemingly sidelining the WGA. However, the two sides eventually came to an agreement to start talks on May 11. Once talks began, the WGA sent emails to its members outlining major goals its negotiating committee would push for in the talks, using the memos as a substitution for pre-negotiation membership meetings that were canceled by the pandemic.
The goals listed by the guild were extensive, including higher streaming residuals, improved pension and health contributions, parental leave, and the inclusion of foreign box office in film residuals for the first time in industry history. The guild acknowledged in its memo on Wednesday that due in large part to the financial strain caused by the pandemic, not all of its goals were achieved.
“Although the ongoing global pandemic and economic uncertainty limited our ability to exercise real collective power to achieve many other important and necessary contract goals, we remain committed to pursuing those goals in future negotiations,” the WGA said.
Among the benefits the AMPTP did agree to include an immediate 1.5% increase in studio contributions to the WGA pension fund, with the option to add another 1.25% from minimums. The new contract will also include a new parental leave fund to launch next May for all writers who qualify for health insurance, funded entirely by a half-percent studio contribution from writer earnings. The studios also agreed to eliminate new writer discounts, which the guild says disproportionately impacted the minimum wages of writers of color trying to get a start in the industry.
WGA is the final major guild to come to terms with the AMPTP for this cycle of contract negotiations. On Monday, the SAG-AFTRA national board approved its contract with AMPTP by a two-thirds majority, sending it to members for a final approval vote. The $318 million, three-year contract includes a 26% increase in fixed streaming residuals for the first three years of a movie or TV show’s availability on a streaming service, a major demand by Hollywood’s labor force given the wave of streaming projects being developed for new services like Disney+ and Peacock.
The SAG-AFTRA agreement also established new rules for nude and sexual scenes in productions, adding to the new set of protections for actors engaging in on-camera intimacy.
UPDATE 6 PM PT: Updated with further information on the tentative deal from a WGA memo obtained by TheWrap.
Brian Welk contributed to this report.