By the time you read this the Writer’s Guild of America’s (WGA) strike will be over. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists’ (AFTRA)—not yet.
So what can we take from the strikes? I saw one placard from the picket lines I thought was very pertinent: A Career Not A Gig.
In simple terms—the concerns of Artificial Intelligence (AI) aside—the writers wanted to be paid fairly, to ensure that their opportunities for work were safeguarded, and that there was a development path for new and junior writers into sustainable careers.
Fair pay relates to both the amount they are paid for the work they do as well as residuals, which are payments for the reuse of the work after the initial play. While broadcast and other reuse such as on cable, etc. generates residuals, streaming does not. And with streaming dominating the world and other reuse declining, writers weren’t getting the income they used to get from residuals. And they weren’t getting any from streaming.
In America, writers, directors, actors and some other key creatives get residuals, all of which are negotiated by the guilds there, to help contribute towards sustainable careers for their members.
Do we have residuals in New Zealand? Sort of.
Screenrights collects revenue for reuse from Government, Education and Retransmission in Australia, but in New Zealand only from Education. The Australian Screen Directors Authorship Collection Society (ASDACS) collects any revenues owing from Screenrights and distributes them to NZ directors.
International organisations who collect revenues from a variety of rights on behalf of directors also pass this on to ASDACS for distribution to its members.
A share of the back-end, typically being net profit, is kind of a residual, but is dependent on sufficient revenue coming back from the income of the production and there being something left after all of the other obligations and costs have been deducted. Directors must negotiate a net profit share in their contracts to get it.
A share of the producer’s corridor that flows to the producer from NZFC for non-New Zealand Screen Production Rebate films, and a share of Producer’s Equity from New Zealand Screen Production Rebate films and TV shows can also be negotiated by the director in their contract with the producer.
Screenrights, ASDACS, producer’s corridor and NZSPR producer equity are all mechanisms by which directors can help build sustainable careers for themselves. And the opportunity to do this should be taken advantage of.
With the Screen Industry Workers Act, we hope to remove the need for directors to negotiate individually for their shares of these revenues through collective bargaining, just like the DGA does for directors, the WGA does for writers, and SAG/AFTRA does for actors in regard to residuals.
The news coming out of the negotiations is that the WGA got a lot of what they were after, including residuals from streamers. We expect that SAG/AFTRA will now quickly conclude their negotiations as well.
For New Zealand guilds, we are working towards having our negotiations in the first half of 2024. For us at least, residuals are definitely on the agenda for collective bargaining.