Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Craft Meeting #5 -- Animation Writers

The Animation Guild's fifth craft meeting took place Tuesday night in the Guild meeting hall at 1105 N. Hollywood Way in Burbank California.

It was noted that TAG Vice President Earl Kress passed away five years ago yesterday at age 60. Earl was a prolific, talented writer who was instrumental in securing better conditions for freelance writers, negotiating health benefits for freelancers who wrote two half-hour outlines and scripts.

New Media: There were discussions regarding the Guild's New Media sideletter (pp 99-113 of the CBA), how its production budget tiers are tied to live-action that don't reflect the budgets for animation. New Media will likely be a central issue in 2018 negotiations, and there will be early indications where New Media language is going when the WGA and DGA negotiate their contracts next year.

Some writers at DreamWorks Animation TV are writing at below minimum rates, which is allowed under the sideletter. Animation work that's distributed over the internet (Netflix, Amazon, etc.) comes under New Media. If a negotiated contract fails to be ratified, then contract talks resume until a new agreement is reached or the talks reach impasse. ...

Script Fees: Only one studio has script fees (payments on top of salaries); that studio is Nickelodeon.

General Membership Meeting: Members were encouraged to attend the September 27th General Membership Meeting and run for the board or an officer position, since several officers and board members are departing.

Bank of Hours: Why hasn't the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan's Bank of Hours been raised? Because the bargaining parties (AMPTP and IATSE) haven't negotiated a hike. The 450 hours has been in place for a number of years, though the threshold for health coverage was raised eight years ago from 300 hours to 400 hours per 6-month period. This had the effect of knocking some participants off the Plan and there was some anger from members about it. Five years ago, premium payments of $25/month for participants with one dependent and $50/month for participants with 2 or more dependents were introduced.

Writer Categories: Animation Writer is a job classification in the contract. Story Editor in not in the contract, though the AMPTP told the Guild in negotiations four years ago it was part of the writer classification.

Discussion of how story editors get paid: Some writer/story editors in attendance liked total fees divided over 26 episodes and being paid weekly, and didn't want the fees tied to a weekly salary because payments would be lower. It was noted that TAG negotiates wage floors, that individuals are free to negotiate better pay and conditions.

Discussion about animation writers forming their own union. Mechanics of this are difficult, there would have to be de-certification then a new union created. There was also talk about making the Animation Guild into a national union that covers the whole country, the better to organize studios in Atlanta and elsewhere.

Screen Credits: It was noted that the contract requires screen credits for story on features and half-hour broadcast "non-segmented" half-hour television shows. It was suggested that screen credits should be required for all lengths of programs, since screen credits trigger foreign levies.

Storyboard artists should be allies with writers; where storyboard artists/writers and outline writers work together on non-scripted shows, they should share script fees.

Production Schedules: Writers/producers and show runners need to insist on reasonable production schedules. Story editors need to do the math and build reasonable time lines for scripts (and storyboards).

Many studios are using freelance writers, but some studios have staff writers. There's beginning to be more integration. DWA tv has staff story editors and small staffs of writers. Writers are in demand so studios are starting to employ staff writers to have their services full time.

Writers who know what the board artists can do are more effective because they can write scripts that reflect what can be achieved on storyboards.


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