When the Writers Guild of America (WGA) launched an industry-wide strike demanding truthful pay and advantages for his or her writers, moderately than simply being handled like gig employees, it led to a domino impact and writers guilds the world over united to combat again the unfair system. India’s Screenwriters Affiliation (SWA) too requested its members to not settle for any new writing assignments on American movies and collection.
In actual fact, SWA intends to ask studios and impartial producers to barter and talk about a ‘Minimum Basic Contract’ (MBC) over the following few weeks. The MBC would entail a set of primary ideas on which a regular writer-producer settlement needs to be primarily based, within the hope that it could guarantee a good deal for the writers at a time when contracts are dictated by manufacturing homes.
It was not way back when producer Ritesh Sidhwani agreed to have a system in place whereby writers had the choice to enter right into a profit-sharing settlement. In keeping with Ritesh, the brand new pointers will make the writers really feel safe since writers are sometimes robbed of their credit score. Emphasising that it is a primary factor which each and every producer should adhere to, Ritesh even promised to take up the matter with the Producers Guild and push them to make the rules obligatory for all manufacturing homes.
In right this moment’s #BigStory, we uncover the woes of Indian screenwriters, the necessity to have a regular contract, selecting screenwriting as a career and the way OTT is creating new alternatives. Learn on.
Are writers pretty compensated?
Filmmaking is a profitable enterprise, however the identical cannot all the time be mentioned about screenwriting as a career. Whereas films do a enterprise of multi-crores on the field workplace, the writers typically stroll away with a meagre sum as compensation, at occasions they don’t even get correct credit score for his or her work. Whereas the established writers command a good price, it’s the newcomers who are sometimes exploited within the identify of getting a chance.
“But that’s true of any field. Experience and success obviously command a premium,” says Shariq Patel, CEO of Zee Studios.
The SWA has minimal wage suggestions for writers, however do producers or filmmakers observe these pointers? “Not really,” says Shariq. “But I would say it’s in the ballpark.”
“I don’t think a writer’s rights are well protected,” says writer-director Mayank Tiwari. “People sign away their rights because otherwise they won’t get the gig. When it comes to payments, largely writers are underpaid. This is a trend all over the world. There is a strike in Hollywood about this.”
Author Suparn Varma agrees, “I don’t think writers are fairly compensated. There are some writers who are paid and we are fortunate enough to be paid what we deserve. But not all writers are paid what they deserve, I think they should be paid much more. And hopefully that pay disparity will be kind of tackled in the time to come slowly. But it has gotten much, much better than what it used to be, say 10 years ago. Writers today are more respected, more in demand. But still, we have a long way to go. And with the current lot of makers, creators, actors, the respect being given to writers is much more, and that respect is also translating into money slowly.”
Senior screenwriter and president of SWA, Robin Bhatt says they’re educating the writers about their rights. “Writer bichara majboori ka maara, kuch bhi sign kar deta. And especially newcomers, they think it’s a big deal that producers are giving them a break. So they think they have to sign on a dotted line without looking at the papers. The thing that SWA is trying to say is that no producer is giving you a break looking at your face, they are giving you a break because they like your material. In most of the cases there is an agreement that the credits will be given at the discretion of the producer. How can you do that? A writer who has written the script, screenplay, dialogue or story should get the due credit.”
Veteran screenwriter and activist at SWA, Anjum Rajabali says it’s typically the brand new writers who really feel squeezed. “Therefore, there should be a safety net, one cannot go below that,” he says. “There’s certain dignity involved. What are we asking for? We’re asking for nothing. If your film’s budget is 5 crore excluding the star fees, then you should be able to pay the writer 12 lakh. What is that coming to? If your budget is 15 crore, then give the writer 24 lakh which is nothing. About 1.3% of your whole budget. Your entire film is based on the script. We are encouraging producers by telling them that if you invest in the script, you’ll be able to save money later. Because the script will be written efficiently and your film will be a success. If the script is bad, what are you going to do? Why are you demotivating writers?”
Want for normal contract
The OTT revolution might have created higher work alternatives for brand spanking new and upcoming writers, however the well-liked notion of screenwriting as a profitable career is barely misplaced, opines Mayank. “For me, personally, after having worked for more than a decade, contracts are hard to negotiate even with the help of lawyers. For young upcoming writers it is often a false choice because they are not in a position to negotiate. This is why a standard contract helps,” he states.
“There are two important things for which a writer works. One is the fee of course which he/she gets. That’s how their home is run. The second is credit, which is perhaps more important than the writing fee. Because credit determines a writer’s future,” says Anjum.
“When some work which people have appreciated is attributed to you, then people want to work with you. It consolidates your career. A writer should be known by his/her work. If he/she is not known by their work, then obviously there’s a problem. Sometimes, there’s team work. There are co-writers. Sometimes, after you have finished writing the script, the producer is at the liberty to engage another writer. In this case, it has to be resolved who gets the credit. Which writers deserve co-writing credits and in what order credits are determined. So, that becomes essential to be clear about,” he provides.
So far as writers security is anxious, the Screenwriters Affiliation has been completely instrumental in safeguarding the writers for years, believes Suparn. “Like to be a member of America’s WGA, you need to have written credits and stuff, with SWA, that is not the case. You can be a pretty new writer, and you could be anywhere in India, and you can upload your concept and get it registered within a matter of seconds. So that really helps and everybody’s safeguarded. And no legitimate producer or director will listen to your idea until it is registered with SWA,” he explains.
“It’s been too long there has not been a common contract that producers and writers have agreed to,” says Robin. He insists there needs to be a standard doc. “Why would every writer, time and again, look at the different kinds of documents when there is an association of writers and producers? Both should come to sit down across the table and chart down a document which is very balanced, which is not in favour of writers nor the producers. This is what we ultimately want to achieve.”
“Even in the case of new writers, nobody knows the legalities. That’s why we want a model contract where a minimum amount is guaranteed to the writer, so there is no dispute. We want to sit across with the producers and come to an agreement which is agreeable to them also. Big writers can demand a price and they get it. The problem is with the newcomers who can’t negotiate or can’t say no,” he provides.
OTT creating new alternatives
There is a notion that the OTT revolution has introduced an abundance of alternatives for writers. However is it a reality or is it extra of a preferred notion?
“We are living in the golden age of storytelling where it is all about storytelling. It starts off with the writers,” says Suparn. “And today all creators, producers, actors, platforms are in search of unique stories, stories that are original and have a voice. And it is literally, where people are trying to find interesting writers, skilled writers. So today to say that has brought in an abundance of opportunity for writers, it’s an absolute fact, and not a popular perception at all. Because without the script, without the writers, we are nothing. It all begins with the script.”
Anjum fortunately acknowledges that the appreciation of the necessity for , robust script has definitely gone up. “There’s much more interest in the film industry among producers, studios, and platforms,” he says. “They all take script writing seriously, undoubtedly, which is a good thing. Also, the opportunities for writers have increased a lot. Earlier, you only had cinema and TV. Now, you have the OTT platforms. There are lots of opportunities.”
Screenwriting as a career
Can any individual with a inventive streak turn out to be a movie author? What does it take to have the mandatory expertise of being a screenwriter?
“Any person who appreciates cinema and is willing to apply themselves to the craft can pick up screenwriting,” says Mayank. “It is challenging as a career but anyone can start with a pen and a paper. A love for cinema is a must.”
There are alternatives for newer writers too. “Experience helps obviously but it all depends on various factors. We are working with a lot of newer talent in developing stories,” says Shariq. “Some projects come prepackaged with the writer already attached and script ready, and others, we add additional writers or commission new works. Selection process depends on multiple factors.”
These alternatives can include their very own set of challenges. “For a long time I signed contracts blindly because I needed the job,” says Mayank. “Many times producers sign contracts but wait for the first draft before releasing signing amounts. Ultimately the power rests with the producer. The situation is not a happy one for writers, although I would say things are definitely slowly getting better and a standard contract will go a long way.”
Suparn sums it up for all aspiring screenwriters, “Well, you need to know how to write. It’s like any person with some talent can become an actor or director. You don’t know until you try it, right? You have to practice, you have to write and nothing stops you from being a writer. Nobody’s holding your hand. You just need a pen and paper or a laptop. Just start writing, write down ideas, write, rewrite, rewrite 100 times, make your friends listen to it, see if you’ve done a good job and keep getting better. It’s a process. Nobody writes a first draft, which is brilliant. Nobody. So it’s a long, hard working process. But you have to keep getting better and better at writing, reading, and learning. It’s a process. It’s all about putting work into your talent.”