Being a screenwriter: a real job, not a hobby!

FSE member guild representing screenwriters in Italy, WGI-Writers Guild Italia, denounces the deterioration of contractual conditions in a press release published on 25 November.

“The most elementary clauses of labor protection have disappeared”, denounces WGI. Who writes for cinema and TV is more and more often deprived of any certainty about remuneration.


WGI’s proposal to gather producers and agents around the table to arrive at a shared agreement on some basic principles

The good health of the audiovisual industry in Europe does not apply to the working conditions of the screenwriters who are going through, particularly in Italy, a period of further pay reduction and the absence of minimum guarantees. In many cases, the work of screenwriters, even though at the origin of the production chain for TV series and films, seems to have entered a gray area of almost total deregulation. This is what Writers Guild Italia (WGI), the Italian screenwriters’ union, denounces, asking producers and agents to sit down at a table to face together a situation that has become critical in many respects.

“Degradation of contractual conditions”

“We noticed in so many cases the absence of the most elementary clauses of labor protection and lack of certainty in terms of pay, explains Franca De Angelis, president of WGI, as well as a quantity of paid days in no way matching the real period of work; without mentioning economic recognition in the event of sales abroad or the guarantee of being nominated in the promotion”. “It is urgent to stop this senseless degradation of contractual conditions and it is time to sit down at a table with agents and counterparts to arrive at a shared commitment”.

“Among other things”, explains De Angelis, “one of the founding principles of WGI implies that members share their contracts in confidentiality. Our lawyer Andrea Renato, the only one to have access to these contracts, is thus able to constantly assess the situation, which unfortunately has progressively worsened in recent years ”.


The audiovisual industry, a driving force in Italy and in Europe

On the other hand, the sector, in a general context of economic crisis and stagnation, instead enjoys good health. Every year, in fact, about 16,400 TV episodes are produced in Europe, 1,200 feature films, 600 documentaries for theater release, while an unknown number of projects (estimated between 3500 and 4000) do not reach the final stage of production. All this work is conceived, designed and written by screenwriters who, however, do not benefit from any part of the generated business volume.

According to a survey conducted by the Federation of European film directors (FERA) and the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE), whose results were disseminated in 2019, the whole of this impressive creative and productive effort is the basis of a industry that employs over 1.2 million Europeans and exceeds a turnover of 107.3 billion euros. The same survey shows that in such a context, within the European Union, audiovisual authors often “find it hard to make ends meet”. For this reason the FSE (of which WGI is a member) has set itself the goal of expanding collective bargaining by the writers’ unions throughout Europe.

Even in Italy the industrial indices of the sector show positive results; this is what reveals, for example, the data released by the Audiovisual Producers Association (APA) : the entire production chain in the sector has now reached the value of one billion euros with a particularly significant growth in fiction, and of international co-productions.

In short, while the sector is growing, the labor protection for those who are at the origin of the whole movement, namely the screenwriters, has instead decreased. This is the reason why WGI promotes the adoption of a standard contract applicable to every kind of production, in which specific attention is given to the transfer of rights: the transfer of rights can take place only when the remuneration negotiated for the delivery of the script or of the treatment has already been paid. Last but not least, this standard contract introduces a clause of profit sharing in the event of success of the work, as already foreseen by the Author’s Rights Law. It also confirms some firm principles, starting with the certainty of remuneration.

(translation FSE)