These are the general guidelines for joining the Writers Guild, West (WGAW) through the WGA Low Budget Agreement
1. If I sell a screenplay or am employed to perform writer services under the WGA Low Budget Agreement (LBA), am I eligible to join the WGAW?
The WGAW uses a unit system to determine eligibility for membership. You must earn 24 units within a 3-year period to be eligible for Current (full) membership. If you earn fewer than 24 units, you may join as an Associate member. Units are earned in different ways, including:
Employment to write a screenplay = 24 units
Purchase of a screenplay = 24 units
Rewrite = 12 units
Polish = 6 units
Most work under the LBA involves the sale of, or employment to write, a screenplay. The LBA may also cover additional rewrites and polishes.
2. How do I earn units towards membership under the LBA?
The answer depends on two main factors:
- Are you selling a screenplay (i.e., a “spec script”) or writing under employment?
- Are you only a writer on the project or do you (or a family member) serve in some other capacity (i.e., as an owner or manager of the Company or a performer in the film)?
The answers below address each of these circumstances.
3. If you are only a writer on a project covered by the LBA, the following rules apply:
- Employment: If you are employed to write on the project, you will earn units based on the schedule in Question 1 above, and will be eligible for membership when you accumulate 24 units.
- Sales: If you sell a screenplay under the LBA, you will earn 24 units and be eligible for membership upon completion of principal photography and receipt of Guild-determined “Written by” or “Screenplay by” credit.
In both of the circumstances above, if your contract calls for an upfront (i.e., non-deferred) payment, you must provide proof of payment as a condition of earning membership units.
4. If you (or a family member) serve in some other capacity on the project (i.e., as an owner or manager of the Company or a performer in the film), the following rules apply:
- Employment: If you are employed to write a screenplay on the project, you will earn 24 units and be eligible for Current membership upon delivery of the final draft and commencement of principal photography.
- Sales: If you sell a screenplay under the LBA, you will earn 24 units and be eligible for Current membership upon completion of principal photography and receipt of Guild-determined “Written by” or “Screenplay by” credit.
Again, in both of the circumstances above, if your contract calls for an upfront (i.e., non-deferred) payment, you must provide proof of payment as a condition of earning membership units.
5. What benefits will I receive from the WGAW?
- Working under a WGA contract brings many benefits. To name just a few:
- Contractual protections including minimum salaries, residual payments, and creative rights
- Excellent pension and health benefits upon qualification
- Fair procedures for determining credit
- Grievance and arbitration procedures for resolving contract disputes, with legal representation provided by the Guild
- Collective strength in the bargaining process
- Education opportunities
- Legislation and outreach
- Membership in the most prestigious professional association of theatrical, television, and new media writers
6. What does it cost to join the WGAW as a Current or Associate member?
Current members pay a one-time initiation fee of $2,500 for Current membership. (Payment plans are available.) They also pay dues calculated as 1.5% of gross writing income, plus $25 per quarter.
Associate members pay an annual service fee of $100 for a maximum period of three years.
7. What are my other responsibilities as a WGAW Current or Associate member?
WGAW members are bound by the Guild’s Constitution and Working Rules, whose goal is to ensure that the WGA Minimum Basic Agreement remains the industry standard for professional screen, television, and new media writers. In accordance with Working Rule 8, you agree only to accept employment from, and option or sell literary material to, WGA-signatory production entities.
8. What is the difference between being an Associate and a Current member of the Guild?
Current members enjoy all of the rights of full membership, including the right to vote in Guild elections and contract votes, run for Guild office, participate in Guild activities, and attend Guild membership meetings. Both Current and Associate members receive Guild mailings, communications, and publications, and may serve on certain Guild committees, use the Guild’s Script Registration Service at a reduced rate, attend screenings at the Writers Guild theater, become members of a credit union, and participate, if otherwise eligible, in any employment access program administered by the Guild.
If you have questions, please contact WGAW Independent Film at (323) 782-4731 or e-mail: WGAW Independent Film.