The Writers Guild of Canada is responding to a Change.org petition initiated by BIPOC TV & Film on Friday, June 5, 2020 at approximately 9:30 EST on behalf of Story Coordinators in the Canadian industry (also known as Script Coordinators).
By definition, and according to our conversations with many showrunner members of the WGC, our governing Council, and meetings we have held with Script/Story Coordinators in different production sectors in the past, this position should not be considered or treated as a writing position. Although Script/Story Coordinators may verbally contribute ideas in the story room among their numerous other tasks, they are not engaged in writing script material. In the event a script coordinator is engaged to write, they must receive separate writing contracts for that work under the WGC Independent Production Agreement (IPA) as writers.
The WGC, as well as members in story departments across the country, recognize the tremendous value of the work Script/Story Coordinators do in the support they provide to the writers’ room and the production, the long hours, effort and passion they put into fulfilling their roles. However, as much as we appreciate them, and understand that some of them are also our members by virtue of having had writing contracts, that does not change the fact that the Script/Story Coordinator position is not a writing position.
After carefully reviewing the petition, the guild requested a call with BIPOC Film & TV to understand the context and the urgency of the petition. That call was held on June 12, 2020 with WGC Executive Director Maureen Parker and WGC Councillors Alex Levine and Marsha Greene (who is also the WGC Diversity Committee Chair), taking part with representatives from BIPOC Film & TV. On the call, the WGC reviewed the factual problems with the demand to cover this group, including:
The Writers Guild of Canada is voluntarily recognized by the CMPA to cover the work of writing (which also covers story editing and showrunners who also write scripts, bibles, development proposals and concepts as defined in the IPA). The Guild is also certified federally and in Quebec under Status of the Artist of the Artist Acts to cover writers in the film and TV sector.
From the WGC federal certification, we are to encompass:
- a) an author of a literary or dramatic work in English written for radio, television, film, video or similar audio-visual production including multi-media; or
- b) an author who adapts or translates literary or dramatic works originally written in a language other than English…
The guild explained to BIPOC Film & TV that jurisdiction over this position already lies with IATSE 411, which has covered it since 2011, and has terms and conditions for this position in their collective agreement. WGC staff consulted with IATSE staff to confirm that this is their position and that if a Script/Story Coordinator is not already an IATSE member, non-union Script/Story Coordinators can be permitted and/or become members with IATSE 411. IATSE also covers this position in the United States of America. The WGAW’s MBA does not cover script coordinators and writers assistants. "We support the movement to improve working conditions for Hollywood assistants, but their job duties don’t include writing services under the jurisdiction of the WGAW," (WGAW Spokesperson quote.)
We hear that members and others want Script/Story Coordinators to be covered. We also know that an underlying issue here is lack of writing work, through fewer positions in story departments, much shorter series runs (i.e. six to eight episodes in a season), leading members to take other work, including as Script/Story Coordinators. The WGC has been committed for the last 20-plus years to getting levels of Canadian production increased, through interventions at the CRTC, meetings with politicians in Ottawa, working with a lobbyist and being extremely active on the policy front. Our Executive Director is primarily focused on these efforts.
WGC statistics show that over the past five years, the following broadcaster groups have reduced their scripted TV content by these significant percentages: Bell - 83%, Corus - 65% and Rogers - 61%. Although we initially thought Netflix and Hulu might be our saviour, they have also reduced their level of Canadian content production since they came onto the scene.
The WGC has worked diligently on this issue and we are awaiting adoption of the new Broadcasting Act that will be presented in the fall by the federal government to address the free-fall in Canadian production.
Going forward, we will be communicating with screenwriter agents to make sure they know that the Script/Story Coordinator position is covered by IATSE, and we will remind our showrunners that they can issue WGC writing contracts to story coordinators if they are writing. Additionally, the showrunner and/or producer are also able to contract individuals as story editors as defined under the IPA. This may include Script/Story Coordinators who are polishing scripts, or punching up jokes, for example. The production entity is responsible for the contracting of all positions on the set, including writers and Script/Story Coordinators. The WGC encourages our membership, particularly showrunners and senior writers, to ensure that Script/Story Coordinators receive a writing contract for any writing services they provide.
By: Dennis Heaton, President; Andrew Wreggitt, Vice-President; Alex Levine, Treasurer; Michael Amo, Councillor – Atlantic Region; Marsha Greene, Councillor – Central Region and Chair, WGC Diversity Committee; Anne-Marie Perrotta, Councillor – Quebec; Lienne Sawatsky, Councillor – Central Region; Maureen Parker, Executive Director