Home-video residuals

The home-video residual formula established in the mid-1980s before the video market took off has been a thorn in the guilds' sides ever since. The formula is variously characterised as being based on the 20% royalty on video sales that goes to the producer of a film, or as excluding 80% of video revenues attributed to packaging and other costs. Guilds see the formula as antiquated, but they have never managed to get it updated. For the WGA, says David Young, the formula is "still a very important issue, and we will take another serious run at it in this negotiation". The Amptp is prepared to discuss the issue, says Nicholas Counter, but only in the context of a radical new approach to recoupment: "We believe we shouldn't have to pay any residuals on home video because we have not recouped our costs by that window. Ninety-nine percent of the movies out today have not broken even by the time they're distributed on cassette and DVD."


Under its new leadership, the WGA is pushing for jurisdiction over areas of film and TV writing not covered by its contracts with employers. In traditional television, the areas include animation and reality programming. Last year, the guild helped 12 reality writers file a California class-action suit against eight TV networks and production companies; but it lost its struggle to wrest jurisdiction over reality hit America's Next Top Model from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union. The next jurisdiction frontier is new digital platforms. As the internet becomes the TV of the future, says WGA West's David Young, "We have to have jurisdiction over that, and we don't yet have it."

Product placement

Last year, SAG, the WGA and the Amptp had some heated clashes over product placement in TV shows. The unions staged protests calling for creative talent to have more control over product integration. The Amptp retorted with an open letter to the WGA warning the union not to "underestimate our resolve to keep the entertainment industry healthy and competitive in today's rapidly changing and highly challenging global marketplace". Going into this year's contract talks the WGA, says Young, is "trying to protect the quality of the content". The Amptp, says Counter, sees product integration as "another way to offset the deficits we incur in making movies and television programmes. This is a revenue stream that is clearly important to be able to produce these programmes."