If you had to think of the most under-appreciated people in the entertainment industry, writers are typically the first to come to mind. In a world where actors and directors earn the lion’s share of the credit for the success of a film or television show, viewers tend to forget that the show would not even exist without the people who took the time to write it. It’s frustrating and pretty sad that an industry that is filled with so much creativity tends to rarely honor the people responsible for that creativity.
With all that in mind, it comes as no surprise at all to learn that TV companies have been implementing a new practice that makes writers’ lives even more difficult. Television companies have found a way to hire two writers for the price of one. In an effort to take advantage of young, often desperate writers, television companies have created “paper teams.” To put it simply, paper teams force two writers to work together as a team for half the pay.
The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) has been investigating paper teams, stating that it is a clear violation of the WGA contract. Sadly, they have still not been able to prove that the practice is being implemented by companies. Trying to prove what is voluntary and what is not has been a difficult process in WGAW’s investigations.
WGA contracts state that a team of two writers may voluntarily choose to work together, but it is a violation for an employer to force them to work together .The guild provides a more in-depth statement on writing teams on their website:
“You should recognize that you have a choice in accepting work as part of a writing team. If you question the validity of the team collaboration, it is strongly recommended that you do so by contacting the guild’s credits department at the time the writing is being performed. The guild will not divulge your objection to the other person in the claimed team, or to the employer, without your consent.”
Throughout WGAW’s investigations, they have been interviewing writers who have supposedly been forced to work under the stressful conditions of paper teams. Conducting their interviews with writers since 2012, WGAW is hopeful it will be able to file a group claim against companies using paper teams. However, there is a general concern from writers that taking legal action against their former employers can create a backlash against them, and make it difficult to find work from companies who are weary of WGAW’s regulations and investigations into their practices.
According to the WGA, television companies, concerned about the investigation, have supposedly been cutting back on paper teams, hoping to avoid scrutiny and legal action.
So, as a writer, I completely sympathize with the people struggling to find work in a industry that is quick to forget the involvement of the writer. Paper teams, to me, are a despicable practice used to not only force writers to work together against their will for low pay, but to keep writers fearful of retribution from companies quick to fire them for voicing concern. With few options available, it seems that WGAW’s investigation is the only way this problem can possibly be solved at this time.
What about you reader? What do you think of “paper teams” and WGAW’s investigation into them? What methods do you think the Guild might implement to fight back? Let us know in the comments below.