Written Into The Picture

Report highlights the need for heightened visibility of screenwriters at film festivals

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Research into the visibility of screenwriting at Film Festivals around the globe has highlighted the need for the screenwriter’s role in filmmaking to be given a higher profile according to an authoritative survey.

The report, launched on Saturday, November 10, 2012 at the World Conference of Screenwriters in Barcelona, illustrated that only half of the film festivals surveyed invited screenwriters to the last edition of their film festival. Financial limitations and wider assumption of the public’s belief in auteurism were found to be key factors in prohibiting Festival’s from including more screenwriters.

Importantly, the survey acted as an awareness-raising exercise to which festivals responded positively; with many seeking to include screenwriters and screenwriting events in further festivals.

The study has led to a greater understanding of the needs and priorities of Festival organizers and opened up a debate within the industry about how these meet these with the mission to educate audiences about filmmaking.  40% of festivals surveyed declared a mission to educate audiences about the process of filmmaking: this report begins a campaign to ensure that the role of screenwriting in the creation of film is clearly articulated at film festivals, impacting on both the industry and public.

The 159 screenwriters surveyed underlined the importance of film festivals for networking, career development and understanding international audience reaction to their work. “Coming from a small country with a small industry, film festivals are hugely important to me,” wrote award-winning screenwriter Jan Forsström.

The research found many Film Festivals around the world to be demonstrating best practice in celebrating the work of screenwriters with Festivals in North-America and the UK proving more supportive than festivals in continental Europe of screenwriting. The top three festivals surveyed for their commitment to exploring screenwriting were:

  • Edinburgh International Film Festival, UK
  • Sofia International Film Festival, Bulgaria
  • Hong Kong International Film Festival, HKSAPRC

The report is based on a global survey of film festivals and screenwriters across five regions of the world, sponsored by the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds and the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe.

Read the full report.

For more information please call the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain on 020 7833 0777.

The commissioners of this report are the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG) and the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) who represent more than 55,000 writers working in film, radio and television on five continents.

Film Festival Checklist

A mutual goal of the IAWG and FSE is to broaden the festival spotlight usually cast on directors and actors so that more than the edges alone illuminate writers. Whether Guilds refer members as speakers, or are approached to be sponsors, there are several low to no cost measures that may be negotiated, or at least mentioned, which will increase the writers’ status at such events.

Here is a checklist for Guilds to consider:

  • Request that writers be credited in the festival catalogue, in print and/or online. After inclusion is established, placement in relation to other professionals (directors, producers, cast, etc.), cross-referencing and online searchability may be addressed.
  • Ensure the film submission forms provide a writer category and provide a space for writer contact information. Festival organizers may simply use forms that exclude the writer.
  • If directors’ biographies are listed, ask for writers’ biographies to be included. Of course, multiple writers may be involved, but film companies sometimes address that aspect in their other written materials.
  • Request that writers be provided credentials (badges) and receive tickets to the films they have written. Seems like this would be fundamental – but it isn’t!
  • Request that writers be allowed to attend the same events as directors and/or producers. If there are “filmmaker liaison” staffs or offices, ensure writers are brought to their attention and made welcome.
  • Ask that writers who are writer/directors and/or writer/producers and/or actors on films be introduced as such. Do not limit this request to festival organizers, programmers and other staff, as writers who perform multiple functions on a film may themselves overlook the writer moniker. It is a good idea to email participating writer-hyphenates prior to the festival to encourage them to be introduced as a writer/_______.
  • Ask the Festival organizers that writers be introduced at the screenings, and questions and answer sessions, regardless of whether they are “hyphenates.
  • Ask if you can obtain the filmmaker or writer database to do your own outreach to the writers (whether they are members or not). This may not be feasible for confidentiality reasons, but it does not hurt to ask!
  • Site major festivals from the 2012 survey that have taken steps to include writers and site them to other festivals. Of course, these other festivals would want to be equally progressive toward writers, wouldn’t they?
  • If you want to formalize parity, here is suggested language:
  • “(Festival) in consideration of its relationship with the (Guild) and in recognition of the collaborative nature of filmmaking, agrees to exercise best efforts in according writers parity with producers and directors in all (Festival) advertising, publicity, articles, literature, publications, programs, website and onscreen, and to inform all relevant (Festival) personnel of this agreement to give equally prominent credits and acknowledgments to writers.”

For Writers and Their Representatives: Creative Rights

The Writers Guild of America Theatrical and Television Basic Agreement (“WGA-MBA”) provides Creative Rights guidelines for contractually covered films that screen at United States film festivals or premieres.  Writers and/or their representatives who are negotiating contracts outside of the terms of the WGA-MBA should familiarize themselves with these guidelines as they are an excellent example of the kinds of protections that writers can secure for themselves.

Examples of WGA-MBA creative rights provisions that can be included in your contract are:

  • writer credit(s) must appear in advertising and publicity in parity with the credit given to the director or producer
  • writer information (ie. filmography) to be included in the project’s press kit/advertising materials
  • writer entitled to a set visit (this could provide the writer with an opportunity to be interviewed for the film’s press kit etc.)
  • writer must be invited to attend the domestic premiere of their film and receive per diems for travel and accommodation expenses.

If you would like further information on the WGA-MBA Creative Rights provisions, please contact the WGAW Creative Rights Department at 323-782-4741. Please note that the WGA-MBA is subject to change during WGA-MBA negotiations.


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