With the clock ticking over and time running
out, studios are stockpiling projects to avoid
suspension of work. Hollywood writers are poised
to strike work by 31 October if their list of
demands are not met with.
existing 3-year contract with producers ends
31 October, so 1 November could be day one of
Writers Guild Of America (WGA) is demanding
a doubling of the pay they receive from the
sales of DVD, raising minimum pay for writers
and in addition a share of income from programmes
streamlined on Internet by TV networks.
strike could have a major impact as a municipal
study indicates a loss of $6.9 billion to the
economy of Los Angeles city alone.
Closer home, the film writers in India are also
a discontented lot and are in complete support
of their Hollywood counterparts.
Here, there are two bodies representing the
fraternity - the Film Writers Association (FWA)
was formed in 1954 while the Writers Society
of India (WSI) has been in existence since the
last five years.
The WSI was a body formed to protect writers'
interests on the issue of royalties, something
which the FWA, being governed by the Trade Union
Act, could not address.
Till 1950, in every film producing company,
a director and writer were permanent employees.
That's why till then, there didn't arise any
need for an association of either directors
Soon after the contract system was introduced
with directors and writers, the old relationships
between writers and directors began to crack,
leading ultimately to disputes between producers
and directors as well as between directors and
director could no longer work with the writer
of his choice nor could a writer offer his creation
to the director of his liking.
cum director Anurag Basu says, "Indian
writers are underpaid and not respected within
the film fraternity. Very few writers get their
due. The whole community of producers spends
time and energy on actors not writers. This
thought process is very warped. First they find
the actors, then directors and then writers.
One can get a good script only if one finds
a good writer. If a writer is better paid he
will have a sense of security. This in turn
will give the industry good scripts.
when one goes to any film awards function it
is noticeable that writers are neglected and
they are not included in the prime category.
I surely support the demands of the Hollywood
writers and am looking forward to the day Indian
film writers get their due respect."
in the film industry are keenly watching the
on-going battle in Hollywood as they feel that
the outcome could in a way affect their future.
Rahi, Secretary of the Film Writers Association
is in total support of the strike and says,
"We are aware of the strike and are in
complete support of their demands. Though we
are not actively doing anything about it, we
are in solidarity with them. Alas, if we too
could go on a similar strike here."
Rahi, who has penned nearly 30 film scripts,
adds that the biggest issue for writers is that
of Royalty. "At any given point of time
I see at least one of my films being telecast.
And I am not paid a rupee by way of Royalty.
When we can't get Royalty, forget demanding
for rights from sales of DVDs. Even the law
is not on our side. We need a strong voice to
make a representation in Parliament. Unfortunately,
this has been our weakness. The FWA has over
7,000 members. Every year we resolve many disputes.
In fact, very recently, when both the story
and dialogue writers of Nanhe Jaisalmer
were not paid, we intervened and they were paid
Rs 2.5 lakhs (Rs 2,50,000) by the producer though
there was no written contract."
protect the rights of the writer is the first
directive in the FWA Constitution. The members
are seeking an amendment in order to include
rights by way of Royalty. Rahi says, "We
are not organized enough to opt for written
contracts which would protect our rights. Moreover
with the corporate culture coming in, some writers
are being paid astronomical fees but without
receiving any credits. And in addition they
are made to sign a contract relinquishing all
their rights. In fact the time has come for
us to learn a lesson from Hollywood.
minimum wage structure does exist even for film
writers in India but it can be brought into
force only in a dispute. If it is proved that
a producer has not paid the writer, then he
is made to pay according to the minimum wages
stipulated in the Act.
is only a matter of a day before the fate of
writers in Hollywood is to be decided, but the
murmurs of discontent amongst their Indian counterparts
may soon turn into a roar.