To highlight the work of all writers employed on movie projects, members of the Writers Guild of America recently approved the establishment of an “Additional Literary Material” screen credit for feature films.

Acknowledging the Work of All Writers

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, the WGA can offer an “Additional Literary Credit” to writers during the credit-determination process. The credit will provide recognition to the work of writers under a Guild contract, who were previously unable to receive feature film screen credits.

“Feature writers tend to have shorter, less complete and less accurate resumes than television writers with equivalent work histories,” the Guild said in an explainer and frequently asked questions document for members about the proposed change. The Guild’s Screen Credit Review Committee estimated that in 2020, about 185 writers that worked on films that the WGA determined credits for did not receive credit for their work, and would have with an “Additional Literary Material” credit in place.

The credit is not retroactive and will eventually be featured on IMDb and the WGA’s “Find a Writer” directory. The WGA must negotiate requiring credit inclusion at the end crawl of movies when their existing Theatrical and TV Basic Agreement expires in May. For now, it will be up to the discretion of the studios as to whether to include it or not.

Damaging or Beneficial to Writers?

The credit did spark debate among Guild members. Those opposed to the measure suggested it would damage writers rather than benefit them, and according to one article, others argued that it could potentially “open up writing credits to abuse by employers and individuals in other above-the-line roles, who could seek the credit for friends or talent that do minimal work on a script.”

A statement from the WGA West’s Inclusion and Equity Group, maintained the credit would help marginalized writers.

 “We believe this credit will correct an ongoing injustice and give proper on-screen credit to ALL writers who are employed to write on features. But it will be of particular help to underrepresented writers.

Writers of color, women writers, older writers, disabled writers, and LGBTQ+ writers are often hired late in the screenwriting process to do dialogue polishes, targeted character work, or “authenticity passes.”  These contributions usually don’t meet the high percentage thresholds necessary to achieve “Written by”, “Screenplay by” or “Story by” credit.  And with no other options available, these writers’ names are simply erased by the arbitration process.”

The committee, in a message to members, noted that the “Additional Literary Material” credit will be available on projects on which credits become final after December 31, 2021, and that “Our committee anticipates issuing guidance concerning implementation of the change before the end of the year.”