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TV Credits

TV Credits refer to a list of acknowledgments of those who contributed to the creation of a television program.  The Writer’s Guild of America provides writers with a plain language guide to the credits determination process and practical tips writers should know to help protect their interests in credits.

The “Written by” credit is used when the writer/ writers is entitled to both the “Story by” credit and the “Teleplay by” credit.  This credit shall not be granted when the source material of a story nature already exists. However, writers of biographical, newspaper and such other factual sources may not be necessarily deprived of such credit.

A “Story by” credit is granted under the following circumstances: 1) when the story was written under employment under Guild jurisdiction; 2) where the story was purchased by a signatory company from a professional writer, as defined in the Minimum Basic Agreement; or 3) when the teleplay is based on a sequel story that was written under the Guild’s jurisdiction.

Story credit may not be shared by more than two writers.  If a second writer is to share the story credit, his/her contribution must be substantially more than the contribution of the first writer.

A story may either be written in story form or it may be contained within other literary material, such as a treatment or a teleplay, to receive a “Story by” credit.

Credit for story authorship under “Television Story by” is appropriate when the teleplay is based upon some source material and a story, and when the story is substantially new or different from the source material.  More than two writers may not share Television Story credit.

A teleplay is comprised of individual scenes and full dialogue or monologue including narrations connected to them, and other significant narrations and descriptions connected to that.  A “Teleplay by” credit is proper when there is source material of a story nature, or when the writer(s) entitled to “Story by” credit is different than the writer(s) entitled to “Teleplay by” credit.

Generally, credit for teleplay cannot be shared by more than two writers.  However after credit arbitration, the names of three writers or names of two writing teams may be used. This limitation applies to all dramatic teleplays except multiple-story teleplays, revues, variety and audience participation shows.

The original writer or “first writer” of a teleplay shall be entitled to teleplay credit unless a “second writer(s)”contributes substantially all four elements listed below to a degree that the “first writer’s” contribution in each of the four elements is essentially eliminated.  A “second writer(s)” is any writer or writers who render writing services on a teleplay after the “first writer.”

“Second writer(s)” shall share teleplay credits when their contribution to the teleplay consist of changes of a substantial and original nature that go to the root of the drama or comedy, characterization and content of a teleplay substantially contributing more than the “first writer.”

Where there is more than one “second writer” and where they contribute substantially more to the teleplay than the “first writer,” but no one writer contributes substantially more than the “first writer,” then the “second writer(s)” who contribute most substantially to their combined contribution shall be entitled to the teleplay credit.

In each case the arbiters read any source material and all literary material provided to them in connection with the development of the final teleplay in order to assess the contribution of each writer to the final shooting script.

Arbiters must take into consideration the dramatic construction; original and different scenes; characterization or character relationships; and dialogue to determine whether a writer is entitled to the teleplay credit:

The Arbitration Committee determines which of the above elements are decisive to the overall values of the final teleplay in each particular case.  A writer may receive credit for a contribution to any or all of the above-listed elements.

The “Adaptation by” credit is appropriate in certain unusual cases where a writer shapes the direction of a teleplay construction without qualifying for “Teleplay by” credit.  “Adaptation by” credit may be used only in some special cases as a result of arbitration.

In Variety or Audience Participation Shows the credit customarily given to writers of program is either “Written by” or where a writer has contributed material but is not entitled to share in “Written by” credit, an additional credit may be given for such material as “Special Material by”

These credits may be determined as per Appendix A, Television Schedule C, of the Minimum Basic Agreement. There is no limitation as to the number of writers who may share such credits.

“Narration” refers to the material used to explain or relate sequence or action excluding promos or trailers.  Credit for narration is accorded only to a writer other than the writer of a teleplay or story and teleplay.

For a film assembled in story sequence, when there is no material or a story has only been written at the time the narration writer is employed, the credit used will be “Narration Written by.”

Where a story and teleplay have already been written at the time the narration writer is employed and if the narration totals to above eight minute duration, the appropriate form of credit is “Narration by.” This credit shall become final or effective after credit arbitration approval.

For Films not assembled in story sequence and where no material has been written at the time the narration writer is employed, the form of credit shall be “Written by.”  Where a story only has been written at the time the narration writer is employed, the appropriate form of credit is “Narration Written by.”

Since fewer names and fewer types of credit enhance the value of all credits and the dignity of all writers.  No other form of credit that is not expressly described in the WGA Manual shall be used.   Any other credits shall be used only upon receipt of a waiver from the Guild.

“Production executive” is any employee of the company customarily hired for, or engaging in, activities considered part of the managerial phase of the company’s business activities. They include producers, directors, story editors, story supervisors, or any other person who represents management in dealing with writers.

Schedule A of the Minimum Basic Agreement provides for Automatic Arbitration Provisions for determination of credits.

Production executives may not receive credit on the basis of work done as a member of a writing team, except on such terms as may be approved by the Board of Directors.

Any writer who received writing credit under the Guild’s jurisdiction in connection with a prior version of the motion picture is a participating writer on a remake. They are entitled to participate in the credit determination process and are eligible to receive writing credit and the material written by a prior writer(s) shall be considered literary material.

Before a credit question has been submitted to arbitration, a writer may withdraw from writing credit for personal cause, such as violation of his/her principles or mutilation of material he/she has written.  On disagreements from other writer-contributors, the question shall be referred to arbitration.  In such cases the Arbitration Committee shall base its determination on whether there is such personal cause.

Once credits are determined by arbitration, a writer may not withdraw his/her name from credit. He/she may, after notification to the Guild, shall withdraw from any other form of credit.

Withdrawal from writing credit will result in loss of any and all rights accruing from receipt of such writing credit. Use of a pseudonym rather than withdrawing from credit will not result in such forfeiture.

Under the Minimum Basic Agreement the Guild has the right to protest credits proposed by the Company. It may act irrespective of the wishes of any of the participating writers to ensure proper application of the credit rules.

The order of writers’ names in a shared credit may also be arbitrated.  Generally, the most substantial contributor gets first position credit.  Disagreements among the arbiters as to order of names, or in circumstances where the Arbitration Committee determines that the credited writers’ contribution is equal, then writers’ names shall be placed chronologically.

The Minimum Basic Agreement provides that any writer who is entitled to credit on the screen and who has been paid, or is guaranteed payment of, less than three (3) times the applicable minimum provided for in the Minimum Basic Agreement shall have the right to be accorded credit on the screen, in advertising or otherwise, in a reasonable pseudonymous name.  The writer’s rights, including but not limited to compensation of any kind, shall not be affected by use of such pseudonym.

Before using a pseudonym a writer must register it with the Guild by sending a written notice to the Membership Department with the writer’s Social Security number, if any. A pseudonym may not duplicate the name or pseudonym of another writer or the name of a public figure.

The Television Credits Administrator shall be empowered to obtain the true name and identity of any writer listed by pseudonym on any Notice of Tentative Writing Credit submitted to the Guild. Whenever a company or writer refuses to reveal the true identity of such a writer, such writer listed by pseudonym shall not be entitled to receive writing credit, and credit shall be awarded to the other writers as the Arbitration Committee or the Television Credits Administrator determines.  In the event of conflicting Claims of authorship, literary material always prevails.

Once screen credits are finally determined and material changes are made in the literary material, either the Company or a participant and the Guild jointly may reopen credit determination through a claim within 48 hours after completion of the writing work claimed to justify the revision of credits; in such a case the procedure for the original determination of credits is followed.

No writer shall claim credit for screen authorship on any motion picture prior to the time when the credits have been determined, and no writer shall claim credits contrary to such determination

Inside TV Credits