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WGA Reports Dismal 2008

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The Writers Guild of America West has posted its 2009 annual report, released to members earlier this summer, on its website, and the numbers paint a bleak picture of the fiscal year that ended March 31.

According to the report, overall member earnings in 2008 fell to $801.4 million, a 17.9 percent decline from the previous year's record total of $976.3 million. The union attributed the sharp decrease to "the effects on our industry of the general economic downturn" as well as the 2007-08 work stoppage, which "accelerated some feature film income into 2007 and reduced the length of the 2007-2008 television season." Only 4,163 guild writers reported income in 2008, down 9.7 percent from the previous year.

The WGA called the stockpiling of feature films prior to the strike, which lasted from Nov. 7, 2007, to Feb. 12, 2008, a "major factor" in especially low employment numbers for big-screen writers, who earned only $361 million in 2008, 30.7 percent less than in 2007. The number of writers reporting earnings in film dropped by 14.1 percent to 1,716. The guild also blamed the declines in writers' TV income ($437.5 million, down 3.1 percent from 2007) and employment (2,929 writers, down 11.2 percent) on the six weeks the strike stretched into 2008, but claimed that the overall economy was also a factor. "For the second half of the year, we found that while the WGA series rebounded, the companies responded to the economic downturn by reducing the size of TV series staffs," the report said.

The guild also reported on residuals, with two categories sticking out. Money earned by writers from prime-time network TV reruns fell by 2.6 percent to $25.82 million, "due to fewer repeats on the networks." Meanwhile, writers actually earned 11.3 percent more than in 2007 from home video rentals, or $47.45 million. That news comes at a time of growing industry concern over a shrinking home-video market.

The full report can be viewed at the WGA website.

SAG Ballots in the Mail

Ballots for the Screen Actors Guild's national officer and board elections were scheduled to be mailed to members Aug. 25. Ballots for the New York and Hollywood division elections were also slated to be sent that day. All ballots must be returned by Sept. 24, the day they are scheduled to be tabulated.

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