A Profile of the Scripwriters Guild of Israel
The Scriptwriters' Guild of Israel represents the vast majority of professional scriptwriters who write for film and television in Israel.
The Guild's board of directors, which is comprised entirely of volunteers, in collaboration with the administrative staff, deals with a variety of issues related to the employment of scriptwriters and writers' rights in Israel. At the same time we try to preempt potential damage to the scope and scale of drama production in television, and to the public funding of Israeli cinema.
Over the past decade we have witnessed the emergence of new television networks, changes in ownership of the cable and satellite channels, and the accelerated development of the internet and mobile communications markets. However, despite the great promise for new opportunities for scriptwriters, these developments have been somewhat disappointing. The hope that the multiplication of platforms would necessarily mean prosperity for all and bring creativity to flourish has proven false.
Furthermore, Israel's commercial channels currently work under a franchise agreement with the state, whereby each channel is granted a permit for a limited period (usually ten years). In return for the exclusive right to generate revenues from advertising, the channels are obligated to broadcast a certain quota of original drama and documentary that has to meet a pre-agreed budget. In practice, these "rules of play" have been broken time and again, and we have had to work a great deal to hold the different broadcasters to their written, lawful commitments. Unfortunately the state regulatory mechanism does not enforce the law, and has failed to force the networks to fulfill their signed agreements. This state of affairs has presented us with an extremely complicated challenge, and finally brought about a general strike of 3 days in January 2009, organized, orchestrated and headed by "MaMa".
Writers Unite! - The Establishment of "MaMa"
Over the past few years the Scriptwriters Guild of Israel has been collaborating closely with other industry trade unions and guilds: Producers, Directors, Technicians, Screen-Actors, Editors and The Documentary Filmmakers Forum, in a joint interest and action group called "MaMa" – (Hebrew abbreviation for "The United Headquarters of Workers and Artists in Film and Television Unions").
The challenge of tackling the dangerous bond between Israel's leading media corporations and the Israeli government, has led us to the recognition that we must collaborate with other professional guilds since our interests concerning the 'big issues' were identical. We have historically enjoyed a longstanding collaboration with the Directors' Guild, but at the end of 2008 our front line expanded to include the entire industry.
On October 2008, at the break of the economic crisis, we established "MaMa" to coordinate our activities. At that time the networks, exploiting the crises to avoid their legal commitments, had stopped all productions and sent thousands to unemployment. The rage that swept everyone working in the field made us unite with all the relevant trade unions and guilds, and together we started a fight to restart the canceled productions. A variety of public protests were staged: demonstrations in front of the networks, storming the television studios during live broadcasts and breaking into the meetings of the Regulator's committee. Together we became an influential force and factor in the Israeli House of Legislatures and started to attend the relevant committees in parliament, to make sure our united voice would be heard and taken into account in Israel's parliament and judicial system.
In 2008, HOT- Israel's largest multi-channel cable platform - simply decided to stop paying royalties. This was a declaration of war against all writers, as all other broadcasters were waiting to see whether Hot could pull it off. The Scriptwriters Guild and the Directors Guild organized dramatic protests to get back what was rightfully ours. We held demonstrations that led to a "contract strike", and to activity in parliament aimed toward the legislation of a new copyright law. When the legislation of the new copyright law was completed, the principle that copyright belongs to the creator of the work, was anchored in Israel's book of laws.
The Scriptwriters Guild aims to be the watchdog of the regulatory bodies of Israel's film and television market. We demand representation for writers and directors, and therefore we have insisted on the inclusion of at least one representative in each such body (the Council of the Second Authority for Television and Radio; the Israel Broadcasting Authority Plenum, the Cable and Satellite Council, the Cinema Council; foundations, etc.) Our representatives within these bodies influence their operations and decisions while making processes open to the public eye.
Public Broadcasting in Israel (IBA) has been paralyzed for years and seemed to be headed towards total collapse. Huge budgets have been allocated to an inflated body that hardly produces anything, with a deficit caused by years of failed management. For a long time Israel's lawmakers have failed to reform the field of public broadcasting.
The Scriptwriters Guild alongside MaMa not only demanded that a viable and independent public broadcasting agency will be reinstituted, but filed an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court in the hope of finally forcing the IBA to meet its lawful obligations in transferring 36% of its annual budget towards original programing. The implementation of the reform within the Israel Broadcasting Authority was meant to restore the "reason d'être" of public television- a true alternative to the commercial channels and a home for high quality Israeli dramas and documentaries.
Increasing Writers fee in the Film Funds
Israel's film industry is supported by public funding. The funds have historically disadvantaged the scriptwriter in comparison with the producer and the director. Therefore the Scriptwriters Guild aims to put an end to this discrimination.
Our struggle to equalize the scriptwriter's fee with that of the director and producer has led to a significant change. The scriptwriter's fee was raised from 5% to 6%, and we will not stop until our fee is equalized completely. As for the profits division, the writer's share was raised from 5% to 7.5%, the same share in profits as the director and the producer.
The Guild also holds professional workshops on a variety of topics related to writing and developing scripts for film and television.
The Guild holds the annual scriptwriters' conference in which Guild members meet and discuss topical issues. In addition, we hold professional workshops and lectures on editing screenplays, adaptation, submissions to the funds and networks, pitching, copyright, short films etc. The Guild also organizes writing groups, cultural events and meetings with prominent writers.
Membership in the Guild grants members discounts at various cultural events, such as the annual film festivals in Jerusalem and Haifa, Docaviv, International Women's Film Festival, as well as discounts at various businesses and shops that are related to the trade.
But above all, membership in the Guild grants one the pride of belonging to a community of talented writers, men and women who will not take no for an answer and will always fight to protect their rights and to further promote the profession of the scriptwriter in Israel.
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The Scriptwriters Guild of Israel (R.A)
1 David Hamelech Blvd. Tel Aviv, 64953