Ritesh Sidhwani joins Screenwriters Association’s move for fair pay
With the dialogue around writers’ contribution to films and their remuneration gathering steam, the Screenwriters Association SWA has come up with a definitive plan to determine minimum wage. According to the plan, a writer’s pay will depend on the scale of the production. “If there is no script, there is no film and no job in the industry. It’s the blueprint on which the entire project is based, and therefore there has to be a certain value to the script, which will encourage people to write better,” explained Anjum Rajabali, Senior Activist, Screenwriters Association.
He goes on to point out that the structure will not just facilitate better pay for writers, but will also help producers get better scripts. “Today, the industry needs a good script, and to get that you must give incentives to the writers,” he asserted, adding that the association has even found the first filmmaker to adhere to the guidelines – Ritesh Sidhwani, who owns a production house with Farhan Akhtar.
While wondering aloud why writers are underestimated in the ecosystem, Sidhwani said, “I am not a writer, but I know it is a demanding job. We already have a system in place, wherein writers over the last few years have had the option of entering into a profit sharing agreement with us. An individual can decide if he/she wants a higher base fee or a lower amount and coupled with 2 per cent share on the profit. ‘Fukrey’ writers got around Rs 70 lakh to Rs 80 lakh, and they had a profit-sharing agreement with us,” he revealed, adding that he and co-owner Farhan Akhtar had come instantly onboard with the SWA proposal.
The filmmaker believes that the move will remove the stigma attached to the profession. “This is a reasonably good amount of money and the slabs ensure that after spending 5 to 6 months on a script, the writers will be paid a decent amount, which can be taken higher based on merits,” he added.
Pay scale is not the only issue that SWA is addressing in the guidelines which, also outline specific terms that must be mentioned in a writer’s contract to ensure due credit for their work. Story, Screenplay, Script and Dialogue have predominantly been a collective grey area so far, which lacks clear demarcation. To combat this issue, the Association has devised a section in the guidelines.
“The minimum basic contract guarantees credit for script, screenplay, dialogue and story separately,” Anjum Rajabali informed, adding that the new plan also discourages arbitrary termination of contract.
Next up, Sidhwani intends to push Producers Guild of India to make the guidelines mandatory to make the writers’ community more secure. “This is the basic criterion that everyone should adhere to,” the filmmaker concluded.