What happens when a DG member has their work produced on Broadway?
First of all, congratulations are in order! Those forty buildings in mid-town Manhattan called “Broadway” generated over $1.7 billion in gross revenues in 2017-18, with nearly an equal amount grossed from Broadway tours across the country. But what share of that is yours? And what are your contractual rights and responsibilities with regard to Broadway productions?
What is APC certification?
Since the Dramatists Guild’s first contract in 1926, DG members who are having their work produced on Broadway are required by our bylaws to use the Guild’s “Approved Production Contract” (or “APC”) to license their rights to producers, and then have those contracts certified by the Guild. The DG certification process verifies for members that their Broadway contracts are consistent with the Guild’s recommendations for such types of agreements, including the right for an author to own the copyright in their work, to have approvals over all changes and the hiring of all artistic personnel, as well as the rights to be billed, to be present, and to be paid. It also reserves certain rights to the author, including foreign territory production rights, stock and amateur licensing, and audio-visual rights. If an APC is not certified, the contract will terminate.
What are Guild assessments?
The Dramatists Guild established the authorial rights expressed in the APC only after many years of determined and concerted effort and it has worked hard, and at great expense, to maintain these rights over the past century. So, in order to support the Guild’s ability to continue its work, Broadway writers have agreed to pay the Guild a small percentage of their royalties earned from their “first-class” productions (the bylaws currently provide for dues of 2% for plays and 3% for musicals). These dues are called “assessments”.
Writers that have had the great good fortune and opportunity to have a Broadway production understand that their assessments do not just pay for the rights reflected in the APC and its certification process, including ownership and control of their work. These assessments also give writers the opportunity to pay it forward, to help all the writers who have yet to get their big break and for the generations of dramatists yet to come. In fact, over 71% of our dues income comes from the assessments paid by Broadway writers, representing less than 1% of our membership; without that income, the DG would cease to exist.
Are only certified contracts subject to Guild assessments?
In 2005, to accommodate the ever-changing landscape of Broadway, the full membership of the Guild voted to amend its bylaws and expand the range of productions which would be subject to assessment. Now, in addition to certified contracts, members are assessed on ALL their first-class productions in New York City, whether or not a production is produced pursuant to an APC. This includes any Tony Award-eligible production, whether or not it’s designated “first-class” pursuant to the contracts of the various unions involved with the production.
The current definition of assessments reflects the advantages accruing to Guild members by the Guild’s successful and ongoing efforts to maintain standards for the production of plays and musicals on Broadway, providing benefits to dramatists regardless of whether such works are produced on any particular Guild contract. In fact, Guild standards have been so thoroughly adopted at every level of production in America that they have become “generic,” thereby benefitting non-member writers as well (these writers are sometimes referred to as “freeloaders”). But the standards can only be maintained if the Guild continues to operate as the bulwark against encroachment on authorial rights.
How does a member pay assessments?
An “Assessments” provision is included in each APC certified by the Guild, which describes the nature of the assessment and how it should be paid.
Members pay assessments to the Guild by forwarding a letter of direction to the general manager of the production, directing them to make direct payments to the DG. The Guild sends a member a letter of direction for their use, either during the certification process or, if it’s for a production that doesn’t require certification, then no later than six weeks prior to the first performance on Broadway.
If, for some reason, either the member or the producer do not wish to use a letter of direction, members can pay their assessments directly to the Guild and the DG will bill the member on a quarterly basis. When self-assessing in this way, a member needs to remember that assessments are based on the member’s gross royalties (prior to the deduction of any commissions a member may pay to a third party, like an agent) and are payable on the upfront advances and options.
What happens if a member does not pay assessments?
The refusal to pay assessments is a serious matter and can lead to a member’s expulsion from the Guild. If a writer is suffering from a financial hardship, however, any member can discuss the matter with our Director of Membership and accommodations can be made. You can contact the Guild Membership department and find other useful information at our website: www.dramatistsguild.com.