For the first time since the strike, in 2010 WGA scribes found less work and made less money than in the year before, according to the guild’s annual report. The number of writers reporting earnings fell 4.5% to 4,244, while the total amount earned dropped 2.9% to $928 million – representing decreases of 200 writers and close to $30 million in earnings, respectively. As studios continued the trend of favoring presold titles such as comic books, novels and remakes over original feature scripts, there was not only a smaller pie last year, but fewer pieces for screenwriters.
The numbers were buoyed somewhat by the TV sector, in which working writers only dropped 1% and pay actually went up almost 3%, to a record $532.1 million. But the number of feature writers reporting earnings fell by over 11%, and earnings dropped almost 10% to $392.7 million.
The highlight of the report was the increase in residuals collected for both film and TV writers last year. WGA members collected $315.8 million in reuse payments in 2010, an increase of 10% over 2009 and the first time the figure has broken the $300 million mark. The increase was largely attributed to a massive surge in Pay TV residuals, which more than offset a slight drop in home video residuals for the year. TV writers again led the field, accounting for some $160 million in total resids, vs $142 million for feature scribes – representing increases of 12.8% and 6.1%, respectively.