What should a writer do if asked to leave written material with a producer or studio after a pitch? The answer is simple: Don’t do it.

Screenwriters are frequently asked by producers and executives to leave behind or email written materials after initial meetings. This is referred to as prewriting because it is work created by a writer before being hired and can include a pitch deck, outlines, notes, and treatments.

“All writers need jobs, and especially when it’s early in their careers it can feel like they have to do whatever it takes to get hired,” said screenwriter and WGAW Vice President Michele Mulroney. “Our ideas and the execution of those ideas are the core currency of writers. A signatory company’s request for a writer to leave behind physical pages, pages via email, or pages via transcript/recording not only becomes a gateway to free work but also exposes the signatory company to potential liability under the MBA. Guild rules do not allow for uncompensated work. Hard though it may be, members need to know that they simply don't have to give in to these leave-behind requests.”

“Everyone wants to be a pal, to be obliging. But this is a situation where helping out is hurting yourself and other writers,” said screenwriter and WGAW former Board Member John August. "If you hand in your pages, you make it harder for every other screenwriter to say no when they’re asked. Things don’t change unless we all say no.”

Recently, the Guild has heard reports of the Zoom transcription function being used to record and transcribe writers’ pitches delivered over Zoom. Recording a person without their consent is unlawful. If you are asked to consent to such a recording, you should refuse. Transcribing a writer’s pitch is the equivalent of demanding that a writer leave written material behind.  

If you are asked to leave behind work prior to employment, or if you believe that your Zoom pitch has been transcribed or recorded, please contact Shelagh Wagener for assistance. The Guild may, in certain circumstances, be able to pursue compensation on your behalf.