Screenwriters and directors in Europe: Time for fairer remuneration

James Taylor of the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA) on its efforts to demonstrate to European lawmakers the challenges facing screenwriters, in order to create a better understanding of the working lives of audiovisual authors

ALCS is an active member of a number of European organisations, including the SAA, for which Barbara Hayes, Deputy Chief Executive of ALCS, serves as chair of the board of directors. Based in Brussels, the SAA focusses on the interests of screenwriters and directors, and since its inception in 2010 has been working with 29 societies across 22 different countries, including ALCS, to ensure fair remuneration for screenwriters and directors.

What is particularly striking is how screenwriters and directors across Europe are facing similar challenges at a time when the sector as a whole is doing well.

As many ALCS members will be aware, the European Commission (EC) recently published proposals to update European copyright. Lawmakers in the European Parliament and Council, despite being generally supportive of creators and their contribution to Europe’s culture and economy, do not necessarily understand the working conditions under which screenwriters and directors operate.

To aid their understanding, the SAA recently published an infographic and video, which builds on the many studies conducted across Europe to show just how challenging those working conditions are.


Another infographic aims to demonstrate the theory of how screenwriters and directors are paid, and, unfortunately, the current reality in practice.

second-infographic.jpg       third-infographic.jpg

What is particularly striking is how screenwriters and directors across Europe are facing similar challenges at a time when the sector as a whole is doing well.



What is happening increasingly across Europe is that authors are being asked to sign buyout contracts that completely disconnect them from any future revenues if their work goes on to be a success. This means no ongoing remuneration, for example, if Netflix picks up a series a screenwriter had worked on many years before.

We are doing our best to impress on lawmakers how the basis for copyright is to reward creators for their creative work and that buy out contracts don’t do this. Ongoing remuneration that is proportionate to actual exploitation in the market is what is needed. In addition, it is very difficult for individual writers or directors to be able to achieve this – which is why the work of guilds and organisations like ALCS is such an important part of any future solution.

To add meat to the bones of these infographics, we are now publishing individual blog posts on different elements of the issues they highlight. You can read our first post, which looked at the notion of an ‘audiovisual author’ across Europe, here.

There is a real opportunity to change things, but it will require pressure from all sides to convince the lawmakers that this is an urgent problem that needs fixing. Support our efforts by following us on Twitter (we’ll be using the hashtag #AVauthorsRemuneration) and Facebook, and help promote the infographics and our calls for fairer remuneration.

Written by James Taylor, Communications and Public Affairs Officer at SAA