Emeritus President David Williamson AO|
I joined the Guild when my first full length play was turned into the early Australian movie, Stork back in 1970. I had no idea of what kind of money I was entitled to, either as the copyright owner of the play or as a screenwriter. The Guild was very helpful in guiding me through the process and helping me become aware of the realities of being a working writer.
I became very actively involved in the Guild in the late seventies, serving as the President for thirteen years. During that time I was inspired by how selflessly and hard my fellow writers worked on behalf of their peers. Backed by an increasingly professional staff the Guild set about redressing the power imbalance between writers and the producers of their work. The Guild is about raising the awareness and status of the crucial creative work done by writers in film, radio, television and stage and ensuring that their crucial role is appropriately rewarded and accredited.
Without the truly epic struggles fought by the Guild on behalf of writers in its forty years history, writers for film, video, television, radio and stage would still be fragmented and exploited. It's a terrific organisation and I'm proud to be a member.
Every playwright has the right to apply to join the AWG, in either Associate or Full Member capacity. Given the constant and intensive lobbying to government, arts funding bodies, theatres and producers on our behalf, it is also the obligation of every playwright to maintain consistent and active membership in the AWG. As a writer you might work alone but the AWG exists so that you don't have to fight alone.
I applied to join the AWG as soon as I'd had my first professional production of a play back in 1982. As an actor I had belonged to Equity, so it was a logical step to want to be part of another collective body of fellow professionals.
Over the years I have experienced the AWG working relentlessly for improved conditions for writers. On behalf of playwrights, the AWG lobbies and negotiates with governments, funding bodies and theatres. It is constantly striving to maintain and improve theatre subsidies, playwrights' conditions and fees; it monitors and updates the Theatre Handbook; it alerts members to changes in conditions and contracts and offers legal advice and many other benefits. Whenever I receive a royalty cheque for 10% (a figure that has had to be defended in recent years) or whenever I sign a contract I know that it is only because of the vigilance of the AWG that I am able to get a fair deal. It is only because of the support of fellow professional AWG playwrights that I can have confidence that should I have to take action against a producer I won't have to do it alone.
Really all I want is to be able to write in peace. The AWG, and a decent pair of earplugs, allows me to do just that.
The majority of writers, script and story editors working today (which regrettably includes a small number who are not currently members of the AWG) are probably not aware of the history of the guild and the many battles that have been fought and continue to be fought on their behalf by the AWG.
Don't take for granted all the hard won gains that you enjoy today because there's always some bastard trying to take them away. And they will succeed unless we have a strong, viable Guild. In order to be able continue the fight for you and your rights, the Guild needs you to remain financial and to get involved.
It's Your Guild - Your Future!
Kelly LefeverBelieve it or not sometimes I've felt that way too. BUT. There is one undeniable reason I can think of to remain financial, or to become a part of the Guild. The AWG is the only body who are constantly involved in lobbying and advising the government on issues that affect your future. And most of the time you don't even know it's happening. Moral Rights, The Nugent Inquiry, Project Blue Sky...without a vigilant Guild suddenly overseas product could become local product, theatre loses yet more status and funding, writers would be afforded less credit for their work than the person who pays for it. Every time the status of the writer is under threat, the AWG goes in to bat. Alone there is no hope of our voice being heard. As a Guild we are effective. This is something we do well. And constantly.
What has the Guild ever done for me? If I had a dollar for every time I have heard that from writers who have never joined, or, alas, disheartened unfinancial members of the AWG I'd be comfortably sitting in a beach house somewhere. It seems that everyone has a reason not to belong. Somewhere along the way something has happened which overshadows the good that the Guild does and makes it seem unworthy. Sure, your agent will negotiate for you, and even get you legal advice if you need it, and no-one ever really believes that they will need industrial representation until they NEED industrial representation.
You don't learn enough, socialise enough and hear enough to warrant the professional development or social aspects of the Guild or you learn too much, see too many people have too much information to assimilate. And since you don't write for TV you don't need the series and serials agreement (or residuals. Remember when we didn't have them? Thanks AWG.) Whatever. Everyone has their reasons...and the professional development, social and industrial functions of the Guild somehow don't seem enough for you to warrant spending what little hard earned cash you have.
So even if you never use another Guild service, don't forget what the Guild accomplishes for you quietly every day and every year. For all writers. That's why no matter what else is happening, I stay a member of the Guild. That's why you should too.
I’m a member of the Guild because it works tirelessly to improve conditions for all Australian writers.
I’m a member of the Guild because it strives to protect the cultural and economic viability of the Australian Industry.
I’m a member of the Guild because it provides support, information and advice.
I’m am member of the Guild because it gives me a voice.