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WGA survey: Screenwriters are gravitating to the small screen

September 25, 2013|By Richard Verrier
  • At the Governor's Ball, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, center, and Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad" celebrate Gunn's win for supporting actress in a drama series and the show's win for outstanding drama series.
At the Governor's Ball, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, center, and Bryan Cranston… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)

Screenwriters who once viewed television as inferior to the big screen increasingly are giving the small screen more props. That's one of the key takeaways from a survey by the Writers Guild of America, East, which polled about 20% of its 4,000 members who write for film, television and new media.

Although more than half of the respondents said they wrote feature films in the last five years, nearly 90% said they intend to seek guild-covered work in television in the next year.

"In other words, screenwriters plan to explore opportunities in TV,''  the guild said in a statement. "Members view television as a more writer-driven medium than feature film, and a growing slate of compelling, creatively satisfying shows is being produced for the small screen."

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The survey's findings underscore the commercial and critical success of such Emmy Award-winning TV series as Netflix's "House of Cards" and AMC's "Breaking Bad."

Most of the writers who answered the survey also performed other work in the entertainment industry in the last five years.  About 45% said they have also produced; nearly 30% have directed; and about 18% have acted. 

The survey also found growing numbers are writing for new media: 17% of the respondents indicated they have been paid to write for digital media, over which the guild first won jurisdiction in the 2007-08 strike. 

When asked to select the biggest challenges WGAE members will face in the next five years, half of the respondents cited the decreased number of feature films being made. Many also lamented the dearth of development deals in feature film and limited revenue from the re-use of shows online and on digital devices, the guild said.

“What I’ve learned the last few years is that I have to be open to more kinds of work -- feature, TV, cable, etc. -- and then work much harder to get the job,” said one anonymous respondent in the survey.


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