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White males still dominate film, TV writers

Despite gains by women and minorities in recent years, most people who write TV shows and movies are still white males, according to a study released Tuesday by the Writers Guild of America.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Despite gains by women and minorities in recent years, most people who write TV shows and movies are still white males, according to a study released Tuesday by the Writers Guild of America.

Writers between the ages of 41 and 50 are the highest paid, although writers under 40 are being hired at a much faster rate, according to the study commissioned by the WGA, west.

Women TV writers have virtually eliminated the gap in median earnings with their male counterparts. That gap stood at nearly $10,000 in 2004 but narrowed to about $300 in 2005, the last full year for which data was available.

In films, however, the gap has doubled.

The study showed that women earned $40,000 less than males in 2005, up from $20,000 in 2004. Women writers’ share of overall industry employment remained flat at 25 percent in 2005.

The data for the “Whose Stories Are We Telling?” study came from employment files, including reports of earnings, maintained by the WGA to determine member dues. The data was analyzed by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

There are some gaps in the data.

TV salaries, for instance, only include the first $5,000 per week, thus excluding higher-paid staff. The information also includes only WGA members, thus excluding people who work on reality TV shows, animated shows on cable TV, comedy-variety shows and much of feature film animation.

The study showed that in 2005, the minority share of TV employment was 9 percent, a one percent drop from 2004. The guild said it feared the gap could widen with last year’s merger of the WB and UPN networks, which resulted in the cancellation of a number of shows featuring blacks and Hispanics.

In film, the overall share for minority writers remained unchanged at 6 percent, where it has been since 1999.

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The pay gap for minority TV writers increased by $6,000 between 2004 and 2005 to $19,849. In film, it increased by $2,000 to $10,871. In 2003, minority writers actually earned more than their white counterparts, the guild said.

The outlook for older writers is more complicated.

Writers born after 1962 became the majority of all TV writers in 2005, the study showed. At the same time, writers between the ages of 41 and 50 were the highest paid TV writers.

Older writers are the highest paid in the film industry, although 55 percent of film writers in 2005 were between the ages of 31 and 40.

The WGA said it released its study in hopes of influencing employers as they ready their fall TV schedules.

The union is also poised to begin what are expected to be contentious contract talks with studios. The WGA contract expires in October.