DGA, SAG-AFTRA, WGA Scramble to Keep Residuals Flowing During Coronavirus Pandemic

Hollywood’s creative guilds have been working overtime to keep residual checks going out to members during the coronavirus crisis.

Even though most of the staff members of the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America West have been working remotely, the guilds have stepped up efforts to maintain the flow of funds.

DGA president Thomas Schlamme and national executive director Russell Hollander told members on March 25 that in anticipation of the current “stay at home” order that’s been instituted, the residuals department (and staff from other departments) worked around the clock to fast-track thousands of residuals checks worth tens of millions of dollars “so you would have this important source of income in your hands immediately.”

“As additional checks are delivered, the team is continuing its incredible work to turn them around as quickly as possible,” they added.

Most of the staff at the DGA headquarters in Los Angeles are now working remotely. Some staffers at the Writers Guild of America West are also still working at headquarters on Fairfax Avenue to keep residuals coming.

The WGA West reported in July that collected residuals in 2018 jumped 7.2% to $462 million, with TV residuals jumping 10% to $307 million as new media residuals surged 16.5% to $76.5 million. New media residuals were a major gain in the WGA’s 100-day strike in 2007-08. Film residuals went up 1.1% to $155 million.

As for SAG-AFTRA, about 60 of the Los Angeles employees are still working on getting residuals checks out. They processed about 95,000 checks last week. It’s a job that’s impossible to do remotely because of the size of the equipment, according to a spokesperson.

SAG-AFTRA announced nearly a year ago that it had launched an automated residual payment process that became available to its 160,000 members as of May 1, replacing paper residual checks. The union mailed more than 10,000 paper checks a day at that point.

David White, national executive director of SAG-AFTRA, praised the employees for stepping up.

“Even with the increasing concerns about Covid-19 in Los Angeles, our staff has eagerly taken on the challenge of getting members and their families as many residuals checks as possible during this time,” he said. “I could not be more proud of this team who, along with their colleagues around the country, are responding to member issues from coast to coast. They are showing their true colors through their courage, good humor and deep concern for our membership.”

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