LAST Friday, Persatuan Penulis Lakon Layar Kuala Lumpur dan Selangor (PENULIS) introduced new charges to ensure its members receive compensation for all proposals written for television and film. In a public announcement on Facebook, PENULIS president Alfie Palermo announced the move as a solution to the mistreatment of local writers, who have never been entitled to fees for proposals requested by content producers.
Under the new rule, producers are to pay no less than RM300 for a telemovie, no less than RM500 for a supertelemovie or drama series, and no less than RM1000 for a film. The fees are separate from the costs of scriptwriting, accessible via PENULIS’s cover letter from last month.
Setiap kali kami menulis proposal, ini diistilahkan sebagai KERJA, dan WAJIB BERBAYAR. Amalan tidak membayar untuk proposal merupakan amalan jahil, korup, dan cukup salah di mana ‘tidak ada kerja percuma’.
— Alfie Palermo, PENULIS
The writer’s association also explained that members cannot be held accountable for rejected proposals. According to PENULIS, producers as businessmen must start accounting for risk of rejection and the opportunity cost of writing a proposal.
Hoping to also curb plagiarism in local filmmaking, members are encouraged to provide copies of emails and sign a non-disclosure agreement with producers.
PENULIS reasserted taking serious action on production houses who defy the new ruling, stating that reports of wrongdoing will be sent out to media, the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS), and authorities. Companies who choose to ignore the charges will also be blacklisted.
The move comes after a long struggle for local writers to improve their occupational standards, still considered well below international levels. On top of having to deal with plagiarism, discrediting and unprofessional working arrangements, Malaysia’s screenwriters are often also given low wages and no royalties.
PENULIS is affiliated with UNI MEI Malaysia, a coordination of seven trade unions and two associations in the local entertainment industry.