The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents have concluded their sixth day of bargaining...it went mediocre.
ATA executive director Karen Stuart said Thursday evening, “We had an extensive dialogue with the guild today...We presented its leadership with our formal counterproposals in a draft agreement, and we hope they will follow up in good faith to move this process forward.”
While these talks are encouraging, all that seems to have come from them are counterproposals from the ATA that aim to refute and find common ground on the WGA's code of conduct. This is especially disheartening, as the writers are firmly not backing down. The WGA just gave temporary authority to Managers and Lawyers to negotiate, effectively eliminating the need for an agent during these times. If they made those changes permanent, it would shift the entire industry.
Here are some of the ATA's proposals to the WGA for a new agreement:
1. An Agency shall be permitted to receive compensation from persons other than a Writer in connection with a packaged television (including OTT and other internet-delivered serial motion pictures) program. If an Agency receives compensation from, or in connection with, a packaged television program computed on a basis other than a percentage of the compensation paid to the Writer client of the Agent involved with such packaged television program, then the Agent shall receive no commissions on the compensation of the Writer for that Writer’s writing services or literary materials supplied to such packaged television program.
2. In the event the Agency receives compensation for a packaged television program as described in (B)(1), the Agency shall also receive no commissions on the compensation of any other Writer client of the Agency for his or her services on the packaged television program.
3. An Agent shall be permitted to procure employment for a Writer on a packaged television program so long as:
a. The Writer is the sole initiating element of the package, and the Writer consents to the program being packaged;
b. The Agent adds a Writer as an element of an existing package, and the Writer consents to participation in the packaged television program; or
c. The Agent adds a packageable element to an existing television program where the Agency had not previously received package compensation, and the Agent informs all Writer clients staffed on the television program of the new package as soon as reasonably practicable after the package is in place.
4. An Agency will provide a Writer designated to be a packageable element of a packaged television program with the agreement containing the terms of the Agency’s package agreement.
5. A Writer shall have the right to know all facts reasonably necessary to making an informed choice as to whether to participate in a packaged television program.
6. Prior to submitting a Writer to a packaged project (i.e, a project where the Agency has already been granted a packaging fee at the time of submission), an Agent shall:
a. Inform the Writer of the existence of the package;
b. Advise the Writer that she/he may choose to be submitted to the packaged project; and
c. Receive the Writer’s consent to proceed with such submission, but only after informing the Writer of the foregoing.
7. Absent the Writer’s specific authorization, no Writer’s agreement or pitch will be delayed due to agency package negotiations.
Read the ATA’s full set of proposals here.
The other key piece in all this is agency affiliations with production companies. Basically, will agencies be arguing with themselves over compensation, which could negatively affect the writer trying to make more money?
The ATA had these proposals on the matter:
1. An Agent shall be permitted to represent a Writer in connection with the engagement by or sale of rights to an affiliated entity, so long as, prior to the submission of such Writer by the Agency for such engagement or sale of rights:
a. the Agent informs such Writer of the existence and nature of the Agency’s relationship with such affiliated entity;
b. the Agent advises such Writer that the Writer has no obligation to be submitted to or accept engagement by or sale of rights to such affiliated entity;
c. the Agent advises the Writer of his or her right to have the material or services offered to other bona-fide production entities simultaneously with offering the material or services to the affiliate;
d. the Agent advises the Writer that the Writer may seek independent counsel in connection with the applicable project, at any point in the process prior to the Writer entering a transaction with an affiliate; and
e. the Writer, after being informed of the foregoing, gives consent to such submission.
2. An Agent shall not be permitted to represent a Writer in connection with the engagement by or sale of rights to an affiliated entity unless:
a. the Agent reasonably believes that such engagement or sale of rights is in the best interests of such Writer;
b. the terms of such engagement or sale of rights are negotiated in good faith and on an arms-length basis;
c. the Agency and affiliated entity are each in compliance with the following:
i. the individuals primarily involved in the day-to-day operations of the Agency are different than the individuals primarily involved in the day-to-day operations of the affiliated entity, and vice versa;
ii. the Agency, including any individual primarily involved in the day-to-day operations of the Agency, does not participate in any of the affiliated entity’s decisions regarding the engagement of or sale of rights other than in the Agency’s capacity as a representative of its clients consistent with the fiduciary duties to such clients;
iii. the Agency maintains the confidentiality of its clients’ confidential information from such affiliated entity, in the same manner it maintains the confidentiality of such information from an unaffiliated entity; and
iv. the Agency creates and makes available a written conflicts policy reflecting the above, and has annual training on conflicts for all employees.
3. No Writer shall be required (formally or informally) to work with an Agent’s affiliates. In the event that a Writer advises the Writer’s Agent that the Writer does
not want to be submitted to, or enter into an engagement by, or sale of rights to, an affiliated entity, the Agent shall follow the Writer’s directive, and such election by the Writer shall have no detrimental impact on the Agency’s representation of such Writer.
4. An Agency or Agent may not use the fact that a Guild investigation involves an affiliate of the Agency as a basis for its refusal to cooperate in such investigation.
Where are we now?
The WGA votes on March 27th on a proposed Code of Conduct that would prevent both practices mentioned above. The feeling in the WGA is that unless the agents get rid of packaging and internal fees, the writers will walk from their agents en masse. The ATA has until April 6th to find an agreement with the WGA. That's when the current agreement expires.
What's next? Explore the Writer v. Agency Debate
A 40-year agreement is about to come to an end. And the future of writer representation hangs in the balance. The WGA and ATA are going 12 rounds over the Artists' Manager Basic Agreement, a document signed into existence in 1976 that outlines the basic tenements of how Agents and Managers should represent writers.
Last year, the WGA decided that based on data and testimony collected that agreement needed a serious revamp. Hollywood does not look at all like it did in 1976, and the rise of agencies, packaging fees, and digital has created murky waters. The Association of Talent Agents, or ATA, was approached by the WGA to start a new negotiation based on these grievances.
Read the article to get the full scoop!