April 12, 2019

BREAKING: Writers Fire Agents After they Refuse to Sign Code of Conduct

After an extended deadline and negotiations, the WGA and ATA failed to come to a renewed agreement. so as of April 13th 2019, every agent that fails to sign the WGA code of conduct will be fired. 

The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents have failed to reach an agreement on a new franchise agreement, setting the stage for unprecedented upheaval in the film and TV industry. Thousands of writers now are ordered by the guild to fire their agents, and in the coming days, expect both sides to carry out their threats to sue each other. So that's kind of insane. 

If you want to read a great breakdown of the conflict, check out IndieWire's FAQ on the situation or our summary from then the conflict began. You can also familiarize yourself with the WGA's complaints with this video they released: 

Negotiations were ongoing, but each side stuck to their guns and couldn't find common ground. So, with the future of Hollywood and Agents ready for a humungous shift,  The WGA released a new batch of instructions for writers:

“If you are represented by an agency that is not signed to the Code of Conduct, you must inform the agency that it may not represent you with respect to your WGA covered work until such time as it subscribes to the Code of Conduct. “You may not permit a non-franchised agent to represent you with respect to any future WGA-covered work, including deals that were first discussed but not completed before the implementation of the Code of Conduct. You are not prohibited from consulting or communicating with a non-franchised agent regarding other matters, including:

(a) Non-WGA-covered employment or services;
(b) projects or agreements completed prior to the implementation of the Code of Conduct;
(c) personal matters; or
(d) discussions urging the agent to sign the Code of Conduct.”

So without agents, how will writers get work? 

The WGA has implemented a Script Submission System so that its members can create profiles and upload samples, so showrunners and executives can find people to staff their projects. The WGA sent this letter to its members: 

 

“So what happens now?” the guild asked rhetorically. “In a strike situation, we all know that we are to refrain from crossing the picket line or writing for a struck company, and we’re asked to show our solidarity by picketing, which is the public and moral face of our dispute...In this situation there are two actions required of all members:  First, do not allow a non-franchised agent to represent you with respect to any future WGA-covered work.  Second, notify your agency in a written form letter that they cannot represent you until they sign the Code of Conduct....We know that, together, we are about to enter uncharted waters. Life that deviates from the current system might be various degrees of disorienting.  But it has become clear that a big change is necessary. We will not only stand together, we will stand up for each other, lean on each other. We can do this.”

What did the ATA say? 

the ATA fired back, sending their own letter to its members. Here's a snippet of their statement: 

“The WGA leadership today declared a pathway for compromise doesn’t exist,” said Karen Stuart, executive director of the ATA. “Agencies have been committed to reaching an agreement with the WGA but, despite our best efforts, today’s outcome was driven by the Guild’s predetermined course for chaos...The WGA is mandating a “Code of Conduct” that will hurt all artists, delivering an especially painful blow to mid-level and emerging writers, while dictating how agencies of all sizes should function,” she added. “We came to the negotiating table in good faith and put forth comprehensive proposals providing choice, disclosure, transparency, shared revenue and a significant investment in inclusion programs. Unfortunately, not to our surprise, the WGA did not accept our offer, did not provide counterproposals and refused to negotiate further. We’re prepared to continue to fight for the best interests of writers and all artists.”

What happens now? 

As of midnight PST, Writers will all fire their agents. There are some smaller places that have signed the Code of Conduct, but none of the big four (CAA, WME, ICM, and UTA) have signed. And it doesn't seem like they plan on it now. There was no indication when negotiations might resume.

This is a brand new day in Hollywood. Lawyers and Managers will now be primary negotiators for Writers and we will try to keep you updated as that continues. 

 

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