Writers Guild Seeking Members’ Views on Potential Talent Agency Conflicts

Leaders of the Writers Guild of America are considering renegotiating the guild’s agency franchise agreement and are asking their 10,000 members for their views.

The issue has gained prominence in recent months due to Hollywood’s two largest agencies — WME and CAA — aggressively moving into production. Variety reported on Feb. 13 that the issue has the potential for conflicts of interest that arise when the same company represents the creative talent on one side of the table and is the employer on the other.

The practice, known in industry jargon as double-dipping, was expressly banned by the Screen Actors Guild for nearly 60 years. SAG members voted down a revamp of the master franchise agreement in 2002, leaving the union without oversight of many of the major agencies.

The WGA West sent out the message to members Friday, which opened, “The Board of Directors invites you to a membership meeting this month to give us your input on a vital issue. The Guild has a contract with the Association of Talent Agents that governs how agencies represent writers.  The contract has not been renegotiated for 42 years and is completely out of date. The Guild is considering renegotiating the contract to update its terms and ensure that agencies represent the interests of writers.”

It said members could benefit from new or revised provisions in the agreement including:

— Addressing agency conflict of interest inherent in production and packaging.

— Requiring WGA scale plus 10% to charge commission.

— Requiring agency cooperation to submit all contracts and invoices so the Guild can carry out effective MBA enforcement.

—  Incentivizing increased agent advocacy for writers on TV/digital staffs, including fighting for title and compensation.

— Requiring agents to protect writers from free writing, one-step deals and sweepstakes pitching.

— Prohibiting referrals to jobs where underlying rights have not been secured.

The first meeting is set for March 10 at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills followed by a March 14 meeting at the Sheraton Universal and a March 20 meeting at the Beverly Hilton.

 

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