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Writers Guild Seeks to Renegotiate Agreement With Agents

Amping up the argument over possible conflicts of interest, the Writers Guild of America has notified Hollywood agents that it wants to renegotiate its 42-year-old franchise agreement.

“After months of member outreach, the WGA West board and WGA East council have voted unanimously to reopen the Guilds’ 42-year-old agency agreement,” the WGA West said in a email to its members.

The WGA West held three meetings in March, during which their leaders accused Hollywood’s top talent agencies of being engaged in conflicts of interest in how they represent writers.

The issue has gained prominence in recent months due to Hollywood’s two largest agencies — WME and CAA — aggressively moving into production. As Variety noted in a Feb. 13 cover story, 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 WGA material distributed to attendees at the meetings asserted that agencies with a financial interest in shows may have less incentive to get the best deals for writers. The WGA said that’s because agency compensation is taken out of the show’s budget and its profits in that scenario — rather than the traditional commission on writers’ earnings.

The WGA told members Friday that it has sent the Association of Talent Agents a 12-month notice to terminate the existing deal, known as the Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement. “We also made proposals that address the concerns members have discussed with us,” the guild said.

ATA executive director Karen Stuart told Variety that she has received the guilds’ “Notice of Election to Terminate” and said in response, “It’s unfortunate that the WGA has taken this step without ever having reached out to ATA to discuss any of the issues it raises in its proposals. That said, the ATA will do what it’s always done: constructively engage in a dialogue with the Guild to address any legitimate concerns.”

The terms and conditions of the current agreement will remain in effect through April 6, 2019. Here is the WGA West notice:

Dear WGAW Member,

After months of member outreach, the WGAW Board and WGAE Council have voted unanimously to reopen the Guilds’ 42-year-old agency agreement.

Today the Guilds sent a 12-month notice to terminate the Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement of 1976 (AMBA) to the Association of Talent Agents. We also made proposals that address the concerns members have discussed with us.

The terms and conditions of the current AMBA remain in effect through April 6, 2019.

We’ll keep you updated regarding any significant developments. There is preliminary information available on the WGAW website, and you can send questions or concerns to
agencyagreement@wga.org.

In solidarity,
Board of Directors, Writers Guild of America West

David A. Goodman, President
Marjorie David, Vice President
Aaron Mendelsohn, Secretary-Treasurer

John August
Andrea Berloff
Angelina Burnett
Patti Carr
Zoanne Clack
Courtney Ellinger
Jonathan Fernandez
Chip Johannessen
Glen Mazzara
Michele Mulroney
Zak Penn
Luvh Rakhe
Meredith Stiehm
Patric M. Verrone
Matthew Weiner
Nicole Yorkin

 

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