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Writers Guild Agrees to Resume Meetings With Talent Agencies

The Writers Guild of America has agreed to resume negotiations with Hollywood’s talent agents, six weeks after talks between the two sides cratered.

WGA West President David A. Goodman announced Wednesday night that the WGA had approved a proposal by UTA co-president Jay Sures to get back to the bargaining table. Sures had made the offer late Wednesday afternoon.

“Thank you for your offer to meet, which I accept on behalf of the WGA,” Goodman said. “I do want to make clear that we responded on April 12th to your most recent proposal. We continue to believe that there is a deal to be made that aligns agency interests with those of writers. We look forward to hearing what you have to say.”

No date was specified for the resumption of talks, which center on the guild’s effort to impose new rules on talent agents. Sures had suggested to Goodman, who had been a UTA client, that talks resume next week.

“If this dispute is truly about addressing Packaging and Affiliate Production, then we are ready to get back to the table with you,” Sures wrote to Goodman. “We are open to concepts of true revenue sharing and have already committed to requirements of explicit client consent and overall transparency and accountability. To be clear, we have publicly stated that if a writer does not want his/her show packaged, we will honor that. Let’s put an end to this unnecessary and extremely costly litigation that is a great detriment to your membership and the agencies.”

The WGA and Hollywood’s largest talent agencies have been at war since April 12, when the guild instructed its nearly 15,000 members to fire agents who refuse to sign on to the newly implemented Agency Code of Conduct. More than 65 boutique agencies have signed the code along with 30-agent Verve, which gave the WGA a major boost when it signed on May 16.

The WGA and Association of Talent Agents conducted a series of acrimonious negotiations in February and March to hammer out a deal for a new agency franchise agreement, the first revisions to the agreement in more than 40 years. The guild aims to ban the practice of talent agencies receiving packaging fees on TV series that are paid by the production entity.

The WGA filed a lawsuit on April 17 against WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners, asserting that packaging fees are an inherent conflict of interest. The WGA amended the lawsuit earlier this week to add a fraud charge to its claims.

The WGA maintains that packaging fees and the growing practice of talent agency parent companies investing in production-distribution assets as a violation of agents’ fiduciary duty to clients. The guild has said the ATA’s offers to make packaging more transparent and optional for clients, among other offers, fall short of addressing the problem.

The wholesale firing of talent agents by writers came just before the television staffing season, forcing writers to figure out on their own how to get hired on television shows. Many turned to social networks and the guild’s Staffing Submission System.

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