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Talent Agencies Increase Packaging Fee Offer to WGA as Talks Continue

The Writers Guild of America and Association of Talent Agents are expected to continue discussions on a new proposal that the ATA put on the table Friday at the first meeting between the sides in nearly two months.

The sides held a negotiating session at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles. The ATA has offered to increase its revenue-sharing proposal from 1% to 2% of the agencies’ haul from TV series packaging, according to the WGA. 

Friday’s gathering was the first since the talks over the issue of packaging fees cratered on April 11. The WGA filed suit against the industry’s four largest agencies — WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners — the following week.

The sides are battling over the WGA’s effort to bar agents who represent guild members from receiving packaging fees on TV series from production entities, a longstanding industry practice, and a ban on the expansion of the parent companies of the Big Three agencies into the production-distribution arena. 

CAA co-chairman Bryan Lourd opened the session with a lengthy statement. Sources with first-hand knowledge said WGA members listened to lengthy presentations on the elements of the ATA offer but there were no questions about the proposal asked by WGA negotiating committee members.

In a message to members sent Friday after the meeting wrapped, the WGA described the ATA proposal as “wide-ranging and complex.” The tone of the message suggested that the hostilities between the sides may be cooling down. The WGA asked the ATA for specific contract language in order to respond to the latest proposal.

The fight between the guild and agents has been running hot in recent days and has engendered bitterness within the creative community. The agency battle has divided many writers who are frustrated at the guild’s edict that members fire any agents who do not agree to adhere to the guild’s newly implemented Agency Code of Conduct.

“Although there was cause for concern, including a revenue sharing proposal that instead of 1% is now 2%, the presentation was wide ranging and complex,” the WGA message stated. “We have asked for contract language on their proposals in order to formulate the appropriate response. As we’ve stated, whatever solution we find, it will have to address conflicts of interest and realign agency incentives with those of their writer clients.”

Key components of the ATA proposal are:

An increase from 1% to 2% in the offer to share revenue from series packages with lower-level writers that typically do not receive any backend compensation on successful shows. The specifics of how those participants would be identified and how the money would be parceled out are still unclear.

A more detailed plan for transparency and consent mandating that all writers affirmatively say yea or nay to having a show packaged. The proposal also outlines the obligations that agents have to perform before claiming a package.

On the issue of writers working for agency-affiliated production entities, the ATA members commits to shopping all projects on the open market before setting up a deal with an affiliated company. The goal would be to determine the level of organic interest in the marketplace to help set financial terms.

The WGA has been pushing the agencies to send over all employment contracts for guild members. The agencies say they won’t do so unless clients consent to such sharing. But the new proposal offers a new wrinkle in which agencies offer to share information on employment for writing work specifically (the lines blur in the case of showrunners and writer-producers), but still only with client consent.

The ATA has vowed to establish a $6 million inclusion fund to support job creation and talent development

The ATA proposal sets a five-year time frame for the agreement. It also spells out rules for an arbitration process that are different than those proposed by the WGA.

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