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Talent Agents, WGA Achieve Progress in Second Round of Talks

Hollywood talent agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved some progress at their second negotiating session over agency regulations, according to sources close to the talks.

The two sides met Tuesday, two weeks after their first meeting resulted in both sides criticizing each other, followed by the WGA holding a trio of spirited membership meetings on the issue. Neither side issued a statement after Tuesday’s talks but sources told Variety that the session had dealt with substantive issues. No date has been set yet for a third session, however.

The meeting took place seven weeks before the current franchise agreement expires. During the past year, the WGA has been pressuring Hollywood’s agencies to revamp the rules for agents due to affiliates of Hollywood’s two largest agencies — WME and CAA — moving aggressively into production, creating 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 key WGA proposals would effectively end all packaging deals, in which agencies receive both upfront and backend fees, and bar agencies from any financial interest in any entity or individual “engaged in the production or distribution of motion pictures.”

Several presenters at the Writers Guild Awards show on Sunday at the Beverly Hilton expressed support for the writers in their negotiations with the Association of Talent Agencies. The WGA notified the ATA last April that it wanted to re-negotiate the 42-year-old agreement.

What’s unclear is whether members would be forced to drop their agents if the agencies are no longer covered by the WGA-ATA agreement, which will expire on April 6 if a new deal isn’t worked out.

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