With a deadline looming in less than 36 hours, Hollywood agents have rejected the most recent proposals from the Writers Guild of America and asked the scribes to resume talks.
Karen Stuart, executive director of the Association of Talent Agents, issued the request at midday Friday to WGA West executive director David Young.
“We received your latest proposal, which is identical in all material aspects to the last proposal that is unacceptable to us,” she said. “The time is long past for simply pushing paper across the table. Let us know when you and your committee are prepared to have a negotiation that addresses all of the outstanding issues.”
The WGA responded to Stuart’s missive by saying the agents need to make a better offer: “We’re focused right now on meetings with individual agencies and will meet with the ATA when they make a meaningful reply to our last two offers.”
The WGA and ATA are in a standoff over the rules governing how WGA members are represented by agents. The two sides, which have not met since March 26, face a looming deadline of 12:01 am PT on Sunday, April 7, when the WGA’s agency franchise agreement expires.
At that point, the guild will require its 15,000 members to fire their agents if they have not signed the WGA’s new “Code of Conduct,” a scenario that’s been unnerving Hollywood in recent days. The WGA’s two key demands are included in the Code of Conduct — elimination of agency packaging fees in television and banning ownership interest in production companies owned by affiliates of CAA, WME, and UTA.
The WGA’s membership backed up its leadership in recent voting with more than 95% support for the code, which goes into effect on Sunday. No major agencies have signed the code yet.
Speculation has arisen that the WGA will not negotiate until after Code of Conduct goes into effect, resulting in the mass firings of agents. The hope would be that smaller agents will then agree to the code since they would not be taking clients from one of the Big Four agencies.
“If an agency signs a client from CAA or WME at that point, it would no longer be poaching,” said an attorney who reps dozen of writers. “That would give the WGA some leverage when the negotiations resume with the ATA.”
Several sources have told Variety that many WGA members are privately expressing skepticism about the WGA’s leaders asserting that managers and lawyers can handle agenting duties once the agents are fired. The ATA has insisted that it’s illegal for managers and lawyers to act as agents in California.
Sources are also skeptical that the WGA will follow through on its repeated threats to file a lawsuit against CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners, alleging that the agencies are engaged in an illegal conflict of interest by acting as both agents and producers. Those sources note that filing such a lawsuit would be take a significant amount to time to resolve and be quite costly.