Hollywood Agents Warn of Losses to Writers Without Packaging Fees

The bitter war of words between Hollywood agents and writers continues.

Agents are warning that the Writers Guild of America’s proposed elimination of television packaging fees will hurt writers to the tune of $49 million annually in commissions.

Sources close to the Association of Talent Agents said Monday that the L.E.K. consulting firm has estimated   that WGA members would have had to pay the additional $49 million during the 2017-2018 TV season if their projects had not been packaged. Writers do not have to pay 10% commissions to agents currently on packaged deals.

The report asserted that Hollywood writers, actors, producers, and directors would have been forced to pay a combined $111 million a year out of pocket during the 2017-18 TV season — were packaging to be eliminated due to shifting the commission burden from the studio to the artist.

A source noted that the WGA reported in 2017 it had achieved an additional $130 million for writers in its negotiations for a new master contract — which would have been wiped out if television packaging were eliminated.

David A. Goodman, president of the WGA West, said in response to the ATA report: “It’s good to see the agencies’ own study confirms that packaging is no risk to them. Now they should publicly disclose the amount they make each year from packaging profits.”

Earlier on Monday, the WGA issued report titled “Agencies for Sale,” which singled out Hollywood’s largest talent agencies, William Morris Endeavor and Creative Artists Agency, for allegedly soaring profits.

The reports were issued as the WGA and ATA head back to the bargaining table for a fifth day of negotiations, with an April 6 deadline for reaching a deal to revise the current rules governing how writers can be represented by agents. The WGA is holding a March 25 vote to implement a “Code of Conduct” for agents that includes eliminating agency packaging and ownership of production. Should an agency not agree to the code, writers would be required to fire their agent on April 7.

Agents have accused the WGA of making sweeping conclusions that are “entirely theoretical,” based on anonymous stories and without any statistical evidence to show that writers would be better off if packaging were eliminated.

The WGA has said the agencies’ arguments defy logic: “If an agency can successfully use writer power to negotiate packaging fees that take tens of thousands of dollars out of each episode’s budget and potentially millions on the back-end, why can’t it negotiate for this money to flow to writers in the form of higher episodic fees and better back-end? Packaging co-opts writers’ power to benefit the agency. We are simply asking agencies to exert that same power to benefit writers.”

More Film

  • Tokyo Director-in-Focus-at-Japan-Now

    Nobuhiko Obayashi set as Japanese Director in Focus at Tokyo Film Festival

    Indie director, Nobuhiko Obayashi will be feted as the director in focus at the Japan Now section of this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. The festival will give a world premiere to his “Labyrinth of Cinema.” Supporting his art by shooting commercials, Obayashi is an indie whose dreamy works have influenced numerous other directors in [...]

  • Jimmi Simpson Joins Russell Crowe Movie

    Jimmi Simpson Joins Russell Crowe Thriller 'Unhinged' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jimmi Simpson will play a key role in “Unhinged,” Variety has learned. He joins an impressive cast that includes Oscar-winner Russell Crowe and Caren Pistorius. Solstice Studios is producing the psychological thriller, which is currently filming in New Orleans. “Unhinged” centers on a woman named Rachel (Pistorius), who leans on her horn at the wrong [...]

  • David Crosby

    David Crosby Says New Documentary 'Remember My Name' Is Like 'Being Naked in Public’

    “It’s not easy. It’s hard being naked in public,” David Crosby, the legendary troubadour of classic rock, reflected at Tuesday night’s New York City premiere of “David Crosby: Remember My Name.” “I don’t know what to do here. There’s no guitars, no drums,” he laughed. Directed by newcomer A.J. Eaton and produced by the legendary [...]

  • Javier Bardem Dune

    Javier Bardem in Talks to Play King Triton in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Javier Bardem is in talks to play King Triton in Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. Harry Styles is also in early talks to play Prince Eric. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • UglyDolls

    STX Tries to Put Flops Behind It as It Searches for Star Executive, Fresh Capital

    After a series of film flops and an aborted initial public offering, STX Entertainment is battling mounting skepticism that it can survive in an increasingly unforgiving movie business. As it hustles to find $500 million in fresh capital, the company, which operates in the red according to financial disclosures, is simultaneously hoping to attract a [...]

  • Ryan Simpkins

    Ryan Simpkins Joins Fox-Disney's 'Fear Street' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Ryan Simpkins has joined Fox-Disney’s second installment of 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment’s “Fear Street” trilogy, based on the novels by R.L. Stine. Leigh Janiak is helming all three films. Previously announced cast includes Gillian Jacobs, Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Ashley Zukerman, Fred Hechinger, Julia [...]

  • MPAA Logo

    Motion Picture Association of America Hires Emily Lenzner as Communications Chief

    The Motion Picture Association of America has appointed veteran public relations executive Emily Lenzner as its executive VP of global communications and public affairs. She will report to Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin and oversee the trade group’s communications team in the U.S. and internationally. Lenzner will start Aug. 1 and be based at the MPAA’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content