High-profile members of the Writers Guild of America, including Patton Oswalt, David Simon, Shawn Ryan, Michael Schur, John August, Amy Berg, Danny Zuker and many more have gone public with letters formally firing their agents in compliance with the WGA’s order to do so.
The order from the WGA came down Friday night after negotiations between the guild and the Association of Talent Agents broke down. The WGA has sought to reform the longstanding industry practice of agencies receiving packaging fees on TV series and movies, among other rule changes. Hollywood’s largest agencies have refused to sign on to the WGA’s new Agency Code of Conduct, setting up the mass split of thousands of writers from agents.
Writers were quick to take to social media to express their solidarity with the guild. The hashtag #IStandWiththeWGA was trending on Twitter Saturday as writers posted images of the termination form letter that the guild sent to members Friday night.
Oswalt fired UTA diplomatically, saying, “I have an amazing agency that represents me. But I have an even better guild that stands by me.”
Natasha Rothwell, a writer on “Insecure” and former writer on “SNL,” wrote that “this is about fighting for a system that works for all of us and not just for some of us.”
Thomas Schnauz, an executive producer on “Better Call Saul,” fired ICM Partners while saying, “My agent is a friend, he’s been to my wedding, and visited me in the hospital when I was in rough shape, but right now: #IStandWithTheWGA.”
Zuker, an executive producer on “Modern Family,” tweeted, “Look, I love my agent. I mean, I’m not IN love with him… although there was this one time at The Palm where the light danced in his eyes and… anyway I 100% support the stand my union is taking!”
David Simon, the respected showrunner who has been vocal in the WGA’s campaign against packaging fees, shared his letter to CAA with the message: “Union, union, union.”
Writer and executive producer Amy Berg (“Counterpart”) called it “beyond unfortunate” that the sides couldn’t come to terms on a deal.
Screenwriter John August, whose credits include “Big Fish” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” tweeted: “My agent of 20+ years is a great friend and fighter for my career. I would give him a kidney tomorrow. But this isn’t about him or any single agent. Until agencies put #ClientsOverConflicts we can’t work together. Simple as that. #IStandWithTheWGA.”
Michael Schur, the showrunner of “Parks and Recreation” and “The Good Place” and a member of the WGA negotiating committee, said on his Ken Tremendous Twitter account: “WGA Members: What happens now? We stick together.#IStandWithTheWGA.”
Michael H. Weber, who was Oscar-nominated for “The Disaster Artist,” fired UTA.
“I love my film agent like family. He’s the first & only one I’ve ever had,” he wrote. “He’s honest, loyal & kind. I know our relationship always comes before the agency. I can’t imagine my life right now without everything he’s done for me the last ~14 years.”
The WGA told its 15,000 members Friday to send dismissal letters to agencies at the same time that it announced that negotiations for a new franchise agreement with agencies had collapsed: “In this situation there are two actions required of all members: First, do not allow a non-franchised agent to represent you with respect to any future WGA-covered work. Second, notify your agency in a written form letter that they cannot represent you until they sign the Code of Conduct.”
The WGA had said previously that it would require its members to fire their agents if they had not agreed to a new “Agency Code of Conduct,” which eliminates agency packaging fees and ownership in production companies, after the current agreement expires. The code was approved in late March by 95% of guild members who voted.
None of the major agencies have signed the Agency Code of Conduct. More than 40 agencies, most of them boutique operations, had signed on as of Saturday afternoon, according to the WGA web site.
The agencies have placed the blame on the WGA leaders with Karen Stuart, exec director of the Association of Talent Agents, blasting the guild soon after the order went out to fire the agents.
“The WGA leadership today declared a pathway for compromise doesn’t exist,” she said. “Agencies have been committed to reaching an agreement with the WGA but, despite our best efforts, today’s outcome was driven by the Guild’s predetermined course for chaos.”
WGA West President David Goodman said in a lengthy response to the ATA Friday that the two sides have not closed the gap.
“As I said, we granted the week’s extension as a sincere effort to try to find a solution,” he said. “But it is clear to us that we are not appreciably closer. We are willing to continue meeting with you when you provide a proposal that truly addresses our expressed concerns, but our Friday deadline has arrived and we are moving forward with the implementation of our Code of Conduct and the enforcement of our WGA Working Rule 23.”
That rule prohibits members from being represented by agents who are not signed to a WGA franchise agreement.
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(Pictured: Patton Oswalt)