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The WGA and ATA Need a Voice of Reason (Column)

Where is Lew Wasserman when you need him?

Hollywood could desperately use an industry statesman to step in and help bridge the acrimonious divide between writers and agents. The current vitriol is sure to be ratcheted up even more this week if the WGA and ATA make good on their threats to sue each other.

Now is the time when the warring parties need an adult in the room, someone who can tamp down the raw emotions and come up with a rational set of compromises.

Absent Wasserman, I nominate Jeffrey Katzenberg. Just as the highly influential MCA honcho inserted himself in the industry’s fraught labor negotiations and helped settle writers’ strikes in 1960 and 1981, Katzenberg — or someone of his ilk — should be invited into the negotiating room as a voice of reason. Of course, the current battle between writers and agents is not about a work stoppage but rather concerns the long-standing practice of talent reps collecting package fees and producing content even as they book jobs for their clients. But, if their fight drags on for several months, as many in the industry predict, there’s no question that workflow at the networks and studios will be significantly impacted and interrupted. Everyone on both sides will suffer.

That’s precisely why someone who is objective and unemotional about the issues needs to immediately jump into the fray, calm the roiling waters and spare Hollywood further pain.

While I’d bet that the big agencies would welcome such a mediator, I’m not as certain that the WGA would agree to it, considering how militant a stance it is taking at the moment.

But if not conciliation, then what is the way forward?

None of us, whether you’re a business insider or you’re a veteran journalist like myself who has been covering Hollywood for decades, has ever seen the anger and emotion between creatives and their representatives rise to such a fevered, hysterical pitch. Writers having to fire their agents, even for a cause many find worthy, is just plain sad, hurtful and destructive for all involved.

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