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Writers Guild and Agents May Resume Talks on June 7

Hollywood talent agencies have proposed to the Writers Guild of America that stalled talks resume on June 7.

The WGA negotiating committee told members of the date on Wednesday afternoon in a brief note: “Just to keep you up to date, yesterday afternoon the agencies cancelled the meeting that was scheduled for today.  They’ve asked to reschedule for June 7th.”

If the talks go ahead, it will be the first formal negotiations in nearly two months. The guild directed its nearly 15,000 members on April 12, when negotiations collapsed, to terminate relations with agents who refused to sign its new Code of Conduct, which bars agencies from accepting packaging fees and engaging in ownership of production companies.

WGA West president David A. Goodman announced on May 22 that the WGA had approved a proposal by UTA co-president Jay Sures to return to the bargaining table.

“If this dispute is truly about addressing Packaging and Affiliate Production, then we are ready to get back to the table with you,” Sures wrote to Goodman. “We are open to concepts of true revenue sharing and have already committed to requirements of explicit client consent and overall transparency and accountability. To be clear, we have publicly stated that if a writer does not want his/her show packaged, we will honor that. Let’s put an end to this unnecessary and extremely costly litigation that is a great detriment to your membership and the agencies.”

Sures had also said in the missive to Goodman that the talks should take place in a “smaller” room.

Sources for agents told Variety that the two sides had never agreed to a formal date until the agents proposed June 7 this week. The agents have also proposed a series of small working group meetings to discuss the individual issues leading up into a June 7 meeting with the full negotiating committees.

Verve defected from the major agencies on May 16 when it became the first sizable Hollywood talent agency to sign the WGA’s code of conduct. That gave the guild a win in its standoff with agencies over the issue of packaging fees and ownership of production companies.

The stand-off has also featured a lawsuit filed on April 17 by the WGA and eight members against CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners alleging that the practice of agencies collecting packaging fees violates state and federal law. Those fees are typically calculated as 3% of the program’s budget and another 10% of backend profits in exchange for writers waiving paying commissions to agents.

The WGA bulked up its lawsuit on May 20 with additional fraud allegations engaged “constructive fraud” by allegedly placing their own interests ahead of their clients and by concealing facts about how packaging works. The Association of Talent Agents, which serves as the negotiating arm for the agencies, brushed off the amended complaint, saying that the WGA never had any intention of a negotiated solution with the ATA.

 

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