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Film News Roundup: Writers Guild Plans Report Blasting Big Four Talent Agencies

In today’s film news roundup, the Writers Guild will keep blasting away at major talent agencies, Universal promotes four execs and Jennifer E. Smith sets up a pair of YA projects.

WGA BATTLE

The Writers Guild of America will release a report Tuesday detailing its assertions of conflicts of interest at CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners.

The report is titled “No Conflict, No Interest.” “As industry profits have soared, billions in outside investment has flowed into the biggest talent agencies that have become singularly focused on expanding their bottom line, often at the expense of the clients,” the WGA said.

The WGA has been seeking to revamp the rules of engagement for agents with WGA members with changes that would effectively end all film and TV packaging deals, in which agencies receive both upfront and backend fees, and bar agencies from any financial interest in any entity or individual “engaged in the production or distribution of motion pictures.”

The Association of Talent Agents has said that packaging provides “tremendous” benefits to artists in all lines of work – including directors, producers, actors and writers who each save their 10% commission if their agency is one of the packaging agents on a particular show.

The WGA and the ATA face an April 6 contract expiration deadline to hammer out a new franchise agreement governing the rules for agents representing WGA members. The WGA has scheduled a March 25 vote for members to implement its own code of conduct spelling out new rules, which will require members to fire their agents if they haven’t signed on to the code.

“Cold Case” showrunner Meredith Stiehm, who’s a member of the WGA West board, and former WGA West President Chris Keyser will speak.

PROMOTIONS

Universal Pictures has promoted Erik Baiers to senior executive vice president of production development.

Additionally, Jay Polidoro and Sara Scott have been promoted to senior VP and Lexi Barta has been promoted to director of development. The quartet will continue to report to Peter Cramer, president of Universal Pictures.

Baiers joined the company in 2005. He is currently overseeing production on “Little,” “The Hunt,” “Yesterday” and “Cats.” Prior to Universal, Baiers was an executive at MGM.

PROJECTS SET

Producers Roger Lay, Jr., and Eric Carnagey have acquired rights to Jennifer E. Smith’s novels “This Is What Happy Looks Like” and “The Geography of You and Me.”

Lay and Carnagey produced “Aliens Ate My Homework,” based on Bruce Coville’s best-seller, and the live action film adaptation is now streaming on Netflix.

Smith has written her first screenplay for the teen romance “This is What Happy Looks Like.” “The Geography of You and Me” centers on an unlikely couple that meets on an elevator rendered useless during a city-wide blackout. Smith is repped by ICM Partners.

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