Bracing for a bitter battle with talent agents, the Writers Guild of America is seeking leaders to mobilize its members.
WGA West director of member organizing Ann Farriday sent a notice about the efforts on Tuesday afternoon.
“If you’re not on a team, and want to stay better informed as the Agency Campaign develops, we invite you to join a team or volunteer to be a team captain,” she said. “A Captain acts as a liaison between a team of writers and the Guild by updating writers on campaign developments, communicating questions and concerns, and mobilizing fellow writers in support of the strategy.”
The move comes a day after WGA West president David A. Goodman announced that the guild was at an impasse with Hollywood agents in negotiations over tough new rules. The guild and the Association of Talent Agents have held two acrimonious sessions on Feb. 5 and Feb. 19 that only managed to raise the level of rancor.
Goodman predicted in the message that the agents will break off talks soon.
“The parties are at impasse,” he added. “That happens in every negotiation where there are differences so strong that they can only be resolved by action away from the bargaining table.”
Karen Stuart, exec director of the ATA, said in a Feb. 25 message that the agents would be willing to negotiate if the guild provides a promise of “good-faith” negotiations: “We thus remain ready and willing to meet with you — as often and for however long it takes to reach common ground — but both sides must come in good faith. We are committing to do so. Are you?”
The WGA has been seeking to revamp the rules of engagement for agents with WGA members. The changes proposed by the WGA 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.”
WME, CAA, and UTA in recent years have taken steps into content production and distribution, raising conflict of interest red flags in the view of many industry insiders. The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents are facing an April 6 contract expiration deadline to hammer out a new franchise agreement governing the rules for agents representing WGA members. The guild’s deal with the agencies hadn’t been touched since 1976.
The WGA has scheduled a March 25 vote for members to implement its own code of conduct spelling out new rules, which would require members to fire their agents if they haven’t signed on to the code.
The WGA has been communicating extensively with its 12,000 members in recent weeks and held a trio of well-attended member meetings in February. The guild used a similar structure of captains during its 100-day strike in 2007-08.