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Writers Guild Meets With Talent Agents Over Proposed Rule Changes

Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have held their first meeting with Hollywood agencies to discuss the guild’s proposals to significantly revamp key rules for talent agents.

The meeting took place on Tuesday — two months before the current agreement expires. There was no comment from the WGA or the Association of Talent Agents.

During the past year, the WGA has been pressuring Hollywood’s agencies to revamp the rules for agents due to Hollywood’s two largest agencies — WME and CAA — moving aggressively into production. As Variety noted in a 2018 cover story, that creates the potential for conflicts of interest that arise when the same company represents the creative talent on one side of the table and is the employer on the other.

The guild notified the ATA last April that it wanted to renegotiate its 42-year-old franchise agreement and sent the ATA a 12-month notice to terminate the existing deal, known as the Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement, on April 6, 2019. WGA leaders have not explained what will happen if a new agreement isn’t reached at that point.

The key WGA proposals would effectively end all packaging deals, in which agencies receive both upfront and backend fees. The WGA has also proposed that “no agency shall have an ownership or other financial interest in, or shall be owned by or affiliated with, any entity or individual engaged in the production or distribution of motion pictures.”

Agents have insisted that they’re merely responding to how Hollywood is finding financing amid a rapidly shifting business environment. Karen Stuart, exec director of the ATA, said in an August letter, “Media consolidation and other seismic changes in the development, production, and distribution ecosystem have significantly altered the landscape writers — both new and established — face every day.”

The WGA has also set members meetings to take place on Feb. 9 at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif.; on Feb. 12 at the Writers Guild of America East headquarters in New York; and on Feb. 13 at the Sheraton Universal in Los Angeles.

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