×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

CAA’s Packaging Fee Becomes Flashpoint in ‘Walking Dead’ Litigation

UPDATED with new statement and response filing

The issue that is at the heart of the WGA’s present standoff with talent agencies has flared up as a source of tension in the litigation between AMC Networks and Frank Darabont and CAA over profit participation on “The Walking Dead.”

Attorneys for Darabont and CAA called AMC’s move a “publicity stunt” and a delay tactic. Plaintiffs’ attorneys also accused AMC’s lawyers of behaving improperly during the deposition process.

The practice of talent agencies receiving packaging fees for helping to assemble the creative elements of a television series has come up as a question posed by AMC Networks’ attorneys in the latest round of depositions for the long-running lawsuit. The WGA last month filed a lawsuit against Hollywood’s four largest agencies over packaging fees, calling them an inherent conflict of interest that violates the fiduciary duties of licensed talent agents.

AMC Networks attorneys have sought to question Darabont and others involved in depositions related to the “Walking Dead” case on their knowledge of CAA’s packaging fee arrangements on the show, which Darabont shepherded for AMC in its first season. But AMC reps maintain that Dale Kinsella, lead attorney for Darabont and CAA, has improperly told witnesses not to answer those questions.

Lawyers for AMC have asked New York Superior Court judge overseeing the case for a hearing to address what AMC reps described as “improper and obstructive deposition conduct” by Kinsella in a letter sent to Judge Joel Cohen on Monday. Lead AMC Networks attorney Orin Snyder asserted that Kinsella is trying to shut down questioning related to CAA’s profit participation definition and how it may differ from the definition that the agency negotiated for its client Darabont on “Walking Dead.”

“Defendants have struck a raw nerve by exposing fundamental flaws in Plaintiffs’ case. Kinsella does not want Defendants to probe his clients’ contradictory positions on the (modified adjusted gross receipts) definition,” Snyder wrote. “Even more, he does not want Defendants to expose the egregious conflict of interest between Darabont and his agents at CAA. The dirty secret in Hollywood is that talent agencies often sell their clients down the river in exchange for bigger packaging fees for themselves.”

Snyder’s letter also accuses Kinsella of making insulting remarks about AMC’s legal team during the deposition questioning process. One example cited in the AMC letter asserts that Kinsella told a deposition witness: “Don’t get dragged down into the gutter of nonsense questions by Mr. Snyder.”

On Tuesday, Darabont/CAA attorney Jerry Bernstein and Kinsella fired back and urged the judge to deny the hearing request.

“As revealed in our letter to the court, AMC’s effort to disrupt and delay the existing trial date by creating sham discovery disputes is never ending,” Kinsella said in a statement. “Understandably obsessed with focusing attention on anything but its own despicable behavior toward the profit participants, AMC has opportunistically attempted to link the WGA’s dispute with talent agencies as somehow relevant to AMC’s defense to Mr. Darabont’s claims regarding unpaid back end profits. We are optimistic the court will see through Mr. Snyder’s specious arguments and keep the parties on track for the scheduled trial.”

In the response letter, Bernstein details what he describes as AMC’s effort to “make a mockery” of the deposition process.

“Mr. Snyder took an outrageous, unprecedented, and almost entirely improper deposition of Darabont aimed solely at harassment and intimidation rather than fact discovery,” Bernstein’s letter states. “Yet, after spending most of its time asking hopelessly irrelevant questions, AMC now claims that it should be entitled to additional deposition time with Darabont and his representatives. Mr. Snyder’s deposition conduct was designed to harass, intimidate, invade the attorney-client privilege, and attempted to drive wedges between Darabont, CAA, and Darabont’s legal representatives.”

The “Walking Dead” lawsuit is targeted to go to trial in May 2020.

The WGA and Association of Talent Agents have been at war since April 12, when the guild instructed its nearly 15,000 members to fire talent agents who would not sign the guild’s newly established Agency Code of Conduct. The guild’s new code bars agencies from receiving packaging fees from production entities, among other reforms.

More Biz

  • Gary Ehrlich Named President, General Manager

    Gary Ehrlich Named President, General Manager of Fox Studio Lot

    Gary Ehrlich was named to oversee operations at the Fox Studio Lot, a position of growing importance to Fox Corporation. Fox said Tuesday that it had named Ehrlich, a former executive vice president at Fox Sports, the new president and general manger of its Fox Studio lot in Century City. Fox retained its ownership to [...]

  • WGA Strike Labor Talks

    How the Streaming Revolution Is Making Guild Negotiations Even More Complicated

    It may not be a perfect storm yet, but ominous clouds are gathering. As the winter holidays approach, there’s growing agita across the industry about the potential for substantial labor strife next year. The WGA, DGA and SAG-AFTRA are gearing up for master film and TV contract negotiations with the major studios at a time [...]

  • Star Wars The Mandalorian

    Why Wall Street Is Feeling Bullish as Disney Plus Blasts Off

    Bob Iger has presided over many launches during his 14 years as Disney CEO: a theme park in Shanghai, state-of-the-art cruise ships, “Star Wars”- and “Avatar”-themed immersive attractions and even a cinematic universe requiring billions of dollars of investment in Marvel movies. But nothing in his tenure has drawn the level of scrutiny that has [...]

  • Joseph R. Ianniello, President and Acting

    CBS Sees Q3 Profit Drop on Increased Investment in Programming

    CBS Corp. said third quarter profit dropped around 35% as investments in new series for its linear and digital outlets and costs associated with its pending merger with Viacom Inc. overcame increases in revenue during the period. The New York owner of the CBS television network and the Showtime premium-cable service is expected to merger [...]

  • Young ThugBillboard Hot 100, Day 2,

    Travis Scott Remix Drives Young Thug’s ‘Hot’ to No. 1 on Rolling Stone Top 100

    Driven by a remix featuring Travis Scott, Young Thug’s single “Hot” has roared to the top of the Rolling Stone Top 100 this week. The song racked up more than 20 million audio streams and 3,700 downloads. Also getting a big boost is buzzing artist Arizona Zervas, whose “Roxanne” soared to No. 6 after debuting at [...]

  • Kevin LilesUJA-Federation of New York's Music

    300’s Kevin Liles Joins NY:LON Summit Keynote Roster

    The Music Business Association (Music Biz) and Music Ally today announce that 300 Entertainment cofounder and CEO Kevin Liles will deliver a keynote interview at the fourth annual NY:LON Connect music business summit. The conference takes place January 16 – 17, 2020 at the Dream Downtown Hotel in New York. According to the announcement, Liles [...]

  • Warner Bros. HQ LA

    Small Brush Fire Breaks Out Above Warner Bros. Lot in Burbank

    UPDATED: A small brush fire broke out in the Hollywood Hills above the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank, Calif., causing the Warner Bros. lot to evacuate as a precaution, before its forward progress was stopped at around 5 p.m. Saturday. According to the LAFD, fire crews are working on putting out the “still active [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content