Leaders of the Writers Guild of America West have touted the benefits of their campaign to revamp how agencies represent their members.
The WGA West board of directors notified their 10,000 members in a message Tuesday evening that a key objective of the agency campaign is timely information from the agencies to assist in enforcement of late pay and free work violations. Another goal is to enhance the guild’s analysis of compensation and other employment trends.
“Franchised agencies are now sharing invoices, deal memos, contracts, and writer compensation and commission information with the Guild,” the message said. “As of July 31, the Guild has received around 700 deal memos and long-form contracts, and 1,100 invoices.”
More than 80 agencies are now allowed to represent WGA members thanks to agreeing to a limit on agency packaging fees and affiliate production. WGA members were told on April 13, 2019, by WGA West president David Goodman to fire their agents if the agents had not agreed to bans on packaging fees and affiliate production.
Several mid-sized agencies — Abrams Artists (now A3), Rothman Brecher Ehrich Livingston, Verve, Kaplan Stahler and Buchwald — signed deals with the WGA in the months following the firings. Paradigm signed a deal four months ago. CAA, UTA and WME sued the WGA and consolidated their antitrust suits last year against the guild into a single action, accusing the union of engaging in an illegal group boycott. UTA dropped out of the suit last month and signed a deal.
The WGA West board singled out Verve, which was the first significant agency to break away from its rivals and sign a WGA Code of Conduct.
“Verve has led the way by working with the Guild to set up a streamlined reporting system,” the message noted. “The data stream includes reports on: invoices; payments Verve has received on behalf of writer clients, including the pay date; past due invoices; information on how writer compensation is commissioned; and summaries of the writer deals Verve has negotiated.”
The WGA also said its staff has referred more than 130 cases to the legal department to pursue compensation or interest. It also said that department has made a few notable settlements on agency late-pay cases with interest payments for individual feature writers in the amounts of roughly $13,000, $10,500, and $5,500, as well as about $9,000 in interest for a team of pilot writers — with all of the writers in question were employed by major studios.
“Agency information-sharing has already resulted in scaled-up enforcement efforts, a streamlined claims process, and invaluable perspective on the compensation practices of the studios,” the board added. “Through continued collaboration with our agency partners, we can build on that progress.”