The Writers Guild of America has rolled out what it’s touting as an enhanced online staffing and development platform to connect writers directly with showrunners, producers, and executives — aimed partly at members who don’t have agents.
The guild’s announcement about the year-old WGA Platform was notable in that it did not mention agents. It’s the latest in a long line of do-it-yourself initiatives for its members, many who were forced to fire their agents a year ago. Thursday’s message underlines the contention by guild leaders: Agents are not essential for members to obtain work.
The WGA Platform was launched in the wake of guild leaders telling their 15,000 members on April 12, 2019, that they were required to fire their agents if the agents had not agreed to WGA bans on packaging fees and affiliate production. The four largest Hollywood agencies — CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners — have held out against such bans and CAA, UTA and WME have sued the WGA on antitrust grounds.
The WGA Platform now features writer, producer, and executive profile pages; in-platform messaging; a television staffing submission system; a board for posting and submitting to open writing assignments; and lists of spec and pilot ideas. The platform also provides “unprecedented” access to jobs for new talent and writers from underrepresented communities.
“We started working on these enhancements well before the Covid-19 pandemic turned our industry upside down,” said WGAW Board Member Luvh Rakhe. “The upgraded Platform will be a resource for members to stay connected even as we must physically separate. Down the road, we hope this contributes to the industry’s recovery because the work of writers will be critical to that.”
The WGA Platform has more than 9,700 writer profiles with 1,300 executives and producers having created accounts. The guild said more than 200 series showrunners have used the platform’s Staffing Submission System to post job openings, resulting in more than 12,000 submissions from writers, while 140 open writing assignments have been posted, generating 2,100 submissions from writers.
The WGA also asserted in February that its staff had assisted in negotiating more than 100 deals in recent months for members without agents. More than 80 agencies, including APA, Abrams, Buchwald, Gersh, Innovative Artists, Kaplan Stahler, Paradigm, Rothman Brecher Ehrich Livingston and Verve, have agreed to accept the WGA’s bans on agency packaging fees and affiliate production ownership.
Variety reported this week that WGA leaders maintain that the sentiment among the guild’s nearly 15,000 members remains overwhelmingly supportive of their decision to ban agents from receiving packaging fees on TV shows from production entities. Sources at the Big 4 agencies say a deal is do-able if the WGA will agree to allowing writers the choice to work with agencies that offering packaging and production entities.