Mass Firing Of Agents And Lawsuits To Come – Deadline



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UPDATED with more details, quotes and a list of agencies that have signed the WGA Code of Conduct: The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents have failed to reach agreement on a new franchise agreement, setting the stage for unprecedented upheaval in the film and TV industry. Thousands of writers are now ordered by the guild to fire their agents, and in the coming days, expect both parties to carry out their threats to sue each other.

The guild said this afternoon that "as of midnight tonight, every agency will be required to become a signatory" to its new Code of Conduct. Writers will have to fire any agency that refuses to sign it. (Read the letter from the guild leaders to the members below.) All the major agencies have said they will not sign, so the unprecedented battle between writers and their agents will soon be on.

That includes the Big Four agencies – WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners – which do almost all the packaging of TV shows and a lot of financing and sales servicing of independent films. More than 100 of the industry's other top agencies, including the Big Four, have refused to sign the WGA's Code of Conduct.

But so far, nearly four dozen agencies have signed the Code – although only one, Pantheon, as Deadline previously reported – is an ATA member and has broken ranks. See the list of Code signatories below.

"On April 13, 2019, the Writers Guild of America implemented a new Code of Conduct for agencies that represent writers for work covered by a WGA collective bargaining agreement. WGA members can only be represented for WGA-covered work by agencies signed to Code of Conduct.

WGA West & amp; ATA Brass Issue Statements As Sides Fail To Reach New Franchise Deal

"The Code of Conduct is a landmark agreement that realigns agency incentives with their writer-clients and eliminates conflicts of interest inherent in the agencies' receipt of packaging fees and financial interest in production entities. Agencies signed to the Code may only represent writers for 10% commission and may not receive packaging fees or be affiliated with a company producing or distributing motion pictures. "

To that end, the guild today released a series of new instructions for guild members. In laying down the new law, the guild told its members:

"If you are represented by an agency that is not signed in to the Code of Conduct, you must inform the agency that it may not represent you in respect of your WGA covered work until such time as it subscribes to the Code of Conduct.

"You may not allow a non-franchised agent to represent you in respect of any future WGA-covered work, including deals that were first discussed but not completed before implementation of the Code of Conduct.

"You are not prohibited from consulting or communicating with a non-franchised agent in relation to other matters, including:

(a) Non-WGA-covered employment or services;
(b) projects or agreements completed before the implementation of the Code of Conduct;
(c) personal matters; or
(d) discussions urging the agent to sign the Code of Conduct. "

It also tells members that if they do not fire agents who refuse to sign the Code, they "will be subject to discipline in accordance with Article X of the WGA West Constitution."

A weeklong extension of the contract failed to produce a new agreement, the guild said, because the agencies did not make a "fair offer." Among their "unacceptable proposals," the guild said, "the agencies insist on continuing their major conflicts interest. They insist on continuing to produce and be our employers. Their 'offer' on packaging is to share 1% of their packaging fee with writers. "

"So what happens now?" The guild asked rhetorically. "In a strike situation, we all know that we should refrain from crossing the picket line or writing for a hit company, and we are asked to show our solidarity by picketing, which is the public and moral face of our dispute.

"In this situation there are two actions required for all members: First, do not allow a non-franchised agent to represent you in respect of any future WGA-covered work. Second, notify your agency in a written letter that they can not represent you until they sign the Code of Conduct.

"We know that, together, we are about to enter uncharted waters. Life that deviates from the current system may be different degrees of disorienting. But it has become clear that a big change is necessary. We will not only stand together, we will stand up for each other, lean on each other. We can do this. "

It will not be a writers strike per se. Writers and showrunners with deals in place will continue to work, but going forward new agents will have to be found to procure jobs for writers, or they can be hired directly by showrunners – their fellow guild members – through a new Script Submission System. The WGA says it will also deputize writers' personal managers and lawyers to take the place of their fired agents, but the ATA says it is illegal under state law, and has vowed to take the matter to court.

The WGA's old franchise agreement with the ATA – known as the Artists' Managers Basic Agreement – has not been renegotiated for 43 years. It allowed packaging, but the guild was never happy about it, even when it signed the deal in 1976.

The guild began holding a series of membership meetings in March of last year to lay the groundwork for a renegotiation of the agreement, saying that there was growing concern among its members about "conflict of interest inherent in production and packaging." In interviews with numerous writers leaving these early meetings, it was clear that membership support for the guild's goals was strong and growing stronger. "We are united" was the common refrain.

The guild took the first big step down this path in April 2018, when it served the ATA with a 12-month notice of termination of their existing agreement, and then presented the ATA with its list of proposals, which it said were designed to " realign "the talent agency business.

Talks for a new deal did not begin until February 5, with both sides soon accusing one another of not negotiating in good faith. Serious bargaining only started this week after the April 6 deadline was extended to allow one last chance to avert what ATA said would be "chaos" for the industry. That "chaos," or what the guild calls "realignment," is now here.

Here is the letter from guild leaders to members today, followed by a list of agencies that have signed the Code of Conduct:

April 12, 2019

Fellow Members,

Last Saturday, at the agency's request, the Guild gave them six days beyond AMBA expiration to provide us with a fair offer. They have not done so. Among other unacceptable proposals, the agencies insist on continuing their major conflicts of interest. They insist on continuing to produce and be our employers. Their "offer" on packaging is to share 1% of their packaging fee with writers. Here is the response David Goodman presented this afternoon at the bargaining table to the proposal the ATA made yesterday.

So there is no settlement. The membership voted by 95.3% to implement an Agency Code of Conduct if a negotiated settlement was not reached, and elected leadership was set to date as the deadline. As of midnight tonight, every agency will be required to become a signatory to the Code. And under WGA Working Rule 23, WGA Current members can not be represented by agencies that have not signed the Code.

So what happens now? In a strike situation, we all know that we should refrain from crossing the picket line or writing for a hit company, and we are asked to show our solidarity by picketing, which is the public and moral face of our dispute.

In this situation there are two actions required for all members: First, do not allow a non-franchised agent to represent you in respect of any future WGA-covered work. Second, notify your agency in a written letter that they can not represent you until they sign the Code of Conduct.

Linked here is the form letter, in a plain and respectful language, which accomplishes this task. Members who are represented by agencies not signed to the Code of Conduct must e-sign the letter. This letter also protects you legally in case of any future dispute. The Guild will send all letters en masse to the appropriate agencies for a few days. Many of you will also want to inform your agents personally. We encourage you to do so and ask them to sign the Code.

We know you may have questions about how to deal with your agent. We have linked here to a set of rules of implementation and FAQs that clarify how to deal with agencies that are no longer franchised. It is important that you carefully read both the rules and the FAQ. If you have additional questions about your situation, you should contact the Guild at: [email protected]

We know that, together, we are about to enter uncharted waters. Life that deviates from the current system may be different degrees of disorienting. But it has become clear that a big change is necessary.

We will not only stand together, we will stand up for each other, lean on each other. We can do this.

In Solidarity,

WGA-Agency Agreement Negotiating Committee

Chris Keyser, Co-Chair
David Shore, Co-Chair
Meredith Stiehm, Co-Chair
Lucy Alibar
John August
Angelina Burnett
Zoanne Clack
Kate Erickson
Jonathan Fernandez
Travon Free
Ashley Gable
Deric A. Hughes
Chip Johannessen
Michele Mulroney
Michael Schur
Tracey Scott Wilson
Betsy Thomas
Patric M. Verrone
Nicole Yorkin
David A. Goodman, President WGAW, ex-officio
Marjorie David, Vice President WGAW, ex-officio
Aaron Mendelsohn, Secretary-Treasurer WGAW, ex-officio
Beau Willimon, President WGAE, ex-officio
Jeremy Pixer, Vice President WGAE, ex-officio
Bob Schneider, Secretary-Treasurer WGAE, ex-officio

Writers and showrunners, meet your new agents. Here is the list of agencies that have signed the Code of Conduct, according to the WGA:

Above The Line Agency
American Media Artists
Annette Van Duren Agency
Artistry
Avail Talent
BiCoastal Talent & Literary Agency
Brant Rose Agency
Candace Lake Agency, Inc.
Career Artists International
Charlene Kay Agency
Claire Best & Associates
The Dravis Agency
Gregory David Mayo Representing the Performing Arts
Henry Morrison, Inc.
Hollywood View Agency
Hudson Agency
Irv Schechter Company
Justin Ptak Agency
Kissane Communications, Ltd.
Laserson Creative
Luedtke Agency, LLC
Maggie Roiphe Agency
McCormick, Bagwell & Assoc.
McHugo Artists Agency, Ltd.
Media Artists Group
Michael Lewis & Associates
MLH Literary and Talent Agency
MTA Talent Agency
National Talent LA
Natural Talent, Inc.
The Newton Agency
Otto Kozak Literary & Motion Picture
Pantheon
Preferred Artists
Richard Curtis Associates, Inc.
The Sarnoff Company, Inc.
Silver Bitela Agency
The Solis Agency, Inc.
The Stein Agency
Suite A Management Talent & Literary Agency
Summit Talent & Literary Agency
The Susan Gurman Agency
Susan Schulman Literary Agency
Thunder Avenue Literary Agency
UGA Talent Agency
Victoria Sanders Literary Agency
William Kerwin Agency

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