UPDATED THROUGHOUT: I can report exclusively that the surprise post-Thanksgiving return to the bargaining table between the WGA and AMPTP on November 26th is the direct result of the agent mediation I described back on November 11th. (See my Glimmer Of Hope That Agents Bringing WGA & AMPTP Back In Touch.) I’m told that yesterday a secret meeting took place at Creative Artists Agency partner Bryan Lourd’s home between Writers Guild president Patric Verrone and chief WGA negotiator Dave Young with Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger and News Corp (Fox) No. 2 Peter Chernin, and others. Lourd refuses to confirm or comment about what went on, but he deserves tremendous credit for seeing this effort to get both sides talking again through to a successful conclusion. No one should be naive enough to think that either side would go back into talks if it didn’t suit their individual agendas and situations right now. But certainly, anyone who knows Lourd, one of the most successful Hollywood agents ever, is well aware that the CAA Southerner can talk anybody into anything, even his rivals. (See my LET’S STRIKE A DEAL! Both Sides Agree To Go Back Into Talks Post-Thanksgiving.)
I have more detail now to add. In my earlier story, I described the backchannelling efforts by two agents without naming the tenpercenters specifically (because I didn’t want to put the kibosh on their delicate diplomatic effort to make progress towards a settlement). As I reported then, a partner in a major tenpercentery was having “much conversation” with WGA negotiating committee topper Dave Young. I can tell you now this was Lourd. I reported that, at the same time, a partner at a different major agency was talking to AMPTP president Nick Counter. This was United Talent Agency’s Jim Berkus, who also deserves tremendous credit. At that point their goal was just a WGA/AMPTP phone call.
Berkus had made the first phone call to set up a tenpercentery confab and was the catalyst for the November 8th secret meeting at the WGA’s Fairfax headquarters between the WGA and key partners of Hollywood’s five major agencies that elicited the reps’ offer to help both sides get back to the bargaining table. “The first call went from Jim Berkus to [William Morris’] Jim Wiatt to [Endeavor’s] Rick Rosen to [CAA’s] Bryan Lourd to [ICM’s] Chris Silbermann,” a source says. With negotiations at a standstill, the agency partners offered to do anything possible as a “collective resource.” While Lourd met with Young, and Berkus with Counter, the other agents fanned out to speak to individual moguls as well. Then all the tenpercenters agreed to have Lourd take over the diplomacy “because he had the best relationship [with Young] and the biggest bat [CAA’s dominance representing talent],” an insider tells me. It took two weeks of backchannelling from start to finish, but the meeting at Lourd’s home finally happened yesterday. I’m told Lourd also has been helping both sides “refine” the issues at hand.
Back on November 7th, I expressed the opinion in my post, It’s Time To Seriously Solve This Strike, that Hollywood should “Bring On The Agents” because I had confidence they could help provide the basis for progress towards a settlement. Good going, guys — and don’t stop what you’re doing cuz it’s working.