The Association of Talent Agents has reached out to the WGA with an offer to sit down for informal talks in advance of negotiations for a new franchise agreement that governs how agencies represent writers. It’s the first conciliatory move by either side since April, when the WGA East and West gave the ATA a 12-month notice to terminate their existing agreement, known as the Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement.
In a letter to the heads of both unions, ATA executive director Karen Stuart said: “The ATA and its member agencies have been your partner in championing writers and their careers for more than 60 years. We are proud of the relationship we have enjoyed with the WGA and proud of our agencies’ record of success in representing their clients — your members. Every day, our agencies are on the front lines fighting for writers’ needs: opportunity, creative freedom and, of course, fair compensation.”
In its proposals for a new agreement, the WGA seeks to completely reshape the talent agency business, putting an end to packaging – which the guilds see as rife with conflicts of interest – ending commissions on scale and stopping the agencies’ nascent ventures into film and television production.
“Media consolidation and other seismic changes in the development, production and distribution ecosystem have significantly altered the landscape writers – both new and established – face every day,” Stuart said in her letter. “As the writer’s role is central and indispensable, we know that it is of utmost importance to the WGA that writers continue to be able to create freely, access the most advantageous opportunities and maximize their compensation; the agencies that represent writers, day in and day out, fully share those beliefs.
“It is our desire to work together to find the right solutions so that we can most effectively face the collective threat posed by a changing industry,” she added. “We were surprised, given our partnership, that this process did not begin with direct dialogue. Nevertheless, we have reviewed your proposed changes to our AMBA and are reaching out to suggest an informal meeting with you to better understand both your concerns and your proposals. Given our history, we believe such an initial discussion is appropriate before we sit on opposite sides of the bargaining table. As always, we proudly support the WGA and its members, and we look forward to a productive and successful dialogue.”
In an email to her member agencies, Stuart said she hopes this informal meeting will lead to a better understanding of the WGA’s proposals ahead of official negotiations. “We have a longstanding relationship with the WGA and are proud of our member agencies’ record of success in representing WGA writers,” she wrote. “We know you represent your artist clients with the utmost dedication and concern for their creative and economic integrity. The ATA, on behalf of its members, looks forward to working with the WGA in the months ahead and beyond.”