UPDATED with new message from WGA to members: There are still “no meetings scheduled yet” for the resumption of negotiations between the WGA and the Association of Talent Agents for a new franchise agreement, according to an industry source. That leaves them with just three days to make a deal before the guild could order all of its members to fire their agents at the same time as early as Sunday morning.
In the meantime, it’s still a waiting game to see who picks up the phone first to invite the other back to the bargaining table to avert what the ATA says will be “chaos” in the industry if writers walk out en masse – or, as the guild sees it, a “realignment” of the talent agency business.
Clock Ticking Down In WGA-ATA Showdown: No Talks Set As Pact Expires At Midnight Saturday
Tonight the WGA put the onus on the ATA to pick up the phone and give them a call.
In a message to guild members, the WGA negotiating committee said: “The WGA has not heard from the ATA since we gave them a comprehensive new proposal last week, although we’ve had communication with significant individual agencies. Today we’ve sent the ATA further modifications of our proposals. These modifications accommodate reasonable concerns raised by agencies and writers, while continuing to protect the interests of Guild members. The changes have also been applied to the WGA’s Code of Conduct.”
As for the modifications, the guild acknowledges that “none of them is major.” Here are the modifications:
Independent Film: Incorporates language proposed by the Association of Talent Agents allowing agencies to perform financing and sales services for independent films and receive compensation for those services in addition to a 10% commission from a writer, but continues to ban packaging fees. Requires disclosure of agency services and related fees and a writer’s consent, provided that only disclosure is required if an agency is contracted to perform these services prior to the writer’s engagement.
Disclosure Requirements for Smaller Agencies: To recognize the size differences among franchised agencies, we have made it clear that the Guild will take into account staffing and recordkeeping capacities of smaller agencies when administering certain disclosure requirements.
Term and Notification: Establishes an initial three-year term (2019- 2022) and increases the notification of changes period from 60 to 90 days, in response to stated concerns that the WGA might implement additional changes to the Code with little notification.
Representation Agreement Term: Increases the maximum term of representation agreements between agencies and writer clients from one to two years, this also in response to concerns expressed by (mostly smaller) agencies.
Over the weekend, WGA members voted overwhelmingly – 95.3% to 4.7% – to approve a new Agency Code of Conduct that will replace the ATA’s current franchise agreement if no deal is reached by the deadline Saturday at midnight PT. After the vote was announced, the ATA said: “We look forward to getting back into the room to work through an agreement that serves the best interest of writers, respects their individual choice, and prevents unnecessary disruption to our industry. We stand ready and waiting.”
The two key issues, on which no progress has been made since the talks began February 5, are agency packaging fees and the big agencies’ corporate ties to related production entities – both of which the guild says are conflicts of interest.
The two sides haven’t met at the bargaining table since March 27, after which the ATA accused the WGA of threatening to throw “our industry into chaos,” and the guild saying, “The agencies ignored everything we presented.”
If there’s a deal to be made, they now have just three days to figure it out.
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