Nearly a month ago, I hear, two prominent showrunners with concerns about the course of the WGA’s negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents and the divisive rhetoric on part of the guild shared their misgivings with several colleagues who had similar concerns. The duo then reached out to the WGA leadership, which was receptive, and set up a meeting for the group that grew to 50-60 people overnight. They met with several members of the WGA Negotiating Committee, who fielded a barrage of questions from the showrunners about the guild’s strategy and endgame.
While I hear most writers left that meeting feeling positive about the leadership’s willingness to have an open and honest conversation, many still felt they had more questions than answers. I hear one of the showrunners who attended the meeting started a private online forum for writers where they could continue the conversation.
WGA Sues Big Four Agencies Over Packaging Fees; Read WGAW Board's Message To Members
The forum, which I hear is accessible by an app, has become a safe haven for writers of all levels — from newbies to A-list showrunners — where they can freely express opinions about the WGA-ATA standoff without fear of demonization. That includes writers who question the WGA’s brass-knuckle negotiating tactics.
After months of buildup, the conflict between the writers guild and ATA, which represents talent agencies, peaked last Friday when the two sides could not reach a new franchise agreement. The WGA enforced its new Code of Conduct that bans packaging and agency-affiliated productions and ordered its members to fire their agencies if they have not signed the code, which none of the major talent agencies has done.
The skirmish became a full-blown war Wednesday when the WGA and several of its prominent members filed a lawsuit against the Big 4 agencies over packaging.
I hear the forum, which started as a low-key affair with a handful of people, has been growing rapidly, with scores of new members joining every day to more than 200 currently. There are no conditions over who can join — I hear some users have signed the form e-letter to fire their agents, while others haven’t signed it and don’t intend to.
The group is not a monolith and doesn’t operate as a collective body. For instance, I hear individual members have been in communication with WGA leaders and have been setting meetings with Negotiating Committee members to get more information and clarity on the situation as well as share their frustration that, as one writer put it, “a contract dispute has turned into a civil war.” There are no big powwows organized for the entire membership.
The goal of the online community is that, through an open dialogue and mutual respect, everyone can get fully educated on the issues and make the best decisions possible.
While the chat room features writers on both sides of the current divide with different points of view, I hear all of them — including those who have not signed their termination letters to agents — follow the letter of the guild’s laws explicitly as many are worried of potential consequences.
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