The WGA remains committed to reaching a deal with the Big 4 talent agencies, separate and apart from the Association of Talent Agents, according to John August, a member of the guild’s negotiating committee and an outgoing member of the WGA West’s board of directors. “Negotiations with the Big 4 agencies remains a priority,” he said on his latest Scriptnotes podcast with co-host Craig Mazin.
Mazin, meanwhile, opened up about the family medical issue that forced him to drop out of the WGA West election as opposition leader Phyllis Nagy’s vice presidential running mate. Previously, he’d said that he was withdrawing from the race “due to a medical issue with an immediate family member that will require more of my attention and care in the next year than I had expected. I would have loved to serve, but I will not be able to.”
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“A little context,” he said on the podcast. “First of all, no one’s dying. I think that’s important for people to know. But I do have a kid who has multiple chronic health issues. And I think literally the day after I said, ‘OK, I’ll go ahead and run for vice president,’ we got a call that he had to go into emergency surgery for the second time in a year. And it’s a complicated surgery. It’s not the kind where they poke three holes in you. It’s the kind where they make a big line and go, ‘Wheeeee.’ So good news is, he’s recuperating quite nicely, but he does have medical issues that we have to pay attention to. And it seemed to me not only that I was not going to be able to have the time or attention to give to the race, but even worse, my ability to serve effectively for two years should I win, was fairly compromised, because, you know, if this happens again, or if one of his other conditions sort of backs up and that requires attention, then I just won’t be present or be able to do the gig. So for that reason, I had to drop out. But, you know, again, good news, to be clear, no one’s dying. But you know, it hasn’t been a great month.”
Mazin, who is nominated for an Emmy for HBO’s Chernobyl, also said that he appreciates the “wonderful outpouring of support” he’s received.
Hear their entire podcast here.
August, who is a member of the guild’s agency negotiating committee, discussed a recent blog in which he took Nagy to task for perpetuating what he called the “pernicious myth” about the WGA’s “refusal to negotiate” with the talent agents in their ongoing standoff over packaging fees and affiliated production entities.
On his blog, he quoted Nagy saying that “In refusing to negotiate with the ATA, current leadership has effectively refused to negotiate with the Big 4. Stalemate. That benefits no one.”
August insists that the WGA has not refused to negotiate with the agencies – only with the ATA, which represents them. Mazin, however, said that “The complaint is that the WGA refuses to negotiate in any effective way with the Big 4 agencies that essentially control the ATA and represent the great majority of our membership. I don’t think there’s much of an argument there, is there?”
“I think there is an argument there,” August said. “Here’s what I think is fair to say – that the WGA has said that instead of negotiating with the ATA, that we want to negotiate with the agencies individually.”
After negotiations with the ATA broke off on June 7, WGA West David Goodman said that the guild would no longer bargain with the ATA, but would negotiate separately with the nine largest agencies.
“We want to focus on them and have individual discussions with those agencies,” August said. “So it is fair to say that we are choosing not to negotiate with the ATA, and to not negotiate with the Big 4 because they are only agreeing to negotiate through the ATA. That’s not as well established, but it seems that their preference is to negotiate through the ATA.”
“That’s where I’m not sure if I agree on that,” Mazin said. “Part of the issue is, you can say, ‘Listen we don’t want to negotiate with the ATA anymore, we just want to negotiate with the individual agencies, and that includes CAA and WME and UTA and ICM.’ But the problem is that when David Goodman makes that statement, he is well aware – I think that we’re all well aware – that because of the nature of the proceedings prior to that moment, which is kind of nothing happening; they make a proposal; we do not respond in any way to that proposal; then they come back and unilaterally raise their proposal, and we say after some time, ‘We’re not negotiating with you anymore.’ That that was an effective cessation of negotiations. And that it was incredibly improbable that without some sort of significant change in something, that the individual agencies would not then take David Goodman up on this invitation.”
Three mid-sized agencies – Verve, Kaplan Stahler and Buchwald – have agreed to the guild’s terms, but Mazin said that he believes none of them are involved in any great degree with packaging and agency affiliations with related production companies. “We haven’t done anything to change anything yet,” he said. “In fact, after (four months), what we’ve done is essentially bring back a few agencies to the state they were in prior to the action we took. So I don’t think we’ve changed much there.”
“I don’t think that is accurate or fair,” August said, “in terms of the agencies that we’ve signed and also the packaging deals that have not happened as a result of this action. Some of these smaller agencies were packaging. Verve was packaging, and I believe Kaplan Stahler had a package on a significant property as well. So these are agencies who, I think given their druthers, would love to continue packaging, but have decided not to package in order to sign this agreement.”
Mazin, however, said that none of those agencies were packaging in any significant way, and that the packaging field had been dominated by the Big 4.
“A much smaller percent than the Big 4,” August agreed. “Absolutely no argument there.”
Mazin, who agrees that something needs to be done about packaging and affiliate production, said “I hate this stuff that the agencies are doing,” but noted that he criticizes the way the guild has handled it “because I want the guild to do better.”
“We have a difference of opinion on how to accomplish that,” Mazin said. They both agreed, however, that the civil discussion about those differences is good for the guild and good for a democratic election.
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