Negotiations have begun for a new agreement covering writers and their agents. The first round of talks between the WGA and the Association of Talent Agents were held Tuesday. Their current Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement expires April 6. It hasn’t been renegotiated in more than four decades.
No details have emerged from Tuesday’s meeting, but the WGA East and West want to put an end to what they say are inherent “conflicts of interest” that violate the agencies’ fiduciary duties to writers when they’re involved in packaging and production deals. The WGA and ATA both declined comment.
The WGA’s proposals for a new agreement, which were delivered to the ATA in April, would reshape the agency landscape. A proposal that “no agency shall accept any money or thing of value from the employer of a client” effectively would end all packaging deals. The guild also proposed eliminating commissions on scale and putting the brakes on the agencies’ ventures into film and television production by not allowing agencies to have “an ownership or other financial interest in, or shall be owned by or affiliated with, any entity or individual engaged in the production or distribution of motion pictures.”
Taken together, the WGA’s proposals, if adopted, effectively would return the agencies to mere collectors of 10% commissions on the writers they represent – a business model that hasn’t existed at the big agencies in decades.
The WGA will hold the first of three days of membership meetings to discuss their proposals on Saturday. “We want to get face-to-face with every member in the Guild – starting now,” WGA West president David A. Goodman and executive director David Young said last week in an email to members. “Our goal is to attain a new Agency Agreement that eliminates practices that constitute a conflict of interest: agency packaging fees and agencies functioning as producers.”