The WGA pitched dozens of Hollywood’s top talent attorneys today on its plan to order guild members to fire their agents if the guild doesn’t get what it wants at the bargaining table. Some 35-40 lawyers attended one of the two meetings, and a like number is believed to have attended the other. The deadline for a deal with the Association of Talent Agents is April 6.
If writers walk, they’ll have to find new agents willing to sign the WGA’s proposed new Code of Conduct, which would ban packaging and end agency involvement in production deals with related entities. To fill the sudden vacuum created by most of the top agents in town being fired and cut out of representing writers – for who knows how long – the WGA expects their members’ managers and attorneys to help out which ever agents are willing to sign the Code.
“If writers are asked to fire their agents,” said an attorney who attended the first meeting, “the presentation was that it would be a combination of managers and lawyers fulfilling those roles, because according to the guild, particularly in television, the managers and lawyers already fulfill, to a degree, those roles.
“There was also talk about the guild providing resources to showrunners – compiling lists of pilots and copies of writers’ materials so that the guild might someway facilitate their members getting jobs, all under the banner of this being an interim period, as things shook out, if there was unfortunately, that message being sent to their members – to fire agents who are not signed up to the Code of Conduct.”
“The idea was that this would be interim,” he said. “Clearly the intent was not for this to be ongoing – this was more just, in the interim, if there is chaos, short term.”
Recent case law, however, may not be on the guild’s side, he said. “First off, lawyers can’t solicit employment. And there was a recent case that someone referenced that actually went a step further – that not only can lawyers not solicit employment, they actually can’t even, in theory, negotiate deals for certain artists without involvement of a licensed talent agent.”
Under that legal theory, if writers walk, their new agents will still have to be involved in negotiating all deals – interim or otherwise.