The WGA today kept up its steady drumbeat for its threatened war on the major talent agencies, meeting again with personal managers to enlist their support if the guild orders its members to fire their agents en masse on April 6.
“It was the same old thing,” said a manager leaving the meeting. “The WGA wants the writers to leave, and managers want them to try to compromise.”
Said another: “They were talking at us, not with us, which is disappointing. And they seemed unnecessarily militant, which is unfortunate.”
Today’s meeting with managers at the Beverly Hilton comes a day after the guild said that it has reached an “impasse” with the Association of Talent Agents for a new franchise agreement. The main sticking point has been the WGA’s demand that agencies give up packaging and any involvement in production deals with their related entities.
More than 100 managers attended today’s meeting. “I don’t think they really want to negotiate,” said another manager who was there. “They are not bending on what their demands are, so how can you negotiate?”
The guild held a similar meeting with managers Thursday.
The WGA has proposed a new Code of Conduct that would reshape the agenting business – banning practices that it calls “conflicts of interest” that violate agents’ fiduciary duties to their clients. It’s even gone so far as calling packaging fees “illegal kickbacks.” Guild members are expected to ratify the Code on March 25 and abandon any agents who don’t sign it by April 6. That would include nearly all of the 1,000-plus TV showrunners and executive producers, most of whom got their existing deals through their packaging agents.
By law, managers can’t negotiate new agreements on their own; they’re not licensed by the state or franchised by the guild to do that. So the guild is preparing to hook them up with agents willing to sign its Code and to pair them with lawyers to fill the gap of representation when thousands of writers, showrunners and executive producers leave their big agencies, which will almost certainly not agree to the WGA’s terms. Doing so would return the big agencies to a business model that hasn’t existed in decades.