EXCLUSIVE: With the clock ticking on the April 6 end of the WGA and the Association of Talent Agents’ franchise agreement and a March 27 starting vote by guild members on a new Code of Conduct that could see packaging kicked to the curb, WME’s President last night offered the agency’s clients a very blunt assessment of where talks stand.
“It was clear from today’s session that the WGA is not interested in a real negotiation,’ said Ari Greenburg in an email sent out after the latest round of talks ended yesterday. “They dismissed our suggestion to get into working groups, and it felt like once again we were there for theatrics, not progress.”
In his second such correspondence in as many weeks, Greenburg’s dire assessment of the situation is contained in a list of questions he posed and answered about the ongoing negotiations, which haven’t made any progress towards solving the two key issues: the WGA’s demand that the agencies stop collecting packaging fees and sever their ties with production affiliates.
Promising more open houses with writer clients in the coming days and “more communication and transparency,” Greenburg attached an equally blunt FAQ to his note (read it here). Hollywood is headed towards “massive and endless litigation or chaos” if a compromise can’t be reached between the WGA and the ATA, the FAQ states.
And if that isn’t blunt enough for you, check this out.
On the question of why this dispute is so heated down to the wire, the WME exec said: “The WGA typically does not engage in meaningful dialogue with its opponents until the final days of a contract. This has resulted in 4 threatened strikes in the past 12 years, and one actual walkout. They are using their labor negotiation tactics on this contract dispute.”
The FAQ was developed and printed in response to requests from WME scribe clients trying to get their heads around what’s going on, we hear.
Either way, expect a lot more of this kind of stuff from both sides in the countdown to the WGA vote next week. In the meantime:
READ THE FULL EMAIL FROM ARI GREENBURG HERE:
From: Ari Greenburg
Date: March 19, 2019 at 6:16:13 AM PDT
To: Undisclosed recipients: ;
Subject: WGA Update and FAQ
Today, the ATA negotiating committee and the WGA met again. We provided answers to their questions about film financing. We let them know we are drafting our counterproposals in “contract language,” per their request. And, we once again urged the guild to meet in smaller groups on the key issues at hand. We attempted to have a real dialogue.
The only back-and-forth was about whether the agencies could ask questions; after a heated debate, we asked 23 questions which came from our writer clients. Specifically, we asked them to spell out how they intend to enforce Working Rule #23 if clients are asked to walk away en masse from their agents on April 7. We are hopeful the guild will respond to us, or to our writers directly.
It was clear from today’s session that the WGA is not interested in a real negotiation. They dismissed our suggestion to get into working groups, and it felt like once again we were there for theatrics, not progress.
We heard from our conversations with you that you want more communication and transparency from us. To that end, and with a vote coming up, we will be sending you data and information this week. To date, the WGA has made proposals without asking for any data about our businesses. They have made misinformed assumptions about why we do things, how we handle issues, and where we make our money. They have based this theory on a WGA survey, and a handful of mostly blind anecdotes and horror stories that we have heard repeated online, in podcasts, and from writers who have attended WGA gatherings.
Starting today, we will be sharing our side of this issue with facts and data. We need you to have more information. The idea of our clients going to vote on this matter without all of the facts is unacceptable to us.
1. You likely read today’s report that eliminating packaging fees would annually cost writers $49M. The entire artist community would pay $111M in commissions.
2. Please find attached an FAQ about where things stand with the guild.
3. We will be sharing more information this week, and in our open houses. The LA open house will be at our office on Wednesday 3/20 from 7:00-9:00PM, and in New York on Monday 3/25 from 7:00-9:00PM. RSVP here if you would like to attend.
Thank you for your patience throughout this process. We realize all of this is incredibly stressful, but as we said before, we will get through this by coming together, listening to each other, providing transparency, and working together towards solutions.
We continue to be ready, willing, and able to lock ourselves in a room with the guild to talk through the issues.
Ari Greenburg | WME