The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents are expected to return to the bargaining table on Tuesday – the day before writers begin voting to approve a new Code of Conduct that would bar packaging fees and force agencies to sever their ties with affiliated production companies. If the Code is approved and a deal isn’t reached by April 6, the guild could order its members to fire all their agents who refuse to sign the Code.
After yesterday’s bargaining session, there was some cautious optimism among agents that the progress made on two smaller fronts will lead to more serious discussions on the two biggest fronts – packaging and affiliate production.
Agencies that have affiliated production entities are standing behind those, with one top agent calling them “vital to our business” that “serve as alternatives for writers and artists looking to gain more creative control, financial upside, and most importantly – get their projects made.” The agent dismissed conflict of interest accusations, stressing that it is the clients’ choice whether they want to work with a production company tied to their agency.
Yesterday’s session did move the parties closer on two smaller issues, however.
Progress continued on independent film. According to sources, there was a presentation by WGA negotiating committee members, and the agency representative were able to ask questions around the existing issues around packaging and sales fees on features. The guild’s side reportedly stressed that minimizing conflicts of interest is important to writers, while agents offered practical thoughts about their experiences in how films come together, often with producers controlling the fee and distribution decisions.
The two bargaining teams also had “a lengthy conversation about client contracts and confidentiality,” sources said. The two sides dug deep to find out what is driving the request, which appeared to be the WGA’s desire to help collect members’ money and to police issues of writers working for free.
“Now that we know that context, we will spend the coming days coming up with ways we can work together on this,” one agent said. “These exchanges only made us feel stronger about the idea that dialogue is the solve for this negotiation. Agents and writers need to engage in meaningful conversations to get to the heart of these issues. Solutions are easier to imagine with proper background on the WGA’s proposals.”
Earlier today, Paradigm CEO Sam Gores said in an email to the agency’s writer-clients that “a number of the WGA proposals are…simply unreasonable and unworkable.”
Chief among them is packaging. “We take fierce pride in helping our clients achieve all of their goals,” he wrote. “The television packaging model has never distracted us from making the client’s creative and financial goals our fundamental priority. This is true for any client on a packaged show. We have never packaged a writer against their wishes not to be packaged, nor have we ever benefited financially to a greater extent than our client who is the key element.”