Unity was the theme tonight as more than 500 writers gathered at the Beverly Hilton for an update on the WGA’s looming showdown with the Association of Talent Agents, now entering the last 10 days before their franchise agreement expires April 6.
“The guild is always united,” said a writer leaving the packed International Ballroom.
“Absolutely united,” said another, pumping his fist.
“What’s a synonym for united?” laughed another. “That’s what it is.”
The meeting follows the latest broadsides each side hurled at the other following today’s bargaining session, with the ATA accusing the guild of threatening to throw “our industry into chaos,” and the WGA vowing that “we won’t be intimidated by another threat from the agencies.”
Earlier today, the WGA posted a video on YouTube about packaging, saying that “Hollywood talent agencies have a business model rife with conflicts of interest. This means they do what’s best for them, even if it’s not best for their clients. These conflicts hurt writers. The situation is bad, and it’s getting worse.”
Here it is:
To date, no progress has been made at all on the two key issues: TV packaging fees and agency ties to affiliated production companies. WGA members will begin voting on Wednesday for a new Agency Code of Conduct that would ban both practices, and if a deal isn’t reached, the guild could order its members to fire their agents en masse. Nearly 800 members – including some of the top writers and showrunners – have already signed a pledge to fire their agents who refuse to sign the code.
Earlier today, the WGA said it’s ready for that eventuality, releasing details of its plan of action that include a submissions system that would bypass agents and allow showrunners to hire their fellow writers during the current staffing season. The guild says that it’s also “temporarily” deputizing writers’ managers and lawyers to serve as their agents if the WGA and the ATA fail to reach an agreement.
On Monday, however, management’s AMPTP rejected the guild’s request that the studios and networks participate in what the AMPTP calls a “group boycott” of talent agencies that refuse to sign the WGA’s proposed new Agency Code of Conduct. Doing so, the AMPTP said, would expose the studios to “a substantial risk of liability for antitrust violation.”