In the wake of Verve signing the WGA’s new Code of Conduct, which bans packaging fees and agency affiliations with related production entities, the Association of Talent Agents has issued a statement about “How the WGA’s Code of Conduct Hurts Agencies and Writers.” The statement is similar to those the ATA has made throughout its standoff with the WGA, which is now near the end of its fifth week.
The WGA’s code, the ATA says, “is a unilateral mandate that gives the guild the authority to control agency business operations, including forcing agencies to provide confidential information about their clients. The Code is not in the best interest of agencies or the writers they represent and causes unnecessary disruption to the entire industry.”
According to the ATA, the Code also sets “a new, harmful precedent for agencies of all sizes” by enabling the guild to:
• Demand a variety of confidential client information from an agency, even against the clients’ wishes, including but not limited to, quarterly financial statements, copies of deals, and invoices.
• Require agencies to provide the WGA such information in an unreasonable timeframe, including within days of deal commitment and immediate notice of when a job starts.
• Require agencies to report regularly to the guild on a variety of subjects, including providing employment data, film budgets, and lists of projects where the agency is providing services.
• Require agencies to monitor and notify the guild of all late payments due to a writer, even against clients’ wishes. Many agencies would need to invest in additional staffing resources to support these new functions.
• Approve (or disapprove) film finance deals negotiated by an agency on its clients’ behalf.
• After the initial fixed term, change the terms of the agreement on 90 days’ notice, regardless of the effect it will have on agencies and their business models.
• Make all disputes subject to guild-selected arbitrators, with loss of franchise and substantial financial damages determined by a single arbitrator with no appeal.”
The ATA says the WGA is also “attempting to make decisions about writer’s careers on their behalf – wrongfully asserting that writers can’t make the right decisions for their own careers,” and claims that “The Code wipes out financial confidentiality for writers by requiring agencies to provide the Guild with every writer client’s contracts and financial information – with or without the consent of the individual writer client.”
According to the ATA, “The Code will eliminate hundreds of jobs for writers and artists by hamstringing the film financing market and eliminating production entities that are producing shows and films that may not otherwise get made.”