Despite the ongoing battle between the WGA and the Association of Talent Agents, Michelle and Robert King, co-creators, executive producers and showrunners of CBS All Access’ The Good Fight and creators, executive producers and showrunners of CBS’ upcoming drama series Evil, say they’ve easily staffed the writers’ rooms for both shows without the involvement of agents. They also say that the development of new shows can be done without agents.
“It’s not like TV is going to stop making shows because there’s no agents,” Robert King said on the latest episode of On Writing, the WGA East’s podcast. “I think we’ve survived it very well. We have two very good writers rooms and it was all done without the influence of agents.”
He didn’t specify which two shows he was referring to; it was likely The Good Fight, heading into its fourth season, and Evil, going into its first. The duo also executive produce the upcoming Showtime limited series Your Honor, which was created by Peter Moffat based on an Israeli format.
“We’re in an interesting time in the business with the Writers Guild and their fight with the ATA,” he said. “And just so you know, we staffed two writers’ room without agents basically, which was kind of not as difficult as everyone thought it would be. It was interesting how much there has been created — this almost like Internet-based connection between showrunners, but also writers — writers asking for themselves, they’re sending material themselves.”
“Not only that, writers who we’d worked with in the past are recommending new writers to us,” Michelle King said. “So there was a real community outreach amongst writers to make sure people got employed, including lower-level writers. I think especially lower-level writers. The more senior writers were very aware that they were potentially suffering, and taking care.”
Listen to the full podcast here.
On April 12, the WGA ordered all of its members to fire their agents who refuse to sign the WGA’s new Code of Conduct, which bans packaging fees and agency affiliations with corporately related production entities. At last count, the guild says that more than 7,000 writers have done so. The standoff between the WGA and the ATA, now in its 11th week, has also raised questions about how shows will be developed going forward with agent-less creators and showrunners.
Staffing shows without agents is one thing; developing new shows is another. But the Kings say that this can also be done without agents.
“I know that the next concern about this is how well development will go,” Robert King said. “Everybody’s playing off the same seasonal sense of how networks work. The next thing after room staffing is development. I’ve read the trade articles say, ‘How will writers go in and pitch?’ It’s like, ‘Well, come to us.’ We’re a production company. We’ll go in with pitches if we like them. I think that’s how it always works.”
The guild says that WGA members have submitted hundreds of loglines through its TV Development Memo and Weekly Feature Memo, both of which are distributed to a list of over 750 signatory production companies, producers and studio executives. Guild members have used the WGA’s Staffing Submission System to submit themselves to showrunners staffing up their writers rooms, and have also supported each other on social media using hashtags like #WGAStaffingBoost, #WGASolidarityChallenge and #WGADevelopmentBoost.
As for those hashtags, Michelle King said: “We didn’t use that route, but there has been a WGA portal that we signed up for, and then also writers who we trust reaching out directly to us.”
Later this month, the WGA will launch a Development Submission System. Like the Staffing Submission System, this online portal will help TV and feature writers connect with open writing assignments and people looking for writers. Producers, pods, executives, directors, and IP rightsholders will be able to post information about the type of projects they want to develop. Writers will be able to submit their credits, bio and samples directly to specific companies with whom they’d like to work.