Adam Bold, chairman of the Abrams Artists Agency, has reached out to the WGA in the hopes of making a deal. “I would like to talk with you about a way to let your members and my staff get back to work,” he wrote Monday night in an email to David Young, executive director of the WGA West. “Is there a good time on Tuesday for us to talk?”
If such a deal can be made, Abrams Artists would be the first mid-sized agency to break ranks with the Association of Talent Agents in its 11-week standoff with the guild over packaging fees and agency affiliations with production entities. Bold told Deadline that’s he’s willing to accept the guild’s terms on those two key issues, but that he’s not willing to sign the WGA’s Agency Code of Conduct.
His move to find a middle ground comes after the WGA said last week it’s done talking to the ATA and invited each of its member companies to negotiate separately with the guild. “The WGA opened the door when they said they want to negotiate with each firm individually, so I am accepting their offer,” he told Deadline. “I am trying to reach an interim working arrangement with them.”
Bold said he won’t sign the guild’s code, however, because it contains provisions “that are not good for our writer-clients. First of all, they would require us to send the guild personal financial information about our clients, even if they specifically instructed us not to. My responsibility will always be to our clients, not a third party.”
“And there’s a provision of the code that says that after three years, the guild, at its discretion, has the one-sided ability to change the terms of the contract. In other words, they could change our commission rate from 10% to 1%. They can do it unilaterally, but I can’t.”
“If I was going to sign it,” he said, “I would have to hire a labor attorney, an antitrust attorney and a corporate attorney. I would have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. If I’m going to spend that kind of money, I would rather spend it on my clients.”
These issues, he said, are “small stumbling blocks,” however, given that Abrams Artists is willing to abide by the guild’s two chief concerns: eliminating packaging fees and agency affiliations. “We’ll agree to take out the two biggest issues that they are concerned with,” he said. “The ATA and the WGA at some point will reach an agreement, and we agree to abide by whatever they put together.”
The Pantheon Agency is the only ATA member-agency to sign the guild’s code of conduct so far, but it doesn’t represent many writers. Verve has also signed, but it has never been an ATA member. In recent days, several high-profile writers have signed with Verve.
In March, as the WGA-ATA showdown intensified, Abrams Artists Agency’s three partners – Bold, Robert Attermann and Brian Cho – confirmed they would not sign the code, but in a a memo to staff at the time said they had not been consulted by the ATA about its negotiations with the guild.
“We are members of the ATA, and they do a good job of representing us on most topics and issues, but quite honestly, they haven’t consulted with us regarding the writers,” the memo said. “They have been informing us about their efforts, but they are really only concerned with the big four [CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners] – especially since so much of the argument is over packaging, and those firms do the vast majority of it.”
They added: “We are going to have to live with the outcome of this situation since they are not asking us, but we will do the right thing for our clients here – regardless of what the WGA and the ATA work out.”
The partners acquired Abrams Artists in September 2018 from founder Harry Abrams.