The Abrams Artists Agency was unable to reach a deal today with the WGA, despite chairman Adam Bold’s offer to forego packaging fees and any affiliation with related production entities. Bold spoke for about 20 minutes with WGA West executive director David Young, but they couldn’t come to an agreement. If Bold had agreed to the guild’s terms, Abrams Artists would have been the first mid-size agency to break ranks with the Association of Talent Agents in the guild’s 11-week struggle to reshape the agenting business.
“Honestly, I’m disappointed, sad, and perplexed by this decision,” Bold said in a statement. “I expected that we would have a common goal, which was to put people back to work in the interim while the litigation is going on, but instead it seems that the WGA has other priorities. I don’t have the desire nor the resources or energy to spend trying to engage in negotiations on the sort of agreement that a union makes with the trade association. I’m not a labor negotiator. I’m not pretending to try and solve the bigger issue. Instead, I thought that I had a reasonable and fair workaround for our clients and staff to earn a living until they work out those bigger issues. We simply took the agreement that had been in place for 42 years and made an addendum removing the most contentious and egregious issues.”
Asked if he intends to talk to the guild again, Bold said: “I don’t know. I don‘t think there’s any point.”
Here’s the deal he offered the Guild:
“This interim agreement shall be an addendum to the Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement of 1976 (“AMBA”) and is between the Writers Guild of America (“WGA”) and Abrams Artists Agency (“Abrams”) as follows:
1. This addendum agreement shall extend the term of the expired AMBA and apply it to Abrams during its term which shall be from the date of execution hereof to the effective date of any industry-wide agreement between the WGA and the Association of Talent Agents (“ATA”).
2. During the term hereof, Abrams shall not participate in the so called “packaging” of WGA-covered projects.
3. During the term hereof, Abrams will refrain from engaging or investing in affiliated production activity.
4. It is the intention of the parties that this addendum agreement shall terminate and be of no further force or effect upon the execution of a new agreement between the WGA and ATA, to which Abrams shall be bound.
5. The WGA agrees that Abrams shall have the benefit of any better terms or conditions which WGA extends to any other talent agency during the term of this agreement.
6. Upon execution hereof, WGA member writers shall be free to be and remain clients of Abrams and WGA shall not interfere with Abram’s representation of WGA member writers.”
Young, in an email to Bold this evening, explained why the guild could not agree to his terms (see below).
“I appreciate your effort but I hope you understand that we cannot agree to what you are proposing,” Young wrote. “There are many reasons, but a fundamental one is that we’ve now negotiated a whole, new AMBA with many terms that are better than the old agreement. We opened the contract after 43 years because writers don’t like it. We cannot make an interim deal that takes us back where we were in 1976.
“Another thing I want you to know is that we’ve currently signed 73 agencies to the new agreement; there are 27 remaining AMBA signatories with whom we have not reached a new deal, including Abrams. Under the favored nations terms of our agreements with the 73, if I go backward and make a deal with you that has lesser terms than the deals we’ve made with the signed agencies, the WGA will have to give your deal to all 73! You can see that we’d never do that.
“We’re in a three month struggle to get a deal that supersedes the 1976 AMBA, not one that uses it as a benchmark. The agreement that I sent to you incorporates many changes from the original Code of Conduct of a few months ago, the result of negotiating discussions over the months with both the ATA and many individual agencies that have already signed. If you want to get on the phone to discuss this, let me know.”