In May, Verve became the biggest agency to sign the WGA’s new Code of Conduct, which bans TV packaging and agency-affiliated production, allowing it to resume representing its writer clients and land high-profile new ones including WGA Agency Negotiating Committee members John August and Meredith Stiehm.
While agreeing to forgo packaging on scripted projects in order to get franchised by the WGA, I hear that in the two months since signing the code, Verve has been actively pursuing package fees on unscripted shows.
One example is an unscripted series project starring Ken Fulk, a high-end interior designer/event planner and Verve client, which is in the works at independent company Critical Content. The project, which I hear is in talks with Bravo, was created by David Metzler (Catfish) as part of his overall deal at Critical Content as a 50/50 package between WME and ICM Partners, which rep Critical Content and Metzler, respectively.
I hear that over the past month, Verve repeatedly tried to get a package split on the series, which was based on a sizzle reel Metzler shot with Fulk before he became a Verve client. I hear the agency, which was pursuing a third of the package, was ultimately unsuccessful, but it also has other unscripted deals where it is seeking packaging fees.
Like was the case with WGA Negotiating Committee co-chair Chris Keyser shopping a packaged series produced by an agency-affiliated studio, Endeavor Content, Verve is not breaking any rules since the WGA has no jurisdiction over unscripted TV (despite numerous attempts), but the optics of its aggressive pursuit of packaging fees are not great. That is because the WGA had made the fight against packaging a moral issue, exposing the practice as an inherently unethical conflict of interest.
“The Code of Conduct specifically stipulates that an agency can participate in packaging on unscripted projects where WGA members are not involved,” the Verve partners said in a statement for Deadline. “We continue to follow the rules as set forth.”