EXCLUSIVE: Veteran literary agents Brad Rosenfeld and Paul Weitzman are leaving Abrams Artists Agency after a 4.5-year stint as VPs and co-heads of the literary division. Partnered with fellow Abrams lit agent Karen Kirkland, the trio have launched a new agency, Culture Creative Entertainment, which has become a WGA signatory, signing the guild’s new franchise agreement.
According to the principals, CCE will initially focus on writers and directors but will expand to include other areas of representation as they grow.
The move comes more than 100 days into the standoff between the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Talent Agents, which led to more than 7,000 writers firing their agents, including those represented by Abrams Artists.
Culture Creative Entertainment would be the third literary agency to sign WGA’s new franchise agreement (formerly Code of Conduct), which would allow it to represent WGA members, joining Verve and Kaplan Stahler.
“The current situation between agents and the WGA has brought the needs of writers into sharp focus,” Weitzman said. “It feels like the time is right to create an agency whose success will be directly aligned with our clients’ interests first”.
The new WGA franchise agreement reverts agenting to a commission-based business by banning packaging and affiliated production over potential conflicts of interest in addition to other changes to the 1976 Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement between the guild and ATA’s predecessor.
“This is such an exciting time for writers and directors,” said Rosenfeld. “Writers have been very vocal about what it is that they desire from their representation and it is time they get 100% support and complete transparency from them. It was an easy decision to go out and create something new and exciting to answer their call.”
Weitzman and Rosenfeld joined Abrams Artists in 2015 to create the lit department of the agency after 17 years at boutique literary agency Preferred Artists. Kirkland had been at Abrams for a year after serving more than 13 years as an executive at Nickelodeon developing talent through their writing program.
“Our clients are some of the best in the business,” Kirkland said. “The goal is to create a culture of inclusivity and to provide each of our clients with access and opportunities in the facets of entertainment that most interests them. The three of us bring a wealth of knowledge from various aspects of the business and equally as important — the care and respect we have for our clients is reflected in the work we do with them and for them.”
When the WGA and ATA’s franchise agreement came to an end in April and thousands of writers fired their agents, many predicted lit agent departures from the major agencies and the launch of new firms aligned with the WGA. Culture Creative Entertainment is the first such agency to open its doors.
Its creation comes several weeks after Abrams Artists’ chairman Adam Bold made an unsuccessful attempt to reach an interim agreement with the WGA as an addendum to the 1976 pact that prohibits packaging and agency-affiliated production.
Bold spoke highly of Rosenfeld and Weitzman. “They are fierce advocates for their clients, and they did a great job for Abrams,” he said. “And I wish them the very best. And I mean this with all sincerity: those two are very ethical, good men.”
Kirkland left about a month ago, Bold said. “I love Karen. I like her very much, and Paul and Brad too. I have nothing but good things to say about them.”
Despite the departures of most of its lit agents, including the co-heads of the department (two others have joined Verve), Abrams plans to stay in the lit business, said Bold, an entrepreneur and producer who last fall partnered with long-time Abrams executives Robert Attermann and Brian Cho to acquire the agency from Harry Abrams.
“We are staying in the lit business but the bad news is that there’s a writers’ strike,” Bold said, referring to the impasse between WGA and ATA. “The good news is that it is our intention to build the premiere specialty artist agency in the world, that’s our goal. And to do that, we have to be best in every department. So with the departures of Karen, Brad and Paul, we’re going to be in a rebuilding phase. And as we rebuild, we’re structuring things a little differently than what Abrams had done traditionally under the former owners. Because everything we do now is based on what is best for the client, and we believe that having a collaborative team approach will allow us to have the most work for our clients.”