WGA West presidential candidate Phyllis Nagy says that writers’ residuals are in danger, both from the growth of streaming services and the threat they pose to the traditional licensing fee-based residuals model, and from the guild’s four-month-long standoff with Hollywood’s talent agencies, which she says will leave the WGA divided if it continues to drag on ahead of next year’s film and TV contract negotiations with management’s AMPTP. That contract expires on May 1, 2020.
“The most important issue we must face during the 2020 AMPTP MBA negotiations is the future of our residuals,” she wrote in a posting Wednesday on her slate’s WGA Forward Together website. “It’s the 2nd, 3rd and 4th most important issues, too. Residuals are what see us through lean times and provide a measure of security while we secure new work.
“Only those with multi-year overall deals and other highly overscale deals don’t lose sleep over how we get from year to year, how to qualify for health insurance and how to cease worrying about where the next check comes from. If we enter the 2020 talks with the Companies without having resolved our action against the agencies, most of us will not be in a strong enough position to weather a potentially long and difficult strike to preserve our residuals. I urge all of us to think carefully about this as we contemplate the efficacy of a divide-and-conquer strategy with the non-packaging agencies in the hope that the most powerful agencies will capitulate.
“I don’t plan to play a waiting game against a ticking clock headed into AMPTP talks. Our residuals are too important for that roll of the dice. If we have to go out, I want it to be for something that will impact every single writer’s future in a profound way. By late 2020, three of the five major studios will have SVOD distribution arms, which means that they will have direct contact with the consumers of our product.
“The traditional structures for distribution/access and the ‘middlemen’ will largely disappear, as the percentage of the population who accesses our work through streaming grows. Ten years ago, it was 1% of the population. Now, it’s 15-20% of the population. And that number will keep growing.
“Our current, license-fee based system does not work with the new models. When Warner’s makes a deal with Warner Media, what do they ‘charge’ and how is a truly fair market value determined? We must unite in advance of the talks with our sister unions—the DGA and SAG-AFTRA—to deal with this issue from a position of unassailable strength.
“Are we in the best position to do this when we are still at war with the ATA? Emphatically not. Does it mean that new leadership will strike an ill-informed deal? Emphatically, no.
“It means that new leadership will strike a careful deal—but a deal, nevertheless—to put money into the pockets of every low and mid-level writer who works on a show. It means that new leadership will quickly convene new negotiating and advisory committees representing all areas in which our membership works and provide a counter to the last formal offer the ATA made in June.
“It means that revenue sharing will be back on the table—even as our lawsuit plays out in court. We save valuable time to prepare for AMPTP and millions of dollars better spent on data collection, enforcement and preparation.
“Can we effectively hold agencies accountable for unfair practices concerning packaging? We certainly can. Can we devise a system—with the agencies and the Guild working together to ensure a fair share and distribution of a revenue sharing solution? We certainly can. Can we effectively eliminate and/or curtail abuses of affiliate production companies? We certainly can. And we will. Because the alternative is unacceptable.”
Read her full post here.