Jason Fuchs, an opposition candidate for the WGA West’s board of directors, is urging members to take another look at a proposal from the Association of Talent Agents about sharing revenue from their packaging fees. When their last round of bargaining broke off June 7, the ATA offered to share 2% of their backend fees with writers – an offer the guild rejected.
WGA West president David A. Goodman later said that “Although the Guild has been crystal clear about the need to eliminate conflicts of interest and to align agent incentives, we did not immediately reject the concept of revenue sharing as contrary to these goals. I have always hoped they would come up with something in this area that made sense. However, in the course of reviewing in detail the ATA’s latest proposals—and thinking once again through the concept of revenue sharing—the Negotiating Committee, after thorough deliberation, made a decision to take revenue sharing off the table.”
Fuchs, a running mate of WGA West presidential candidate Phyllis Nagy, thinks the guild and the ATA should return to the bargaining table, and that revenue sharing should be part of any final agreement. Ballots in the election went out Thursday and will be counted September 16.
Here is the full text of the email blast he sent to the guild’s members today:
“Revenue sharing of packaging fees has been a hot button topic for membership in this election. As an advocate for revenue sharing, I’m often asked why I don’t believe leadership’s argument against them holds water. I think our WGA-W President, David Goodman, made the most articulate case against revenue sharing in his June 20th video to membership explaining leadership’s decision to remove this idea from discussion with the agencies.
“Particularly given that you have now received your ballots, I wanted to take a moment to specifically answer some of David’s points in the hopes that voters might see both my ideas on the topic and understand a possible path to including revenue sharing as one component of a larger agreement to guarantee agencies, finally, act as our proper fiduciaries. What follows are quotes from David in his video, followed by my responses.
“Would it [revenue sharing] be divided among every member of the Guild, or would you just receive it if you worked on the particular show, represented by the packaging agency, that showed a profit?”
“If we’re looking to do this fairly, my personal take would be that the writers who work on the packaged show — ie: who are creating the content that generated this fee — should be the ones who receive a share of the revenue. Members at large would benefit through payment of dues in the same way that broader membership benefits whenever another member earns income. With respect to deciding whether a participant would have to be ‘represented by the packaging agency, that showed a profit’ or not, I’d love to study this particular aspect more and use the Guild’s estimable research staff to model out a few different options, but I don’t see any reason we can’t find a fair way to approach this.
“If so, would someone who’d been fired from the show after ten episodes receive the same amount as a writer who was with it for the entire run?”
“Our profit participation on shows, our attachments, our passive credits, even our fees often vary based on how long we have worked on the given project. Longevity is rewarded, as it should be. Logically, the longer you are with a show, the larger the share of revenue you will be allotted.
“Who makes that determination? I don’t want to.”
“We elect our leaders to make the hard and complex decisions. If David doesn’t want this responsibility, then, quite simply, he shouldn’t be leading us. I would be honored to be part of a new leadership — along with my WGA Forward Together slate — that is willing to take on this task and, ultimately, we would create a framework we believed was equitable, which we would present to membership for a vote. Membership would be the ultimate arbiter of whether this was a fair plan or not, as they should be.
“Revenue sharing as a model would absolve the agencies and plunge the Guild into an administrative morass from which we would never escape.”
“I’m not sure what David is suggesting revenue sharing would ‘absolve’ the agencies of, but I am amazed by his defeatism on this point. He believes that the WGA, and the WGA alone, can end the multi-decade industry-wide norm of packaging fees without any assistance from the other major guilds and yet when it comes to divvying up a new revenue stream for writers, suddenly it’s an unwinnable morass? We’re now prepared to spend millions upon millions in legal fees and devote the time necessary to set up and administer WR 23 tribunals. Perhaps that time and administrative bandwidth might be better spent administering revenue sharing along the lines I’ve suggested here.
“In other words, an unknown and un-confirmable number, divided by a tiny percentage, at a distant and unspecified date, crazily divided amongst a membership that needs relief now, is not an answer to our demand that the agencies abandon packaging fees and re-align their interests with their clients.”
“Let’s break this down. First of all, saying the number is ‘unknown’ is meaningless because all future earnings numbers are, by definition, ‘unknown’ — they haven’t happened yet! How can we plan an annual budget if the coming year’s dues are ‘unknown’? Well, we can project based on previous years and, in fact, that’s exactly what the Guild does to determine a reasonable plan for annual expenditures. We can certainly do the same with respect to packaging fees.
“Now, David will tell you, and this is his next argument, that such a number in the past or future would be ‘unconfirmable’ given the ATA’s reluctance to open their books. With all due respect, I’d be hesitant to open my books to people that called me a “criminal”, too. I would advise an independent annual audit with strict disclosure rules that guaranteed the WGA had the information we needed to enforce fair revenue sharing while allowing the major agencies a modicum of privacy for businesses which extend vastly beyond our particular bailiwick.
“Next, David and I are in agreement that such revenue should not be divided ‘crazily,’ but as mapped out above, there is a very sane framework by which to divide our share. And by the way, this is only my non-crazy suggestion. My fellow slate mates have equally ‘non-crazy’ variations on this. I believe there are, in all likelihood, a number of not so ‘crazily’ constructed solutions and I’m eager to find the fairest one.
“Finally, David is completely correct in his assessment that membership needs relief ‘now.’ But he spoke those words TEN WEEKS ago.
“If membership needs relief now, if our economic situation is as dire as he makes it out to be — and I believe it is – why have we allowed this quagmire to drift into month six? How much longer do we have to go without winning the Agency Campaign to realize we don’t have a winning strategy?
“If you are ready for a common sense approach, I urge you to support my candidacy for the Board of Directors with Phyllis Nagy for President, Nick Jones Jr. for Treasurer and Marc Guggenheim, Nick Kazan, Courtney Kemp, Ashley Miller, Rasheed Newson, Sarah Treem and Ayelet Waldman for the Board of Directors.
“Go to http://www.wgaforwardtogether.com to learn more.”