UPDATED with WGA and ATA statements and more details: Another full-service agency and Association of Talent Agents member, APA, has reached a deal with the WGA. The agency, which immediately will resume its representation of writers, also said it will bring the Television and Motion Picture Literary businesses together under the banner of APA Scripted Literary.
APA is the latest member of the Association of Talent Agents to break ranks and sign the guild’s new franchise agreement. Its deal comes just days after fellow full-service agency Gersh also signed with the WGA. The other four association members to make WGA deals are Buchwald, also a full-service agency; literary boutiques the Rothman Brecher Ehrich Livingston agency and the Kaplan Stahler Agency; and Pantheon. Non-ATA member Verve, also lit-focused, was the first mid-size agency to reach an agreement with the WGA last May.
Until last week, APA CEO Jim Gosnell had been president of the ATA. He was succeeded last Tuesday by Rita Vennari, president of the Sutton Barth Vennari talent agency. Gosnell remains on the ATA’s board of directors.
The terms of guild’s agreement (read it here) are the same as the one it signed with Gersh last week. It allows agencies to continue charging packaging fees for films and TV shows through July 15, 2021, and even longer if two of the Big 4 agencies – WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners – don’t cave and accept the guild’s terms.
In a combined statement, APA literary partners Lee Dinstman, Lindsay Howard Parker, Sheryl Petersen, Kyle Loftus and David Saunders said: “Representing writers has and will continue to be a cornerstone of this company. We remain tirelessly dedicated to offering clients the best possible representation with a forward-thinking approach. Integrating APA’s Television and Motion Picture departments will best position APA to provide distinct and effective service to clients in a marketplace driven by content creators and global streaming. Everything in our business starts with the written word. We are thrilled to return to work in support of writers effective immediately.”
The WGA said in a statement today: “Today the WGA signed a franchise agreement with the Agency for the Performing Arts,” the guild said. “Prior to April 2019, APA represented more than 400 WGA members, and as of today, the agency may represent WGA members for covered writing services again.”
The ATA issued the same statement it does whenever an agency agrees the the WGA code: “Writers who agree with the WGA leadership are of course free to join the agencies that have signed with WGA, and writers who care most about other issues should be free to join agencies that offer services that meet their needs. There is no reason for WGA to continue to restrict the freedom of writers. Writers should be able to decide which issues are most important to them and then freely decide which agent to hire.”
The agreement offers a “most-favored-nations clause” to all signers, meaning that any franchised agency can adopt the terms of this agreement. “Our goal remains to move the negotiation process forward with the remaining unsigned agencies,” the guild said.
The convergence of film and television on streaming platforms was behind the move to consolidate the two lit departments of APA, sources said.
The WGA and the ATA have been at loggerheads since last April 13, when the guild ordered all of its members to fire their agents who refuse to sign a Code of Conduct that banned packaging fees and agency affiliations with corporately related production entities. Since then, the guild has modified the terms of its franchise agreement so that signers can compete with the larger agencies that refuse to sign.
None of the major packaging agencies have signed, however, and the guild is currently locked in a legal battle with WME, CAA and UTA over packaging fees. The WGA and the ATA haven’t met at the bargaining table since June 7.
As for APA, its new literary division will bring together current respective department heads, Howard Parker and Petersen, to lead the group that will continue to report to Dinstman, who is EVP and Head of Literary. Hayden Meyer remains Head of Alternative and Factual Programming, and Steve Fisher remains Head of Intellectual Property.