WGA members voted overwhelmingly (95.3% to 4.7%) to unilaterally introduce a new code of conduct for the agency just six days before the expiration of the Guild's existing franchise agreement with the Association of Talent Agents. The final vote of the members of WGA East and West was opposed to 7882 in favor of 392.
The unilateral vote, though not unexpected, should strengthen the WGA's bargaining position by informing the agencies that writers are not bluffing – that they are really ready to leave their agents, and all that the same day. The ATA says that this would create "chaos" in the industry. The WGA calls it a "difficult" part of a necessary "reorientation" of a "corrupt" business model that further lowers the excessive pay of thousands of authors, producers and showrunners negotiated by the agents. 1
Finally, nearly 800 authors – including many of TV's top showrunners – have agreed that they will do just that if a new franchise agreement is not reached. They could still keep the same agent for managing jobs, but not for writer shops. Writer directors would need to have two agents at different agencies to provide employment, which is only allowed to accredited talent agents.
The ATA has meanwhile said its members are together – more than 100 of you, including all the major agencies that do almost all packaging, have agreed not to sign the WGA code. The Showdown
The influence of a writer on the upcoming TV season would be immediately felt as thousands of writers simultaneously search for jobs and agents. However, TV production will feel less of a hick cup as authors are already shown in production and those who have signed deals. But their agents can not represent or renegotiate them unless they sign the code.
However, the development of the television would quickly lead to significant unrest, as the four major agencies are heavily involved in the development of the code, showing that they are packaging – and they are packaging the vast majority of them. Studio and network development departments need to spend a lot of time on the WGA plan to reinvent agentaging.
Independent films could also find that financing and distribution are harder to find, which the big agencies pack into deals to bring them together. A slowdown in the sector, according to the ATA, would also hurt actors, directors and crewmembers.
The Guild has meanwhile taken the unprecedented step of representing the personal managers and lawyers of its members as proxies for the top agents they will no longer have when the code is implemented. Many writers do not even have agents, managers or lawyers, and like many of those who do, they say that they will find writing jobs themselves, as many are already doing.
To help connect writers with tenants, if necessary The guild has also created a new electronic job board – the WGA Staffing Submission System – which has already recruited hundreds of showrunners and executive producers have committed themselves to review the self-submissions of their colleagues in TV shows.
The unilateral vote on the new Code was expected because the WGA Board of Trustees, the WGA West Board, and the WGA East Council had unanimously recommended its approval. The vote reads: "Are you empowering the Board and the Council to implement an Agency Code of Conduct, if advisable after the expiration of the applicable Artist Manager Basic Agreement on April 6, 2019?"
The two main topics that were not moving at the negotiating table are the WGA's demands that the agencies no longer charge packaging fees and break their relationships with affiliated manufacturing companies. Both, so the guild, are conflicts of interest, the agents violate fiduciary duties towards their customers.
Packaging has been around for decades and is dominated by the four major talent agencies – WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners. According to the Guild, 87% of all television series were screenplayed during the 2016/7 TV season, and 79% of those shows were packaged by WME and CAA. Packaging brings together the creative elements of a show for which they receive a packaging fee if they do not charge their customers their 10% commission.
The negotiations have been the most bitter for decades – perhaps even more than during the failed talks that led to the WGA strike in 2007/08. At least, the guild did not accuse the studios and networks of committing crimes.
The WGA has charged the four major agencies with leading a vertically integrated "cartel" that determines the Hollywood market for Hollywood talent and threatens to sue The agencies described their packaging fees as "illegal kickbacks".
Chris Keyser, Co-Chair of the Guild Negotiating Committee, said that "the agency business is now dominated by four agencies – an oligopoly – they have an overwhelming share of, and control over, the packaging and valuation of the market Packaging fees have made this question a question we need to answer now. "
Unlike packaging, agency relationships are associated with affiliated manufacturing / finance companies – such as WME with Endeavor Content, CAA with Wiip, and UTA with Civic Center Media a relatively new phenomenon, even though the WGA compares it to the stranglehold that the mega-agency MCA and Universal had forced before the Department of Justice. The guild has published dozens of horror stories of anonymous members about their agents who are selfish, greedy, disloyal, lazy, conflicting and seductive, but nowhere does the guild speak the wa That's why many of their members-including many of Hollywood's best writers, directors, actors, and producers-are represented by the big agencies-their influence.
Their influence to make studio bosses and superstars return their calls; make a deal with a napkin in the Polo Lounge; To connect investors to their clients' vanity projects and blockbusters. To send your clout, movies and TV shows. Such effects can not be quantified with the latest algorithm, but if agents go on strike, a deal as Hollywood is so dependent on would come to an end overnight. What matters is why so many A-Listeners have A-List agents. That's why so many business meetings begin with the question, "Who is your agent?"