Nicholas Kazan, opposition candidate for the WGA West’s board of directors, is calling the guild’s ongoing campaign against Hollywood’s talent agents a “train wreck” that can be salvaged only by new leadership.
“We’re nowhere, we’re drowning,” he said in an email blast to the guild’s members today about the guild’s 4 1/2-month deadlock with the Association of Talent Agents. And as the standoff with agents continues, he said, the guild’s pension and health plans are in such trouble that “retirees could lose health coverage” and “pension payments to current retirees could be reduced.”
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Unable to come to terms with the ATA for a new franchise agreement, the WGA in April ordered all of its members to fire their agents who refuse to sign its new Code of Conduct, which bans packaging fees after one year and bans agency affiliations with related production entities.
Kazan is a running mate of Phyllis Nagy, who hopes to unseat David A. Goodman as guild president. Here is the full text of Kazan’s email to the members:
Experience. We’re in the midst of a treacherous action, and you’re told that present leadership knows what it’s doing and we shouldn’t change horses mid-stream. To which I respond: “They know what they’re doing? What have they accomplished so far?”
They’ve pissed off and confused a lot of writers. They’ve fractured the Guild right before a crucial MBA negotiation. They’ve spent our dues on an expensive state lawsuit they dropped. They walked out on the ATA. Twice. Didn’t negotiate.
They did negotiate non-packaging non-affiliate agreements…with small agencies that don’t package and don’t have affiliates. (Which is like getting Switzerland to agree not to go to war. Or LeBron James to agree not to play professional badminton.)
And the Guild’s campaign is hypothetical: they think they can predict how large corporations (agencies, companies) will deal with radically changed circumstances. They can?
They thought smaller agencies would sign quickly. Didn’t happen. Many in leadership thought this action would be over by now. It’s not.
I mean: they’re not infallible. David Young allowed the affiliate companies to become signatories. So their “experience?” – that’s what got us into this situation…and mid-stream, we’re nowhere, we’re drowning.
By the way: I have experience too. I’ve been on the Board, on a Negotiating Committee, an Executive Director Search Committee. And more. And the people I’m running with have all kinds of experience. They’ve been lawyers, showrunners, staff writers, screenwriters, public defenders…even a Marine Corps vet. 3rd & Fairfax has become an echo chamber. It’s time to open the windows and let some fresh air in.
* Here’s something you may not know: In our old agreement with the ATA, the one we let lapse, agencies had to get our consent if they were packaged. And if we asked, they had to negotiate the terms of packaging with us. So we could say No, and we might even be able to get a piece of the action. The WGA never enforced those provisions. They never even told us about them. They could have started to enforce. Instead, we have this.
* Something else you might not know: our health and pension funds are in trouble. David Young has suggested that cutbacks may come. Retirees could lose health coverage. The Health plan may convert to an HMO. And pension payments to current retirees could be reduced. Payments to future retirees may be less than we’ve been led to expect. These are critical issues to be dealt with in our negotiation with the AMPTP. It will be hard to be united and forceful if we are without our agents and many members are angry about it.
* Packaging. Screenwriters have no dog in that fight. We don’t even have a flea in it. And we need our agents. That’s a big problem. The longer this goes on, the more severe that problem will be.
I have friends who aren’t speaking to me because I’m running and advocating a change in tactics. They think I’m being disloyal, harming the Guild. All I can say is: Loyalty does not mean blind obedience. Sometimes it means trying to stop a train wreck.
Please vote. And go to http://www.wgaforwardtogether.com to read more about me and the great people I’m running with.