Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy, Ava DuVernay, Greg Berlanti, Mark Boal and John Wells are among the notable showrunners and screenwriters who have signed an open letter urging the WGA to move toward a negotiated settlement to end the impasse with Hollywood’s largest talent agencies.
The signatories are throwing their support in the upcoming WGA West elections behind Phyllis Nagy, a screenwriter who is challenging incumbent David Goodman. Nagy has been critical of the guild leadership’s handling of the campaign, which led to more than 7,000 writers firing their agents in mid-April.
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The letter marks the most public statement to date by WGA members who have been increasingly frustrated with the guild’s position in the battle to ban talent agents from collecting packaging fees or having agency-affiliated production entities. A number of the signers also signed a public letter of support for the guild’s position back in March when the WGA held a referendum among members to affirm the implementation of the guild’s new Agency Code of Conduct. That referendum was endorsed by upwards of 95% of the members who voted.
It also comes amid movement among smaller talent agencies to concede to the WGA’s reforms. Kaplan Stahler Agency earlier this week became the first shop affiliated with the Association of Talent Agencies bargaining unit to sign the Code of Conduct. Also this week, Buchwald Agency agreed to the code, and three literary agents formerly with Abrams Artists Agency struck out on their own as WGA signatories under the Culture Creative banner.
The loss of writer clients is a blow to all agencies, but the smaller shops don’t have the financial wherewithal to enduring a lengthy mass exodus. WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners have been the focal point of the guild’s campaign as each agency in varying degrees has diversified operations significantly in the past decade.
The guild’s election for officers and board seats is set for mid-September. The divide among WGA members over the agency issue is reflected in a higher-than-usual number of contenders for board seats and the fact that Nagy and William Schmidt are running against Goodman on an agency settlement platform. Nagy has assembled a slate that includes Craig Mazin running for WGA West vice president and Nick Jones Jr. running for secretary-treasurer.
Here’s the full text of the letter:
As members of the Writers Guild of America, we firmly believe that many agency practices are in need of major reform. We are grateful to the present leadership for bringing these matters to the fore.
And we believe this present situation is best resolved in a negotiating room and not in a courtroom.
Furthermore, we are facing a critical negotiation with the AMPTP, a fight that has huge financial consequences for our members especially in the area of residuals, and we believe this battle is best fought by a united, forward-thinking guild that is not entrenched in lawsuits.
Our union is strong enough to endure honest differences of opinion voiced by writers who are loyal to the guild and its mission, who are driven by their concern for our most vulnerable members, but who believe there is a different way to achieve our shared goals.
Phyllis Nagy , for President
Craig Mazin, for Vice President
and Nick Jones, Jr. for Secretary-Treasurer
are the best and strongest voices to lead our guild into its next chapter.
We are grateful to them for being willing to serve, and we are proud to endorse them.
John Lee Hancock