The WGA has recently updated its frequently asked-questions page about the implantation of Working Rule 23, which prohibits guild members from being represented by non-franchised agents. On April 13, the guild ordered all of its members to fire their agents who refuse to sign its Code of Conduct, which bans packaging fees for one year and prohibits agency affiliations with related production entities.
Here’s a sample of some of the questions and answers. The full FAQ can be read here.
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Q. What obligation do I have to oppose the packaging of new projects under my overall deal?
A. “Members on overall deals must communicate to the employing studio that you cannot be treated as a ‘packageable element’ by the former agency. We also strongly encourage members on overall deals to inform the studio that you do not want your new projects to be packaged by any non-franchised agency.”
Q. Can an unfranchised agency represent me as a producer?
A. “Producing by TV writer-producers is covered in the Minimum Basic Agreement. Those provisions specifically say that producing services are deemed part of writing when performed by writer-producers. Thus, when an agent makes a deal for a hyphenate in television – usually an overall deal or a series contract for a per episode fee – the writer-producer services are deemed covered under the MBA. An agent can’t represent or split off the producing duties in this circumstance. For a theatrical writer who is also hired as a producer on the same project, the same rules apply. A non-franchised agency cannot represent you on a theatrical project where you would be a writer and producer. Thus, under Working Rule 23 non-franchised agents cannot represent WGA writers with respect to these hyphenate services, and a member who has historically been employed as a hyphenate cannot avoid the Guild’s jurisdiction by re-labeling a contract as a producer-only deal. The working rule doesn’t cover other producing. Of course, anything additional a member is willing to do to support the goal of eliminating agency conflicts of interest will help the campaign, and many producers who are Guild members have gone above and beyond the working rule obligations.”
Q. What do I do if my former agency tries to package me on a new project under my overall deal?
A. “You should immediately contact the Agency Department. The Guild will oppose – through legal action, if appropriate – the packaging of members on new projects by their former agencies. The Guild will also defend any member who is personally threatened by their former agency for opposing the packaging of new projects.”
Q. I’m developing a project with a producer or a POD that is represented by a non-franchised agency. What are my obligations in this situation?
A. “Members must communicate the following message to the producer/POD represented by the non-franchised agency: ‘Please be advised, and please communicate to your agents, that I should not be considered a packageable element by your agency.’ We also strongly encourage writers to oppose the packaging of their project through any other non-writing element, such as the POD or the intellectual property. You must also communicate to the studio, in the event of a sale, that you cannot be packaged by a non-franchised agency. You can also negotiate, as part of your writer deal with the studio, that the project not be packaged.”
Q. I’m represented by an agency for both writing and another area of work not covered by the Guild (stand-up performance, acting, directing, writing plays, etc.). Is it mandatory that I leave the agent for my non-Guild-covered work?
A. “The Guild cannot direct you to leave your agency for work that isn’t covered by the WGA, although we encourage you to be represented for all your work by a franchised agency that is not conflicted. Many members have gone beyond the working rule in order to further assist the agency campaign by leaving agents for directing and other non-WGA covered work.”