In its efforts to “divide and conquer” Hollywood’s talent agencies while preparing for negotiations for a new film and TV contract, the WGA told its members today that it “continues to have useful discussions with several individual agencies. All of them have asked for confidentiality, and honoring those requests is part of building the trust that allows the possibility of making deals.”
In the meantime, the guild said, it’s working with each of those agencies that already have signed its new franchise agreement “to systematize sharing of contracts, invoices, and other data, tailored to the agency’s capacity and systems. In some cases we are working with their software vendor to set up data feeds.”
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The guild’s demand that agencies turn over their clients’ contract information and invoices, as is required by its new Code of Conduct, has kept many mid-tier agencies from signing the code, which also bans packaging fees after one year and prohibits agency affiliations with corporately related production entities. Many mid-tier agencies that don’t do much packaging and have no production affiliates have balked at giving the guild their clients’ contracts. The guild’s working rules require members to do that anyway.
The fight with the talent agencies began on April 13 when the WGA ordered all of its members to fire their agents who refused to sign its new agency code. Its talks with the Association of Talent Agents, which represents all of the major agencies, broke off on June 7, and the guild has opted instead to try and reach deals with individual agencies instead. The guild, however, hasn’t signed any new ATA-represented agencies to its Code since late July, when the Buchwald and Kaplan Stahler agencies broke ranks with the ATA and signed the code.
In its message to its members today, the guild said that “preparations for the 2020 MBA continue. As always, guild staff has prepared research, data and potential negotiating proposals for leadership and membership to consider as we begin the process of setting priorities. Next week the WGA will announce the negotiating committee and the following week will send out a member survey where you can identify the MBA issues that matter the most to you. Member meetings will commence in early 2020 to give further opportunity for member feedback, and the pattern of demands will be put to a vote prior to the start of spring negotiations.”
During the guild’s recent elections, WGA West president David A. Goodman – who easily won re-election – said in his campaign statement that the studios would be mistaken if they think they can “push us around because they think we’re ‘tired’” of battling the agencies, or that the agency campaign has weakened the guild’s resolve to fight the studios for a fair contract “if they pushed us to a strike.”
A bigger share of the companies’ streaming revenues is expected to be a major bone of contention in the upcoming contract negotiations with the studios.