Nick Jones Jr., the opposition candidate for secretary-treasurer of the WGA West, is a Marine Corps veteran who said in a statement today that the guild has been outflanked in its ongoing battle with Hollywood’s talent agents.
“I was taught in the military to have an appreciation of the enemy,” he said. “Know their strengths. Know their weaknesses. Once we gain an advantage, we exploit it. We use it to create new opportunities. We then exploit those opportunities to create others, shaping the flow of action to our advantage.”
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Jones, the running mate of presidential candidate Phyllis Nagy, said: “One strength of our industry is its ability to adapt. We all know how quick this industry can shift to operate under new mandates and policies. The purpose of any protest is disruption. The goal against any barrier is infiltration. And the start of any change comes from within. So if we wanted to disrupt the flow of the packaging business with the agencies, why did we leave our agents?”
On April 13, the guild ordered all of its members to fire their agents who refuse to sign its Code of Conduct, which banned packaging fees and agency affiliations with corporately related production entities. A new version of the Code allows packaging for one more year.
Here is the rest of Jones’ statement:
“I’d argue that we could have achieved far greater gains in this fight by staying with our agents. Right now, agencies are packaging with directors, actors, and non-writing executive producers. This practice isn’t anything new. But what happens when you remove a predator from an ecosystem? Prey population explodes. Now that writers are no longer a part of the equation, these non-writer packages are becoming more frequent. Why didn’t we force the agencies to work through us? We were in prime ‘Trojan horse’ position. With writers already behind enemy lines we could have simply given agencies a ‘Working Rule’ order, or as I like to call it, the ‘David Simon Rule’ – Zero tolerance, no writer will be packaged for work.”
“Remember, the agents work for us,” he wrote. “David Simon, Adam McKay and others have stated they will no longer allow packaging on their projects. All writers could have said the same, no? Instead of forcing the industry to work through us, we’ve forced them to work without us. And make no mistake, our industry is highly adept at navigating changing landscapes. In other words, we were behind enemy lines with a tactical advantage. And instead of using that advantage, we retreated, gave the agencies a non-compromised fighting position, forcing ourselves to mount an attack from the outside instead of within.
“We didn’t have to leave the agencies and file a lawsuit to end packaging for writers,” he said. “We could have done it ourselves with a WGA ‘Working Rule’ mandate. Instead of assembling a committee to enforce sanctions against our own writers, we could’ve assembled a committee to enforce zero tolerance on packaging at the Big 4.
“Most decisive victories do not result from the initial action, but from quickly and aggressively exploiting the opportunities created by that action. What opportunities have we created from the above actions since April 13th? I believe we’ve disrupted ourselves more than we’ve disrupted the Big 4.”
Jones is running against Evette Vargas and Michele Mulroney, who is a member of the guild’s agency negotiating committee. Nagy is running against incumbent president David A. Goodman and independent challenger William Schmidt. The guild will host its annual Candidates Night forum on August 28. Ballots will be counted on September 16.