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‘Carnival Row’ Showrunner: ‘It’s Time to Get Back Into the Negotiating Room’ to Resolve WGA-ATA Dispute

TCA 2019: ”Agents do a lot more than submit writing samples to showrunners,“ Marc Guggenheim says

Marc Guggenheim, who serves as showrunner on Amazon’s upcoming “Carnival Row,” wants to see the long-running dispute between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) resolved.

Here is what he said Saturday during the Television Critics Association press tour:

I want to see the stalemate resolved. I want to see us get back into the negotiating room and work this out. Right now, it is a stalemate, and it’s been going on without any end in sight. It’s time to get back into the negotiating room and hammer out a deal. As far as our ability to find writers? At the end of the day, we were able to staff up the second season [of “Carnival Row”] without agents.

It’s possible, but agents do a lot more than simply submit writing samples to showrunners. There’s just a lot more going into that whole relationship than just that. We can get buy without agents for that, but that’s not to say that we shouldn’t be getting back in a room and working out a deal.

The WGA is currently in an ongoing dispute with agencies, including lawsuits against the four biggest agencies — William Morris Endeavor, United Talent Agency, Creative Artists Agency and ICM Partners — over packaging deals, in which fees are paid by a studio to agencies to package directors, writers and other talent for a project. The guild says the practice is a violation of agents’ fiduciary duty to their clients and against federal and state labor laws.

Meanwhile, WGA has reached agreements with midsize agencies Buchwald, Pantheon and Kaplan Stahler to break ranks with ATA and agree to the guild’s Code of Conduct, which requires agencies to eliminate packaging fees in order to represent writers.

More than 300 Hollywood writers — including such heavy-hitters as Ryan Murphy, Shonda Rhimes and Ava DuVernay — have signed an open letter backing the challengers in the Guild’s upcoming leadership election. The group is endorsing screenwriter Phyllis Nagy in her challenge to WGA president David Goodman, as well as “Chernobyl” creator Craig Mazin for vice president and Nick Jones, Jr. for secretary-treasurer.

Nagy has been vocal in her criticism of the guild’s leadership in the ongoing dispute. In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, she said there “appears to be no strategy now from the leadership” when it comes to the agency impasse. The letter called for the dispute to be “in a negotiating room and not in a courtroom.”

Referencing the ATA dispute, the group called it “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.”

Along with “Carnival Row,” Guggenheim is an executive producer on The CW’s “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow,” both of which he co-created.