Talent Agents Plan Fight Against WGA, Lay Out Standard of Representation for Agents

“Agencies will not be a willing participant to any further chaos,” ATA executive director wrote

Last Updated: May 22, 2019 @ 12:41 PM

The Association of Talent Agents said on Sunday that it plans to continue to fight for writer clients while pushing against what it calls the Writers Guild of America’s “threat to our agency business operations.”

The ATA and WGA failed to come to terms on a new agreement on Friday, as the 43-year-old agreement detailing how writers and agents do business expired.

The two sides have been at odds over, among other things, the issue of packaging — in which agents collect fees for bundling talent and bringing them as a package to a studio or network for film or TV projects. The WGA implemented a new code of conduct demanding agencies put an end to packaging fees, otherwise writers would fire their agents — and that’s what happened.

“Agencies will not be a willing participant to any further chaos,” ATA Executive Director Karen Stuart wrote in a memo to members Sunday. “That’s the Guild’s plan. Their course of action has thrown the entire entertainment ecosystem into an abyss, affecting stakeholders across the spectrum. As we embark through unknown territory, we must not lose sight of the fact that the WGA’s Code is unacceptable to all agencies.

“The Code would provide the Guild with an unprecedented level of control to dictate how your agency operates and how it regulates the conduct of agents in all respects, even those reaching beyond the Guild’s own jurisdiction,” Stuart continued. “While each individual agency will be building their own unique contingency plan for agents and clients, the ATA remains committed to serving all member agencies and is available to help manage that process together with each member agency.”

Both the ATA and the WGA are now attempting to figure how to continue to do business now that they’ve entered uncharted territory. The ATA adopted a set of agency standards for client representation as a voluntary model for agencies to govern their relationship with writers in the absence of a new agreement.

The standards set guidelines for offering services to writers, disclosing conflicts of interests, discrimination and best practices for film and TV packaging, among other things.

Read Stuart’s memo to ATA members:

Dear ATA Members,

As you know, on Friday the deadline expired without an agreement between the WGA and ATA. However, our resolve has never been stronger. We stand behind the comprehensive counterproposals that we put on the table. We’ll keep fighting as a united front for the best interests of our writer clients, while pushing against the WGA leadership’s threat to our agency business operations. Meanwhile, we’ve provided a documents toolkit that is available on our website to help you manage operations during this uncertain time.

From the beginning — and through countless townhall meetings and briefings with writer clients — we’ve sought and gained a deeper understanding about what writers want, need and expect from their agents in this rapidly changing landscape. We listened carefully. We examined our business model. We sought facts and data. And we shared those facts and real hard data with the Guild. Each time we sat down at the negotiating table, we arrived in good faith and came prepared with thoughtful, fair and comprehensive counterproposals. The WGA flatly rejected our counterproposals in a self-proclaimed “power grab” that favors industry-wide chaos over reason and compromise. Although the future may be uncertain, we are ready for it.

The ATA Board of Directors has adopted the attached set of Agency Standards for Client Representation as a voluntary model for agencies to govern their relationship with their writer clients in the absence of an AMBA, and we encourage our members to adopt them as well. The Agency Standards for Client Representation spells out how we plan to continue to serve and support writer clients who decide to retain our agencies, despite incredible pressure from the Guild to terminate relationships with non-franchised agencies, i.e. those agencies that refused to sign their newly implemented “Code of Conduct.” It provides clarity and stability for writer clients and your agencies in that it offers transparency, disclosures, safeguards and choice.

Agencies will not be a willing participant to any further chaos. That’s the Guild’s plan. Their course of action has thrown the entire entertainment ecosystem into an abyss, affecting stakeholders across the spectrum. As we embark through unknown territory, we must not lose sight of the fact that the WGA’s Code is unacceptable to all agencies — from those that employ two agents to those employing 2,000. The Code would provide the Guild with an unprecedented level of control to dictate how your agency operates and how it regulates the conduct of agents in all respects, even those reaching beyond the Guild’s own jurisdiction.

While each individual agency will be building their own unique contingency plan for agents and clients, the ATA remains committed to serving all member agencies and is available to help manage that process together with each member agency. The toolkit available on our website includes our Agency Standards for Client Representation, a Frequently Asked Questions document, Agency Representation Agreements for use in California and New York, and a Writer Representation Rider for your use. You’ll find the representation agreements and the Rider in the Members Only section of our website.

We are going to do everything we can to mitigate the damage the Guild has imposed by implementing their strategy. We are prepared to continue fighting for a long-term solution that protects our clients and serves all ATA member agencies.

Sincerely,

Karen Stuart Executive Director

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