WGA Plans Report on ‘Corrupt Business Practices’ of Top Talent Agencies

The guild continues to push for the complete removal of packaging fees

Last Updated: March 9, 2019 @ 5:57 AM

The Writers Guild of America said on Friday that it is preparing to release a detailed report that will shine a light on top talent agencies’ “conflicted business practices that harm Hollywood’s writers.”

The WGA will release the report, titled “No Conflict, No Interest,” on Tuesday. The guild and Association of Talent Agents are locked in disagreement over a new agreement on how they will do business. The WGA wants an end the practice of agencies packaging projects, which is when an agency starts a film or TV project by bundling talent it represents and bringing them to a studio.

WGA argues that it has the right to enforce a new Code of Conduct requiring agencies to remove those fees tied to putting together those packages.

“The conflicted and illegal practices of the major agencies include demanding direct payment from the studios employing their clients, known as ‘packaging fees’ and leveraging their exclusive access to talent to become producers, making them their client’s representatives and their employers,” the guild said in a statement. “These conflicts of interest are at the center of talks between the WGA and the Association of Talent Agents (ATA), which represents Creative Arts Agency (CAA), William Morris Endeavor (WME), United Talent Agency (UTA) and International Creative Management (ICM).”

The current agreement between the WGA and ATA expires on April 6.

The WGA plans to hold a member vote on March 25 on whether the guild should be authorized to enforce the new Code of Conduct. If it passes, the WGA plans to enforce it on April 7 and will ask its members to fire their agents if their agencies will not remove packaging fees.

The ATA is opposed to any agreement that would end packaging fees, and says that no member of the Association will sign on to the proposed code. The organization argues that a packaging fee-free system proposed by WGA would be bad for the industry, harming not only their members but others throughout the industry.

ATA says the code would affect film financing, both at major studios and in the indies, because they would have to build entire wings to deal with financing and packaging instead of paying a fee to have the agencies do it. ATA also argues that the new rules would make financing and selling harder for independent producers.