WGA Prepares Members for Possible Life Without Agents, Launches Staffing Submission System

WGA members voted to approve a new code of conduct over the weekend

Last Updated: April 1, 2019 @ 5:26 PM

The Writers Guild of America on Monday launched a new system where its members can submit themselves for writing jobs as TV staffing season ramps up and the guild faces off in a dispute against Hollywood agents that could see writers go without representation.

“While no technological solution could fully replace the many functions of a good agent, we believe this system — which lets writers submit their work directly to showrunners who are looking for writers for TV staffs — can help provide our members with continuing access to job opportunities if we have to walk away from non-franchised agencies,” the WGA wrote in an email to members on Monday.

“As helpful as we think this new system will be, we urge you to remember: staffing season is just getting started,” the email continued. “Many shows are already accepting submissions, but more will be added in the coming days and weeks as pilots and returning shows get pickups and as showrunners continue to register.”

The WGA also released a video demonstrating how the system works.

The launch of the new script submission system comes one day after WGA members voted in overwhelming affirmation for a new code of conduct that, among other things, calls on Hollywood talent agencies to abandon the practice of packaging — in which agents demand fees for bundling talent they represent and bringing them to a studio for film or TV.

The WGA has been at odds publicly with the Association of Talent Agents for months. The two sides’ current agreement is set to expire on April 6. The WGA plans to present the new code to agencies and it may ask its members to leave those who decline to abide.

The vote sets up a critical week for the writer-agency dispute that has prompted heated public accusations and dueling industry studies from both sides but little progress toward an agreement. The WGA has called packaging fees a “conflict of interest” that separates what agents get paid for their work from the writer’s pay, which has failed to rise with inflation rates beyond high-profile writers and showrunners.

The guild wants agencies to return to receiving a 10 percent commission fee based on writer pay, and is also demanding that Hollywood’s two largest agencies, WME and CAA, withdraw their stake in affiliated production studios, saying they too are a conflict of interest, as agents could end up making a deal with studios their employers own.

The ATA, meanwhile, is insistent that packaging fees are necessary to agencies’ business models, with the United Talent Agency releasing a report disputed by WGA that states that average writer pay is higher for packaged projects than non-packaged ones.

“We continue to work toward a negotiated agreement with the Association of Talent Agents,” the WGA wrote to members. “However, if we are unable to reach an agreement with the ATA by the April 6th expiration date, this system will be here for you when you need it.”