In its latest memo to members, the Writers Guild of America says that 92% of the writers who signed their names to a Statement of Support in favor of stopping packaging fees have sent in their form letters firing agents who are not in good standing with the guild’s new Code of Conduct. At the end of March, 7,882 WGA members approved the Code in an overwhelming vote of 95% in favor.
“The agencies have reacted to the terminations by alleging the result will be chaos. That’s their biggest weapon: to spread undue fear and try to intimidate as many people around town as possible,” said the WGA.
Last month, more than 800 prominent WGA members signed a Statement of Support urging members to vote yes on a Code of Conduct that would “confront practices that constitute a conflict of interest: agency packaging fees and agencies functioning as producers.” Among the signees were Tina Fey, Adam McKay, Damon Lindelof and Beau Willimon. Of those signees, WGA says that 92% have officially fired their agents, along with thousands of other WGA members who have sent in their form termination letters to the guild.
The letters will be sent to the agencies in bulk on Monday, as many offices in Hollywood will be closed due to the holiday weekend. The guild urged members who still have not fired agents who aren’t complying with the Code to do so in order to disprove “agency claims that our members voted one way and acted another.”
“It is a clear and powerful show of solidarity by writers – to each other and to the agencies. Because in solidarity – and only in solidarity – can we bring this campaign to its swiftest, successful conclusion.”
On Wednesday, the WGA filed a lawsuit against the four largest agencies in Hollywood: WME, CAA, UTA, and ICM Partners. The lawsuit claims that packaging fees — fees that are paid to an agency for bundling talent for a film or TV project presented to a studio — violate California fiduciary law by “severing the relationship between writers’ compensation and what the agency receives in fees.”
“All of the writer plaintiffs have been hurt financially by packaging deals. They are creators and writers of television shows that have shaped a generation, yet their agents have profited at the expense of their own clients,” WGAW general counsel Tony Segall said in a statement. “The plaintiffs will seek a judicial declaration that packaging fees are unlawful and an injunction prohibiting talent agencies from entering into future packaging deals. The suit will also seek damages and repayment of illegal profits on behalf of writers who have been harmed by these unlawful practices in the past.”
And on Friday, the guild announced it is launching what it calls a “weekly feature memo,” a list of specs and pitches it will send to producers and development executives every Friday. Writers submit a logline to the Guild, which will then organize them by genre; recipients of the list will be able to contact writers through the Find-a-Writer Database the guild established to assist writers who fire their agents in finding work. Guild members can submit up to two submissions a month.