William Morris Endeavor on Wednesday responded to the Writers Guild of America West’s rejection of its latest proposal for a new deal end a 20-month standoff over packaging fees and other issues. WME also claimed that the guild’s negotiating committee has not provided a counter proposal or offered a meeting despite the agency’s willingness to resolve the two sides’ dispute.
“WME presented an updated proposal that made a series of concessions just four days following our hearing on December 18. We made clear our willingness to engage in further dialogue with the WGA at any point during the holidays,” WME said in a statement. “We know this is how every other agency finally reached a deal–they had the opportunity to have a discussion with the Guild to address their specific needs, and that is what we have continuously tried to do in an effort to get a deal done.”
“However, instead of responding directly to us, once again we learned indirectly through media reports that our proposal was rejected by way of a leaked letter the WGA Negotiating Committee sent to Guild members. There was no counter to our proposal, nor any offer to meet and engage. While we find this tactic unhelpful in reaching a resolution, we will persist in our efforts toward reaching a new franchise agreement.”
Reps for the WGA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
WME is the last major Hollywood agency that has not signed a franchise agreement with the Writers Guild that would allow it to represent writers after a walkout that began in April 2019.
An updated franchise agreement has been signed by CAA, UTA, ICM Partners and other agencies and requires the phase-out of packaging fees, payments from a studio to an agency in exchange for packaging talent which the guild calls a conflict of interest, by June 2022.
But the WGA is also requiring agencies and their private equity owners to hold no more than 20% of combined ownership in an affiliate production studio, which is the main sticking point in the WME negotiations. It took several months for WGA and CAA to reach an agreement to place its ownership of affiliate outlet Wiip in a blind trust until the ownership is sold down to 20%.
WME is in a dispute over how to comply with its ownership of Endeavor Content, a much larger studio than Wiip with hundreds of TV and film projects in production. In Tuesday’s memo, WGA said that WME did not agree to place its ownership of Endeavor Content in a blind trust and insisted that the agency agree to the same terms that CAA signed.
“Having sat mostly on the sidelines for the past 20 months, there will be no ‘going last’ bonus for WME — no accommodation for the fact that they are the most conflicted of all agencies — no alterations to our existing deals that soften the protections that writers have fought for nearly two years to achieve,” the guild said.