More than two months into the feud between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood’s top talent agencies, the WGA rejected the agencies’ latest offer, while distrust of guild leadership by its members wears down solidarity within the union.
In April, thousands of writers fired their agents at the WGA’s request over “packaging fees” in which agents are paid directly by studios for attaching talent to a writer’s pitch, rather than taking a percentage of the income they negotiate for their clients. Earlier this month, the agencies offered to give writers 2 percent of those fees. Near midnight on Wednesday, WGA West president David Goodman told members that any deal which doesn’t eliminate packaging is a dead end.
According to the Hollywood Reporter Goodman said, “The negotiating committee, after thorough deliberation, made the decision to take revenue-sharing off the table. The simplest way to address this imbalance, and align our agents’ interest with ours, is to insist that we return to a commission-based system of compensation.”
Going forward, Goodman says the WGA will negotiate with nine different agencies individually, rather than with the Association of Talent Agencies.
Meanwhile, that may not satisfy some WGA members, who have been suspicious of the board ever since they learned that negotiator and Party of Five creator Chris Keyser was shopping his own series package produced by Endeavor Content, a production company attached to the William Morris Endeavor Entertainment agency.
On Monday, a petition signed by 20 prominent writers was sent to WGA West Executive Director David Young detailing, in their words, “the growing unease regarding conflicts of interest involving board and negotiating committee members,” Deadline reports.
The petition ends with a simple and stark request: “Will you ask any current board or negotiating committee member who is actively in talks with a Big 4 affiliate production company—either directly or through an intermediary—to resign in order to avoid any appearance of conflict?”
The signers include Oscar-nominated Carol screenwriter Phyllis Nagey, Love Happens writer/director Brandon Camp, Grown-ish executive producer Craig Doyel, Wreck-It Ralph and Ralph Breaks the Internet writer Phil Johnston, and Billions producer Lenore Zion.
Young’s response might not be quite the answer they were looking for. He writes, in part, “I believe that elected leadership, thus far and moving forward, will continue to hold every writer to exactly the same standard, as laid out in the WR23 Rules linked here.”
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