The leaders of the Writers Guild of America have asked their 15,000 members to fire their agents at midnight.
This unprecedented decision came after the WGA negotiating committee announced Friday afternoon that it had not been able to reach an agreement with agents to reorganize the 46-year-old franchise agreement. . "So there is no regulation," the committee said.
"So what's going on now?" Said the committee. "In a strike situation, we all know that we must refrain from crossing the picket line or writing for a company that has been hit, we are invited to show our solidarity by picketing, which is the public and moral face. of our conflict. "
"In this situation, all members must take two steps: first, do not let a non-franchisee agent represent you with respect to any future work covered by a WGA. Second, inform your agency in writing that it can not represent you before signing the code of conduct. "
The failure of the WGA and the Association of Talent Agents to reach an agreement opens the door to a potentially chaotic landscape this weekend.
"We are in totally unexplored territory," said a former director. "These things are relatively easy to approach but not out. I predict that it will last at least two months. "
The two sides were to hold their fifth negotiating session in seven days to try to reorganize the rules governing how agents represent writers. The last round of negotiations kicked off at 15:00 PDT – just nine hours before the expiry of the current franchise agreement.
The WGA had previously stated that it would ask its members to dismiss their agents if they did not agree on a new "Code of Conduct for Agencies", which eliminates the costs of 39, packaging agencies and ownership of production companies after the expiration of the current agreement. The code was approved in late March by 95% of the guild members who voted. Almost all the agencies refused to sign it.
Not surprisingly, the agents blamed the WGA for the impossibility of reaching an agreement.
"WGA leaders today said that the path of compromise did not exist," said Karen Stuart, ATA Executive Director. "The agencies have committed to reaching an agreement with the WGA, but despite all our efforts, today's result was motivated by the Guild's predetermined chaos trajectory."
"The WGA demands a" code of conduct "that will hurt all artists, with a particularly painful blow to mid-level and emerging writers, while dictating the operation of agencies of all sizes," she added. "We came to the bargaining table in good faith and presented detailed proposals offering choice, disclosure, transparency, shared revenue and significant investment in inclusion programs. Unfortunately, not to our surprise, the WGA did not accept our offer, did not provide a counter-proposal and refused to negotiate further. We are ready to continue fighting for the best interests of writers and all artists. "
Nothing indicated when negotiations could resume.
The uncompromising position of the WGA proved to be more than the agents could accept. WGA submitted that agencies that levy royalties from studios for packaging activities and have production subsidiaries constitute conflicts of interest with respect to the fiduciary obligations of the agencies vis-à-vis their authoring clients.
As far as the WGA is concerned, the agencies have not gone far enough. The ATA announced Thursday night that it had offered to share a portion of the final profits generated by television and film royalties with the WGA, with a share of 80% sharing between the writers of a show not participating in the profits of the series and the remaining 20% invested. in initiatives to promote the inclusion of underrepresented writers.
The parties had been confronted with the expiry of the April 6 contract, but an eleventh-hour meeting that day led the WGA to agree a six-day deadline for implementing the code. followed by four bargaining sessions on April 8th and 9th. 11 and 12.
WGA's opposition to agencies galvanized in early 2018, as CAA, WME and UTA decided to invest in production companies, essentially by placing agencies on both sides of the table as producers while representing the writers.
The former guild and ATA franchise contract, known as the Artist Artist Base Contract, has not been renegotiated since 1976. WGA executives have repeatedly accused agencies of engaging in corrupt behavior. illegal and warned that they had prepared a lawsuit against the agents.
In a letter published on March 23, the WGA announced that nearly 800 of its biggest showrunners and writers had signed a letter supporting the WGA leaders in the conflict. The signatories included Shonda Rhimes, Greg Berlanti, Seth MacFarlane, Jenji Kohan, Eric Roth, Barry Jenkins and David Koepp.
A definitive signal that the odds of reaching an agreement have disappeared appeared on Friday morning when the ATA warned the WGA against allowing managers and lawyers to negotiate contracts for copywriters replacing agents, telling them that this was illegal and that the authorization as "unfair and illegal competition". She cautioned against unspecified "appropriate measures" if the WGA continues to allow managers and lawyers to act as agents.
The WGA responded by accusing the ATA of trying to intimidate leaders and lawyers.
"The Guild legally holds it to legally delegate its authority as the exclusive representative of writers under federal law," he said. "Agencies are trying to intimidate lawyers and officials to prevent them from doing the work that they do regularly."