EXCLUSIVE: The WGA’s efforts to “divide and conquer” the talent agencies by forcing them to sign its new Code of Conduct isn’t gaining any ground with the Association of Talent Agents’ 113 member-agencies – none of which has broken ranks and signed the guild’s new Code.
“Zero have signed,” a source said.
On February 21, WGA West executive director David Young invited all 234 of the guild’s franchised agents – half of whom aren’t ATA members – to apply to sign its proposed new Code, which would ban packaging fees and force agencies to sever their ties with affiliated production companies. “The guild’s leadership has decided to send to all currently franchised agencies the new regulations – denominated a Code of Conduct – that the guild intends to implement on April 7, 2019,” Young wrote. “Any currently franchised agency wishing to become signatory to the new Code of Conduct can sign and return the Letter of Adherence.”
That letter states, “In the event that, prior to April 7, 2019, the WGA enters into a Code of Conduct with any other agency containing terms or conditions more favorable to the agency than those contained in the attached Code, the Agency signatory hereto shall have the option of accepting any or all of the more favorable terms.”
The guild declined to say how many agents have applied to sign the Code, but it’s hoping that many “key agents,” including those employed at the Big Four agencies – WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners – will bolt their agencies and take their writers with them.
“We think there are many agencies and good, honest agents who will ultimately welcome what the guild and writers are doing,” WGA West president David A. Goodman told the guild’s members on February 13. “So we expect to sign up many of the smaller agencies. Regarding the Big 4, we will seek your help to organize key agents to make the move to independence so they can keep working with you if their agency won’t sign our Code of Conduct. So I am saying that our collective power here is the power of divide and conquer. The agencies and agents all compete for talent, and when we make clear that we are leaving those who will not change, the change will come.”
The guild said the proposed Code, which is expected to be approved by a vote of WGA members at the end of the month, will go into effect if the WGA fails to reach a new agreement with the ATA by April 6.
“A membership vote to implement a Code is a vote for all of us to walk away – together – from any agency that will not sign it,” Goodman told his members. “That is most likely to be the Big 4 – ICM, WME, CAA, and UTA – but it will include any agency, including any of the other 196 smaller agencies which will not sign our Code and abide by it.”
The WGA and the ATA have held four bargaining sessions so far, but have made very little progress toward reaching a new agreement. Both sides have accused the other of not taking the negotiations seriously, and during Thursday’s talks, Goodman even told the ATA, “We are still speaking different languages on the crucial issue of the role of the union in protecting the wellbeing of writers.”
The two sides will meet again on Monday.