WGA-ATA at a Standstill?

by Larry Brody

It certainly seems that way, with the ATA complaining that, as Deadline.Com’s strangely skewed headline put it last Friday, “ATA’s New Proposals Have Gotten No Response From the WGA As Hopes For Quick Return To Bargaining Fizzle.”

Of course that’s not exactly the situation, but the fact that the agents’ spokespeople insist on trying to parse words with their former clients, who just happen to be a pretty find bunch of real writers suggest to me that the very people we entrusted with representing and elevating us and our value to employers (AKA studios, networks, producers, etc.) don’t in fact represent us at all.

In light of the negative reportage appearing last week, bear with me please while I present a few comments clarifying the points of view of my WGA brothers and sisters.

Why is the ATA acting like WGA has to meet them halfway. This is strictly a client-employee relationship. If a client says you have to stick to the terms of service to retain our business, the client does exactly that, not drag its feet and scream about how unfair everything is. The ATA can decide whether or not they want the WGA members’ business.

And…

…kinda funny in a way. The agents just act like they are some integral part of the industry, of writers’ world – When everyone I know, couldn’t reliably count on a call back from their agent. That’s writers at all but the highest levels, directors at all but the highest levels – the majority of the working folks in town. Yet now, they don’t seem to get that they were fired, essentially for mis-conduct, and that they just aren’t part of it any longer. There is a code of conduct. The guild really isn’t obligated to negotiate. There really is no negotiation in the normal sense. The guild is simply willing to consider their application to be re-hired. And yeah, there is a piss test.

I suppose the agencies are welcome to suggest another path that eliminated conflicts of interest, and then ask the guild to amend the code such that it fits, but that’s not what they’ve done either.

The agencies can keep trying to sell this as a negotiation, but factually, that’s not what this is, and the board of the WGA, and the writers as a whole seem to be the only ones who get that.

Once the books are truly open, and you can bet there will be no deal before that point, it’s going to be holy hell for the agents. No telling how much they were really skimming. It won’t get better with full disclosure, it will get worse. My guess is that the agents will protect he books like Trump protects his taxes – as in “cold dying hands” protects.

I think they are going to stay fired for quite a little while. Venture capital firms are going to be the ones who resolve this, and I can’t see it being fun for the bigger agencies leadership.

Bottom line, the guild holds all the cards. Unless the agents can convince all the buyers to reject signatory status, and then replace the talent that supports every single job in this town, I flat can’t see why they think they get a say in what the conditions of employment are to be.

Sorry folks, mostly thinking out loud – this whole thing is interesting if it’s nothing else.

And…

The WGA has memorialized their position that packaging is unlawful. Which it is, see MANERA V. STAMELMAN TAC 32-96, where a representative was found to violate CA Labor Code § 1700.39 for having a contract to receive a 2% profit participation in a deal memo with SONY. So as long as the ATA keeps the position that packaging is not going away, finding a deal is gonna be difficult.

And…

As a steadily working screenwriter, I was nervous about this fight when it started… but I haven’t missed my agent a bit, and now I’m looking forward to saving 10% on my next gig.

The WGA holds the cards here. Holding out IS our negotiation.

No need for us to compromise until the ATA acknowledges the true conflict of interest.

And…

We are just fine without agents, haven’t worked more or sold more in my life. They were a bottleneck and it has been cleared. They are dinosaurs – corrupt self-interested dinosaurs.

There’s more, but I’m hoping you already get the point. The above comments, btw, all appear on Deadline.Com beneath a particularly exasperating news article, and both they and article itself can be found HERE

In Solidarity,

LB