More on the WGA-Association of Talent Agencies: War

Now it’s getting really interesting.

Did you know that managers and lawyers have never been WGA authorized to negotiate payment for TV and screenwriters?

Until NOW:

WGA Deputizes Managers And Lawyers To “Fill The Gap” If Agents Are Fired En Masse
by David Robb

The WGA is deputizing managers and attorneys to procure employment for writers and negotiate their over-scale terms – essentially taking the place of agents. The move comes as the guild prepares for the possibility that it might ask all writers to fire their agents en mass if it can’t come to terms with the Association of Talent Agents for a new franchise agreement.

With that agreement set to expire on April 6, the guild said that it is “preparing for the possibility that members may have to leave their agency after April 6. To ensure that as much support as possible will be in place for writers seeking work, the WGA is providing a limited delegation of our exclusive bargaining authority to managers and attorneys who represent guild members.”

“While we are working toward a swift and equitable resolution of our differences with the agencies,” the guild said tonight in a message to its members, “we must still plan for other contingencies [for] members who could soon be without representation by a franchised agency. Many guild members have a manager and/or attorney who can help fill some of the gap.

“To eliminate any doubt, the guild has issued a formal written delegation authorizing managers and lawyers who represent WGA members to procure employment and negotiate over-scale terms….”

Read it all at DEADLINE.COM

See also WGA Makes ‘Significant Move’ For Deal With ATA – But Not On Key Issues Of Packaging And Producing


‘The Good Fight’ Just Got Even Better…

…And in our opinion, it already was the best show on TV. Even if it’s actually on CBS All Access, which means it’s really a full-length web series.

Hmm, who would’ve predicted that particular Great Thing, like, five years ago?

Bottom line: Season 3 of The Good Fight started last week, and not only is it even more terrifical than ever, so are its little add-on type dealie-boppers, like this one:

Yeppers, gang, showrunners Robert and Michelle King are walking their talk. Now if enough people will just listen.

Um, wait. What? We were getting political here? TVWriter™ doesn’t exist to do politics but to give as much insight into TV writing and the writing process as it can? Well, Manafort’s balls, doods, if this kind of thing isn’t insight into the writing process, what is?

Didja watch the video? Good. Watch it again.

The Staff Of Gimlet Media Is Unionizing

The following article is one of those news items that doesn’t seem to mean much at the time but which will – TVWriter™ predicts! – be seen as a portent of the future in, you know, the future.

In other words, this is “The One Where the Writers Guild of America Recognizes, Accepts, and Opens Its Arms Wide to Audio Writers!” Wonder how much the writing minimums are going to be.

by Caroline O’Donovan

The 83-person staff of Gimlet Media, a podcasting startup acquired by music streaming service Spotify for $230 million in February, is unionizing with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE).

Gimlet was founded in 2014 and produces popular podcasts including Reply AllStartUp, and Crimetown.

“As Spotify’s reported $230 million acquisition of Gimlet makes clear, however, Gimlet is no longer the small, scrappy operation memorably documented on the first season of ?StartUp,” the Gimlet organizing committee wrote in a statement published Wednesday. “Our union is an expression of passion for what we do, and a proactive effort to work with management to shape the future of the company. It’s important for us to solidify the things that make Gimlet a great place to work, and to address whatever issues may arise.”

Among the issues Gimlet’s union says it plans to focus on are fair treatment of contractors, workplace diversity, employee intellectual property, and transparency around pay, promotions, and termination.

Employees, 75% of whom signed union cards in support of the organizing campaign, are asking management to voluntarily recognize their union, which they say will include content creation roles such as producers, engineers, reporters, and hosts on both the branded and editorial sides of the company. The union will not include managers or sales and marketing staff.

In a wave of media labor organizing over the last year, companies including the New Yorker and New York magazine voluntarily recognized employee unions, while other efforts, such as the Los Angeles Times employees’ successful National Labor Relations Board election, have been more contentious. Gimlet is now owned by a public tech company, though, and union drives within the tech industry are much less common. Still, companies including GoogleMicrosoftAmazon, and Salesforce have seen increasing employee activism over political issues and working conditions.

A spokesperson for Gimlet said the company has “received a formal notice from the WGAE union and plan to review” but had “nothing further to report at this time.”

The WGAE, which represents a number of other digital media properties, including Vox, Vice, HuffPost, and Gizmodo Media Group, said Gimlet is the first podcasting company to join the union.

“Podcasting is one of the most exciting new media platforms for storytelling and Gimlet is at the forefront of creating compelling content,” WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson said in a press release. ”We welcome the people in this field into our Guild, where we will work to ensure they are afforded rights and protections like those won by other content creators working in film, television, news and new media….”

Read it all at BUZZFEED.NEWS

Writer-Creator of ‘The Wire,’ David Simon, Speaks Out About What’s Wrong with Agency Packaging

Yeppers, kids, this is another post derived from the current contretemps between the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Talent Agencies.

We’re bringing it to you because you and all of us at TVWriter™ are writers with a huge stake in the outcome of this negotiation. Read and learn, and it’s okay with us if, while learning, you also get angry. David Simon sure as hell is:

“But I’m not a lawyer. I’m an agent.”
by David Simon

Just over a quarter century ago, when I was a young scribbler traipsing around the metro desk of the Baltimore Sun, I had an early opportunity to learn a lesson about money, about ethics, about capitalism and, in particular, about the American entertainment industry. And Dorothy Simon, she raised no fools. I only needed to learn it once.

I learned about something called “packaging.”

And now, finally, my apostasy from newspapering having delivered me from Baltimore realities to film-set make-believe, I am suprised and delighted that many of the fellow scribblers with whom I share a labor union have at last acquired the same hard, ugly lesson:

Packaging is a lie. It is theft. It is fraud. In the hands of the right U.S. Attorney, it might even be prima facie evidence of decades of racketeering. It’s that fucking ugly.

For those of you not in the film and television world, there is no shame in tuning out right now because at its core, the argument over packaging now ongoing between film and television writers and their agents is effectively an argument over an embarrassment of riches. The American entertainment industry is seemingly recession-proof and television writing, specifically, is such a growth industry nowadays that even good and great novelists must be ordered back to their prose manuscripts by book editors for whom the term “showrunner” has become an affront. A lot of people are making good money writing television drama. And so, this fresh argument is about who is making more of that money, and above all, where the greatest benefits accrue.  If you have no skin in the game, I think it reasonable, even prudent, to deliver a no-fucks-to-give exhale and proceed elsewhere.

If, on the other hand, you are my fellow brother or sister in the Writers Guild of America — East or West, it matters not when we stand in solidarity — or conversely, if you are a grasping, fuckfailing greedhead with the Association of Talent Agents, then you might wanna hang around for this:

Here is the story of how as a novice to this industry, I was grifted by my agents and how I learned everything I ever needed to know about packaging.  And here is why I am a solid yes-vote on anything my union puts before me that attacks the incredible ethical affront of this paradigm. Packaging is a racket. It’s corrupt. It is without any basis in either integrity or honor. This little narrative will make that clear. And because I still have a reportorial soul and a journalistic God resides in the details, I will name a name wherever I can.

*            *           *

To begin, I wrote a book. It was a non-fiction account of a year I spent with a shift of homicide detectives in Baltimore, a city ripe with violence and miscalculation. Published in 1991, “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” was repped by my literary agent at the time, an independent attorney who I found because his other clients included some other ink-stained newspaper reporters. Late in 1987, the Baltimore Police Department agreed to let me into its homicide unit for a year beginning that January, so I needed to quicly acquire an agent to sell the project to a publishing house and secure an advance on which to live while I took a leave-of-absence from my newspaper. This agent — and damn, I wish I could name the goniff, but I later signed a cash settlement that said I wouldn’t — was the first name that came to me. I did not shop around; I was in a hurry.  My bad.

Three years later, with the book ready to publish, this shyster suggested to me that he was entirely capable of going to Hollywood with it for a sale of the dramatic rights. And me, knowing less than a bag of taters about Hollywood, was ready to agree until my book editor, the worthy John Sterling, then helming the Houghton Mifflin publishing house, told me in no uncertain terms that this was a mistake.

It was customary, John explained, for even the best literary agents to pair with a colleague at one of the bigger entertainment agencies and split the commission.  My literary agent would give up half of his 15 percent to the other agency, but he would gain the expertise of an organization with the connections to move the property around and find the right eyeballs in the film and television industry. So I called my agent back and insisted….

Read it all at DAVIDSIMON.COM

Gerry Conway on Today’s Headlines (and the Writing Thereof)

by Gerry Conway

Let’s take a moment to think about how unusual it is that this balls-related headline from a major national magazine isn’t all that unusual these days.

Anyone who’s heard me crack wise inappropriately knows I’m no stranger to jokes my mother would have thought were in terrible “bad taste,” so I’m not saying I’m shocked or find balls-related humor offensive. On the contrary, I think the image conjured by that headline is hilarious. But seriously…can you imagine the Vanity Fair of ten years ago, or even five years ago, running a headline like that on its online site?

It’s probably a generational thing, but as a culture we seem far more comfortable with the kind of humor my parents would have been horrified by and my generation would have enjoyed as a guilty pleasure. Where I and my peers would have smirked, today’s audience nods knowingly or just smiles. Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers and Samantha Bee regularly use the kind of double-entendres David Letterman and Jay Leno would barely have hinted at. Vanity Fair references balls in a headline.

I don’t disapprove. I just want to point out we’ve come a considerable distance in what we consider appropriate public humor. Maybe “Bridesmaids” was the tipping point. Who knows? Cultural historians of the future will no doubt find the moment. Personally I’m glad. It makes me seem less like a tasteless clod when I make a joke in bad taste and more like I’m surfing the cultural zeitgeist.

Gerry Conway is one of the Kings of TV and film and comic book writing and also one of our Beloved Leader Larry Brody’s longest-lasting and closest friends. Everybody who comes to TVWriter™ should be reading his insightful blog, where this article first appeared. Learn more about Gerry HERE.