“The Agents Certainly Did Not Like Being Called Crooks”: How Hollywood Writers Won a War

A wonderful title and a pretty darn good description of what went on when the Writers Guild of America decided it was time to stop letting talent agencies screw us.

What’s that? The above makes it sound like we’re biased? Well, we are. And that does not make us wrong.

by Joy Press

In April 2019, thousands of Hollywood writers fired their agents en masse. The move convulsed the entertainment industry. It looked like an impossible David and Goliath scenario: The Writers Guild of America had declared war on the immensely powerful talent agencies, several of which had mutated into full-blown media conglomerates over the years, backed by private-equity money. The WGA argued that these agencies—in producing their own projects and creating package deals that combined writers, actors, and directors—no longer had the best interests of their clients as their first priority. The packages, they believed, were riddled with conflicts of interest and weren’t necessarily the best deal for writers.

“This has the potential to be a really, really big bang,” one veteran TV writer told me in March that year.

Nearly two years later, the bitter struggle concluded with a plot twist: The writers have triumphed. One by one, the agencies signed on to WGA’s terms, agreeing to phase out the widespread practice of packaging. William Morris Endeavor (WME), the last agency holdout, finally came to an agreement earlier this month.

“The agencies are very good at making you feel like, ‘You need me and you’ll be nothing without us,’” said Meredith Stiehm, cochair of the WGA negotiating committee and the creator of TV dramas like Cold Case and The Bridge. That can be an effective form of intimidation for insecurity-prone writers. But when Stiehm discovered that Creative Artists Agency (CAA) packaged Cold Case without her knowing it—and by this lucrative process effectively made a 94% commission rather than an agent’s standard 10%—she was furious….

Read it all at vanityfair.com