A few words from one of television’s – and the interweb’s – best writers.
Ken Levine of Cheers, M*A*S*H, Frasier, Ken Levine’s Blog, etc., etc.,etc. had the War Between The Writers Guild of America & The Association of Talent Agents on his mind over the weekend, especially in terms of how it impacts the current WGA Board of Directors election campaign.
And vice versa.
by Ken Levine
A number of you have asked what my position is on the dispute between the WGA and talent/literary agencies. Also my thoughts on the current election of WGA officers – an election that will be decided based on the members feelings of that standoff and the way it’s being handled.
So here’s my position.
The Guild is trying to do a heroic thing – get major agencies to stop making more money off their writer clients than the writers are making themselves. By cleverly instituting “package deals” the agencies get a bigger share of the pie than writers despite the fact that the writers do all the work. And some agencies have formed their own production companies. Can you see where that might be a huge conflict of interest? If an agent is negotiating a deal for you at their production company the agent is negotiating against himself.
Writers now work for agencies instead of the other way around.
A similar situation occurred in the 1960’s when talent agency MCA also owned Universal. Then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy said that was illegal and broke it up. (The company chose to keep the studio and unload the agency — a wise choice.) The WGA is going to Federal Court to try to get the same result. I believe they have a good case. But it might take some time.
What’s happened so far? First, let me back up. When whatever form of “management” there is in show business – either the studios, networks, or in this case agencies – WANTS to make a deal then deals get done. And they get done quickly. When they don’t want a deal and think freezing out the writers will force them to cave then there is no deal. Negotiations in that case are a sham. And that’s what these negotiations have been so far. Sabre rattling, blaming the other side, stonewalling….