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Writers Guild rejects latest offer from talent agencies

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 28, 2019 Building at 7000 West 3rd Street in the Fairfax area of Los Angel
The Writers Guild of America is embroiled in a bitter dispute with Hollywood’s talent agencies.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

In an ominous development for TV and movie production, the Writers Guild of America has rejected the latest offer from talent agencies in their ongoing dispute that has pitted Hollywood writers against their agents.

David Goodman, the president of the WGA’s West Coast branch, said in a video posted to the guild’s website late Wednesday that the agencies’ offer to increase revenue sharing for junior TV writers wouldn’t solve the myriad issues at the center of the negotiations.

“It does nothing to address the real problem,” said Goodman.

He added that the guild would no longer consider revenue sharing in future talks, saying that it doesn’t align agencies with the interests of their clients.

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Going forward, Goodman said, the WGA will cease to negotiate with the Assn. of Talent Agents, the trade organization that is negotiating on behalf of Hollywood agencies. Instead, the guild will reach out to individual member agencies to potentially hammer out a deal.

“We are willing to meet with any agency willing to meet with us,” said Goodman, though he acknowledged that this approach probably would take time.

The ATA declined to comment on Thursday. Earlier this month, the organization had offered to double the percentage amount of revenue sharing for junior writers, who haven’t traditionally participated in profits.

The guild’s rejection of that offer effectively brings negotiations to another halt, widening the rift between the two sides in a dispute that has only become more acrimonious since talks first broke down in April and writers began firing their agents.

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The two sides are fighting over a host of agency practices that writers believe are benefiting agents at the expense of their clients. Among the most contentious issues are packaging fees — a decades-old practice in which an agency receives money throughout the lifetime of a TV show for putting together talent from its own rosters.

The WGA has sued four of Hollywood’s biggest agencies in Los Angeles County Superior Court over the practice.

Writers are also contesting the newer practice of “affiliate production,” in which an agency takes on TV and movie production activity, in effect becoming studios. The guild has argued that this can present conflicts of interest if an agency both represents and employs a writer.

david.ng@latimes.com

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT


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