Ratcheting up the pressure in its fight with Hollywood talent agencies, the Writers Guild of America has released a statement of support from hundreds of its members who are saying that they intend to vote in favor this week of a new code of conduct that would limit agency practices, including the packaging of productions.
Aaron Sorkin, David Chase and Norman Lear were among the approximately 800 writers who signed the statement, which was released Saturday. Other prominent signatories include Tina Fey, David Simon, Diane English, Richard LaGravenese and Robert Towne.
Some notable filmmakers who are also WGA members have also signed the statement, including Alfonso Cuaron, Oliver Stone, Peter Jackson and James L. Brooks.
The WGA is scheduled to hold the vote starting Wednesday, with voting set to conclude Sunday. The proposed code of conduct would effectively ban talent agencies from the longstanding practice of collecting packaging fees. It would also put an end to the more recent trend of agencies becoming TV and film production entities.
The guild has said its members will fire their agents if they don’t agree to adhere to the code by April 6. The unprecedented fight has put Hollywood on edge as the two sides continue to negotiate in the days leading up to the deadline. Little progress had been made and the two sides remain far apart on key issues.
Among the biggest points of contention are packaging fees, the percentages that agencies earn on a project for bringing together talent. The WGA is arguing that agents have become more concerned about maximizing fees than representing their clients, while the agencies have said that writers earn more on packaged projects.
The WGA is also arguing that agencies face a conflict of interest when producing TV shows and movies, since agencies are now able to both employ and represent talent on a project. Agencies say that they can manage the conflicts by more closely involving talent’s managers and attorneys.
The conflict marks the first time since 1976 that writers and agents have sat down to hammer out a new deal.