Abrams Artists Agency on Wednesday said it had broken ranks with the Assn. of Talent Agents and signed a separate deal with the Writers Guild of America West.
As part of the agreement, Abrams has agreed to no longer engage in packaging, a long-standing industry practice where talent agencies collect a fee for pulling together talent such as writers and producers for projects. Abrams has also agreed to not engage in affiliated productions, the company said.
“It’s time for the writers to go back to work,” Abrams Chairman Adam Bold said in an interview. “It’s time for our agency to go back to work.”
Abrams joins more than 70 small and mid-tier talent agencies who have signed onto the WGA’s franchise agreement, adding fuel to the union’s efforts to negotiate with individual agencies as opposed to the collective bargaining group for agencies, the ATA.
Abrams, which has offices in Los Angeles and New York, is the fourth agency to break ranks with the ATA after Buchwald, Kaplan-Stahler and Pantheon.
So far, none of the biggest agencies has agreed to the WGA West’s terms, but the Abrams signing could put more pressure on them to hash out a deal with the union.
“The smaller and mid-tier agencies need to do what’s best for their clients and for their business,” Bold added. “I don’t think many of the smaller, mid-tier [businesses] have the financial staying power that the big ones do.”
The WGA declined to comment.
At the heart of the disagreement are the practices of packaging and affiliated productions, which the union believes allow agencies to put their own financial interests ahead of their writer clients. Agencies have said writers benefit from packaging because they do not need to pay the typical 10% commission fee and they can manage potential conflicts of interest.
In April, thousands of writers fired their agents to support their union’s efforts to abolish the controversial practices.
Bold said he believes the reelection of WGA West President David Goodman in September was “a mandate from the writers.” Goodman defeated challenger Phyllis Nagy in a contested election, in which Nagy and her slate had advocated for resuming negotiations with the ATA.
“The writers had elections, and they overwhelmingly reelected David Goodman, one of the leaders of this strategy,” Bold said.
Abrams’ agreement with WGA West allows Abrams clients to opt out of disclosing contractual information to the union.