The Writers Guild of America put further pressure on the Assn. of Talent Agents on Monday, persuading an additional member of the group to sign a union franchise agreement.
Rothman Brecher Ehrich Livingston, a boutique Beverly Hills agency with less than 25 employees, is the fifth company to break ranks with the ATA, the collective bargaining group for talent agencies.
Since then, the union has pursued a strategy of negotiating with individual talent agencies, including ATA members. Last week, the mid-tier Abrams Artists Agency agreed to the WGA’s code of conduct.
In all, more than 80 small and mid-tier agencies have accepted the WGA’s franchise agreement, but none of the largest agencies have signed on.
“Our goal remains to move the negotiation process forward with the remaining unsigned agencies,” the WGA Agency Negotiating Committee wrote in a letter to its members on Monday.
The union has pushed talent agencies to end a long-standing practice called packaging, in which talent agencies receive fees from studios for pulling together talent for projects. The guild has also spoken out against the parent companies of talent agencies having affiliated productions. Union leaders believe both practices present conflicts of interest for talent agencies, hurting writers.
Agencies have said that writers benefit from packaging because they do not need to pay the typical 10% commission fee and that they can manage conflicts.
WGA West members are allowed to work only with talent agents at companies that have entered into agreements with the union.
Meanwhile, talent agencies are continuing to package shows, just without writers. Some agencies are building shows around popular books, podcasts, and English-language adaptations of foreign-language programs. In some cases, writers are added to those projects later.
“Writers who agree with the WGA leadership are of course free to join the agencies that have signed with WGA and writers who care most about other issues should be free to join agencies that offer services that meet their needs,” the ATA said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
In the agreement with Rothman Brecher, packaging fees will be banned after Jan. 22, 2021. The agreement also allows the agency to have “up to a 5% ownership interest in an entity engaged in production or distribution,” the guild said. The agency will also agree to share information such as contracts and invoices with the guild.
In a statement, Rothman Brecher said it was pleased to enter into the agreement with the WGA, but declined further comment.
Staff writer Anousha Sakoui contributed to this report.