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Paradigm becomes first big talent agency to sign with WGA. Is it a turning point in labor fight?

WGA
The office of the Writers Guild of America West in Los Angeles.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Paradigm Talent Agency on Monday became the first major agency to sign a franchise agreement with the Writers Guild of America, a significant step in the union’s push to get talent agencies to change long-standing industry practices.

Paradigm said it agreed to end its practice of collecting packaging fees, money it receives from studios for pulling together talent for projects, by Dec. 31, 2021. It also agreed to limit any investment in affiliated production — a major concern for the guild — to no more than 10%.

The WGA instructed its members last year to “fire” their agents in protest over such practices as packaging and the aggressive entry by agencies into the production business, which the union contends creates conflicts of interest that put writers at a disadvantage.

Paradigm Chief Executive Sam Gores said his Beverly Hills-based agency had started talks with the WGA in mid-December.

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“The issues we had with the existing franchise agreement have been resolved in a way that allows us to shift our business model and to continue providing the high-level comprehensive representation service Paradigm is known for,” Gores said in a statement.

Unlike WGA’s previous agreements with other individual agencies, Paradigm said its agreement extends the sunset period for television packaging by six months, and doubles the amount of ownership allowed in affiliated productions. Other agencies were limited to own no more than 5% in affiliated productions.

Paradigm has more than 30 series that are packaged, including the Fox singing reality competition “The Masked Singer” and the CBS crime drama “NCIS: Los Angeles.”

“Our goal remains to move the negotiation process forward with the remaining unsigned agencies,” the WGA agency negotiating committee said in a letter to union members.

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Paradigm’s agreement follows the agency’s announcement last week that it would temporarily lay off more than 100 employees in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has delayed or canceled numerous Hollywood productions and concerts.

“The devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic on our industry has brought this new franchise agreement into much sharper relief for us,” Gores said.

Talent agencies have been squeezed by the protracted standoff with the WGA. Both sides have been unable to come to an agreement for a new code of conduct.

The WGA has been negotiating separate deals with individual talent agencies, but those had been mostly small and mid-tier agencies, until Paradigm signed its agreement.

The union said Paradigm is the fifth-largest agency representing writers. The other large agencies — United Talent Agency, Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor and ICM Partners — have not signed agreements.


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