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Unions to Hollywood Writers: Fire Your Agents

It's a new strike, this time against talent agencies
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2019 10:35 AM CDT
In this photo from a 2007 strike, Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers and others strike in a rally at Fox Plaza in Los Angeles' Century City district.   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

(Newser) – Welcome to Hollywood chaos. The Writers Guild of America notified its 15,000 members Friday to fire their agents after talks crumbled between the two sides, Variety reports. "We know that, together, we are about to enter uncharted waters," say WGA leaders. "...But it has become clear that a big change is necessary." At issue are two practices by major agencies that rankle writers: One is the old habit of packaging several writers from an agency's roster for a particular project, per the New York Times. Agencies then forego the usual 10% writer's commission and accept big fees from studios. But writers say this lets top agencies like William Morris, United Talent, and Creative Artists take money that rightfully belongs to them.

The other is agencies founding affiliated companies that create their own content; writers say this puts agents across the table from executives, making them colleagues and creating a conflict of interest. Agents responded by offering to share some back-end profits with writers and be more open in showing the WGA how their affiliate programs are "benefiting writers." But union bosses rejected the proposal. Agencies responded by accusing the WGA of nixing "a pathway for compromise" and preferring a strategy "that will hurt all artists, delivering an especially painful blow to mid-level and emerging writers," per the Hollywood Reporter. The WGA suggests writers use managers or lawyers to make future deals, which prompted agencies to say they might sue the guild. (Read more Hollywood stories.)

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