The Writers Guild of America suggest members fire their agents
A long battle has been going on between writers and agents over money and fees. The Writers Guild of America is a labor union charged with representing writers within film, television, radio, and media that has been working to protect writers since 1954 with about 20,000 current members. They have been in conflicting talks with agents and the Association of Talent Agents claiming the agents do not have the clients best interest in mind. Specifically, writers feel their agents lean towards pricing and packaging fees that benefits the agent more than the writer, and agents acting in the interest of movie heads that they also represent. The writers suggested getting rid of those unfair fees, and creating a rule where agents cannot represent both writers and production parties, however the agents have not come to an agreement based on these change requests. The response of the ATA was to share a small percentage of the package fees and create transparency regarding their work with producers, not to eliminate them.
Some major names have acted quickly in response to the suggestion to fire agents, some are resistant. Stephen King ended his relationship with Paradigm to show his serious backing of the code change and the union. Stephen King commented saying “This is never what I wanted. My rep has been honest and diligent for over 40 years. Not his fault, but we’re a union family. Come on, ATA. Come on, WGA. Solve this so we can go back to doing what we do.” Patton Oswalt was also quick to act, saying simply that “I have an amazing agency that represents me. But I have an even better guild which stands for me.”
Others such as Pulitzer Prize winning Robin Baitz have publicly declared that they will not be firing anyone despite the request by the WGA. Baitz is currently working to adapt the novel Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win into a series for Julia Roberts, and stated that he is “deeply saddened to say I cannot go along with your insistence that I fire my agents at CAA. This, despite my fervent belief in the WGA’s mission and accomplishments…Let us not be part of the current cruelty and coarseness of the world. The ATA is listening – you have them at the table. Please find a way forward that does not mean disruption and shattered relationships.” He speaks towards the difficulty for some WGA members to comply without potentially harming relationships that have been long lived and often beneficial.
Currently the four main firms CAA, WME, UTA, and ICM have refused to sign into the new code of conduct. The WGA has released a list of those who are willing to accept the new code for writers looking for agencies willing to accept their terms of a fair relationship.