Buchwald Becomes Second ATA Literary Agency to Sign Writers Guild Agreement

Buchwald agency interior 2 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Buchwald

Having sidelined the organization representing agencies, the WGA is making gains in its fight.

Mid-tier talent agency Buchwald has become the second literary agency to break ranks with the Association of Talent Agents and sign a so-called franchise agreement with the Writers Guild of America, just three days after the WGA signed a smaller shop, Kaplan Stahler, and three weeks after the guild sidelined the ATA with a cease-and-desist letter that ended joint talks.

The news, which broke Thursday in a WGA member email, marks a victory for the union in its campaign to reshape agency business practices, particularly around packaging fees and affiliate production, and is likely to increase pressure on other mid-tier firms to sign as well.

“The agreement largely mirrors Monday’s agreement with the Kaplan Stahler Agency, with a few minor modifications,” said the email. “Our goal remains to move the negotiation process forward with the remaining unsigned agencies.” Buchwald and the ATA had no comment.

Buchwald and Kaplan Stahler join a non-ATA shop, Verve, in having reached individual accommodations with the WGA. The three are believed to be the only agencies with significant literary departments that have signed with the guild since termination on April 12 of the industry-wide 1976 franchise agreement, known as the AMBA. Many small agencies without significant writer contingents have signed, including ATA-member Pantheon, but the none of the largest firms have, which has hindered literary agents at WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners for three months.

Now the question turns to remaining mid-tier holdouts, such as Paradigm, APA, Gersh and Abrams, the last of which tried unsuccessfully several weeks ago to reach a deal with the guild based on the 1976 agreement. Three agents, including the two lit department co-heads, departed Abrams on Wednesday to start a signatory boutique, Culture Creative Entertainment.

Meanwhile, the WGA’s lawsuit against the four biggest agencies is pending in state court, and the three largest agencies have antitrust suits pending against the guild in federal court. Over 7,000 writers have fired their agents on WGA orders since April and even amongst the uncertainty, WME parent Endeavor has filed to go public in an IPO that is under continuing attack from the guild.

The WGA's email to members is below:

Dear Member,

Today the WGA and Buchwald signed a negotiated franchise agreement that allows the agency to represent members for covered writing services.

The agreement largely mirrors Monday’s agreement with the Kaplan Stahler Agency, with a few minor modifications. The new agreement clarifies that a franchised agency may provide distribution services for indie film projects in addition to financing and sales services. The requirement for Guild consent of the agency’s film financing, sales and distribution services is modified to exclude circumstances when the agency’s agreement to provide those services predate the writer’s involvement on the project. The agreement also adds two arbitrators and provides for the parties’ mutual agreement on arbitration hearing locations in certain circumstances.

You can read the agreement here. Redlines reflect changes made to the Kaplan Stahler Franchise Agreement. The most-favored-nations clause means any franchised agency may choose to adopt the terms of this agreement if it chooses.

Our goal remains to move the negotiation process forward with the remaining unsigned agencies.

In Solidarity,

WGA-Agency Agreement Negotiating Committee

Chris Keyser, Co-Chair

David Shore, Co-Chair

Meredith Stiehm, Co-Chair

Lucy Alibar

John August

Angelina Burnett

Zoanne Clack

Kate Erickson

Jonathan Fernandez

Travon Free

Ashley Gable

Deric A. Hughes

Chip Johannessen

Michele Mulroney

Michael Schur

Tracey Scott Wilson

Betsy Thomas

Patric M. Verrone

Nicole Yorkin

David A. Goodman, President WGAW, ex-officio

Marjorie David, Vice President WGAW, ex-officio

Aaron Mendelsohn, Secretary-Treasurer WGAW, ex-officio

Beau Willimon, President WGAE, ex-officio

Jeremy Pikser, Vice President WGAE, ex-officio

Bob Schneider, Secretary-Treasurer WGAE, ex-officio