Six weeks after becoming the first agency with major clients to sign the Writers Guild of America’s Code of Conduct, Verve has signed one of the guild’s negotiating committee leaders.
Committee co-chair Meredith Stiehm has inked with the agency. She had been with WME until helping to lead the 7,000-plus guild members who parted ways with their agencies in April when still-unresolved disagreements over packaging fees and affiliate production resulted in the failure of a new franchise agreement between the WGA and the Association of Talent Agencies. WME is currently a defendant in the lawsuit that Stiehm, seven other writers and the WGA West and East have levied against the Big Four agencies, claiming a breach of fiduciary duty to their clients.
Stiehm joins fellow negotiating committee member John August (who most recently wrote Disney’s live-action Aladdin alongside Guy Ritchie) as new Verve clients. August announced his agency move in a Twitter thread on Friday, writing, “My frustration with big agency practices has only grown. I don’t think they’re putting clients first… I would have met with ANY agency that had signed the agreement… My decision to go to Verve is entirely my own. Yes, I’m on the WGA board but that’s not why I’m making the move.” He had been with UTA.
A veteran showrunner, Stiehm most recently served as an executive producer on Showtime’s Homeland and is now working on a drama series adaptation of Cristina Alger’s thriller novel The Banker’s Wife, produced by Sherry Marsh’s Marsh Entertainment in partnership with Federation Entertainment and starring Rosamund Pike. She also co-created FX’s adaptation of The Bridge and was staffed on ER, NYPD Blue and Beverly Hills, 90210. But it’s her experience creating Cold Case that motivates her fight against agency packaging fees, as Stiehm has been vocal in her displeasure since she realized that CAA, her agency at the time, was earning nearly as much as she did on each episode of the CBS procedural (it also repped Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced the show).
A number of writers have joined Verve since the literary agency signed the WGA’s Code of Conduct on May 16, but Stiehm and August are among the most prominent, both in terms of writing experience and stature within the guild. The approximately 30-agent firm already repped Colin Trevorrow, Brian K. Vaughan, Howard Deutch, Jac Schaeffer (Black Widow), Christopher L. Yost (Thor: Ragnarok), Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer (Plus One) and Leigh Janiak (Fear Street), among others.