Writers Guild, Agencies to Meet Tuesday as WGA Continues to Blast Agency Practices (Exclusive)

Courtesy of WGA West

The meeting will come just hours after a guild press conference aimed at attacking the agencies.

In a sign of potential movement in their acrimonious dispute, the Writers Guild of America and the talent agencies are set to meet Tuesday mid-afternoon, The Hollywood Reporter has learned, in only their third day of talks since the WGA issued a notice last April that began what’s become a war between two groups with a common constituency, Hollywood screen and television writers. The agencies are likely to provide some sort of response to the guild’s proposed Code of Conduct that is intended to replace an existing agreement between the WGA and Association of Talent Agents.

But in a signal that progress will not be easy, the WGA has also scheduled a telephone press conference for Tuesday morning to unveil a new report that “exposes talent agencies’ corrupt business practices.” And leading up to that telepresser, the drumbeat has continued: On Friday, the guild posted over a dozen more anonymous anecdotes allegedly describing abusive behavior by agents, and on Sunday posted five new whitepapers intended to refute agency arguments about packaging and production, two agency practices that the guild opposes.

The two sides haven’t met since Feb. 19, and the struggle — which the WGA calls a “necessary, proper and fair power grab” by the guild — has grown increasingly acrimonious, with threats of lawsuits by both sides, as well as unsuccessful attempts by the guild to draw managers and entertainment attorneys into its corner. The agencies, although less public in their messaging, have been meeting with their writer clients one-on-one and en masse, and assiduously courting the press.

At issue are power and money, but also conflicting views on how best to represent writers in the new landscape of mega-media conglomerates like Disney-Fox, AT&T-WarnerMedia and Comcast NBC Universal and enormous digital streamers like Netflix and Amazon. The guild has scheduled a March 25 vote on the new Code of Conduct, which it intends to impose on the agencies April 7, the day after the current agreement between the WGA and the Association of Talent Agencies expires — assuming, that is, that the parties don’t reach a negotiated settlement.

But a provision in the Code that the WGA can change the rules unilaterally at any time on 60 days’ notice is so one-sided that few if any agencies are likely to sign on. Yet writers are prohibited by guild rules from being represented by unsigned agencies, which may force scribes to decide between their agents and their guild, and the dispute could easily devolve into complex, protracted and expensive litigation.