Writers Guild Launches New Effort to Cut Agents From Pitch Process

WGA vs ATA - H - 2019

"Do writers need agents?" That is becoming the question du jour.

The Writers Guild of America expanded its resources for agentless writers Friday, announcing a new Weekly Feature Memo that will allow screenwriters to list available spec scripts and pitches in a format that will be sent to producers and development executives every Friday by subscription email.

The system is available to Current, Post-Current and Associate WGA members, but each member is limited to two submissions per month. The first edition will be sent out April 26. Submissions will be organized by genre.

The newsletter supplements a resource targeted at television writers, the staffing submission system, and is another element of a patchwork that also includes writer-to-writer networking and guild efforts to enlist managers and attorneys to step in and perform agent-like functions, a controversial effort.

The battle between the union and agents, both of whom represent an overlapping constituency of writers, is turning into a test of whether or not agents are necessary intermediaries in Hollywood.

On Thursday, the guild said that “several thousand” members had fired their agents, including 92 percent of the more than 800 top writers who signed a public statement of support. At a press conference earlier in the week, the guild noted that about 8,500 of the WGA West and East’s aggregate 15,000 members have (or until recently had) agents. The guild plans to deliver termination letters en masse to the agencies Monday.

Most agented guild members are or were represented by major or mid-tier agencies, none of which have signed the guild’s “Code of Conduct” banning packaging fees and affiliate production. That makes those agencies off-limits to guild members, which is why they have been ordered to fire their representatives. On Wednesday, the guild sued the top four talent agencies, seeking to ban packaging fees through legal action.

For more on this subject, visit THR's labor page.