WGA has made negotiations with the talent agency Verve, according to Deadline. This was in lieu of the agency signing the guild’s code of conduct for agencies. According to WGA, it “was the most substantive negotiation with an agency we’ve had to date.” This has come after the mass firing of agents by writers after talent agencies refused to sign the new franchise agreement back in April.
“WGA and Verve representatives first met face-to-face on April 30th, and thereafter exchanged counterproposals,” guild leaders had said on Thursday. “The back-and-forth with Verve was the most substantive negotiation with an agency we’ve had to date. Verve was willing to make an agreement that aligns their agents’ interests with their writer clients’ interests. And the Guild was willing to modify the Code, while maintaining the fundamental principle that agencies should neither own production companies nor accept fees from the employers of writers.”
The WGA-Verve agreement included the following stipulations from the WGA’s original Code of Conduct:
- Ban packaging fees and agency-affiliated production companies.
- Require agency to provide writers’ contracts, invoices and deal memos to the WGA and allows auditing.
- Require agency to enforce Guild contracts and zealously advocate for writers’ best interests re: free work, late pay, abusive hiring practices, etc.
- Allow agency to accept fees for feature film financing and sales services, subject to disclosure and writer approval, for films with less than $20 million budget, and with Guild consent for films with budgets higher than $20 million.
- Contain a streamlined arbitration agreement.
- Require agency to provide an annual report on its diversity and inclusion efforts.
- Contain a most favored nations’ clause if another agency reaches terms with the Guild more favorable than in this agreement.
The agreement also added the following new requirements:
- Give either party to the agreement the right to re-open the agreement with at least 90 days’ notice prior to its termination date; if no notice is given, the agreement will be extended for additional one year periods.
- Clarify that agency can represent producers that do not employ writers.
- Allow agency to provide notice of commencement or anything else triggering compensation by copying the WGA on invoices.
- Allow agency to provide list of films on which it is providing financing or sales services semi-annually rather than quarterly.
The guild’s committee added that the agreement between WGA and Verve “is an important step forward in our efforts to realign agency incentives and eliminate the conflicts of interest that have undermined representation of writers.”
Conversely, the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) issued their own statement, claiming that “the WGA’s Code of Conduct Hurts Agencies and Writers.” According to the ATA, this code “is a unilateral mandate that gives the guild the authority to control agency business operations, including forcing agencies to provide confidential information about their clients. The Code is not in the best interest of agencies or the writers they represent and causes unnecessary disruption to the entire industry.”
Additionally, the ATA stated that these negotiations would set “a new, harmful precedent for agencies of all sizes.” More importantly, the ATA added that “The Code will eliminate hundreds of jobs for writers and artists by hamstringing the film financing market and eliminating production entities that are producing shows and films that may not otherwise get made.”
Verve also gave a statement concerning their signing of the code: “Although there will be modifications to our business practices that are necessitated by today’s decision, one thing that will not change is our commitment to providing long-term, premium service to our clients.” Verve, known as a smaller agency that relies heavily on commissions from its writer clients, added that “Verve provides a customized experience for each client and we refuse to dilute our efforts. As a result, we will not take on writers who seek temporary representation and intend to return to their previous agency when a deal is made between the WGA and the (Association of Talent Agencies).”