Hollywood sign

Source: Wikipedia

Hollywood sign

UTA and the Writers Guild Of America (WGA) have agreed a new franchise agreement, marking a breakthrough in the long fight between the Guild and at least one of the top Hollywood agencies.

Both sides have ended their lawsuits against each other although it does not end legal action between the Guild and CAA and WME.

Furthermore, UTA has agreed to end packaging in two years’ time on the condition that at least one other major agency agrees to do the same.

The WGA said in the interim period packaging would only be permitted with the informed consent of the writer.

Packaging has become in recent years a key part of agency business and fees earned from the practice has been a bone of contention between the WGA and the agencies.

Wednesday’s development (15) comes after months of back channel talks after UTA co-president Jay Sures contacted the Guild.

For the agency, the deal means it can bring its WGA-affiliated writer clients back into the fold after the Guild instructed members to fire their Hollywood agents. The agency will continue to safeguard the confidential information of its clients.

UTA will keep its role in its existing production entities and cap its minority profit participation and not launch any majority-owned production studio, which Sures said in a letter to writer clients were “steps we did not ever intend to take.”

The WGA agency negotiating committee told members on Wednesday, “Our goal remains to move the negotiation process forward with the remaining unsigned agencies.”

The full letter from UTA’s Sures appears below.

Dear UTA Writer Family,

At a time when good news is in demand, we have some. Today, UTA and the WGA have reached an agreement that resolves the dispute that has separated writers and agents for more than a year.

In this time of instability and uncertainty in our industry and world, we could not be more pleased to put this issue behind us and for our writer clients and agents to reunite as natural allies and partners.

Not long ago, UTA reached out to the WGA leadership, as we have done numerous times throughout this dispute, and made another effort to resolve this issue in good faith and through compromise. After many long discussions and significant work by both sides, we’ve successfully found middle ground that sets asides our core differences.

The Guild has achieved many of its main goals and UTA has as well. As the world continues to face down a pandemic and our industry remains under unprecedented pressures, we believed our highest priority was to bring writers and agents back together in joint focus on building and enhancing your careers.

To be clear, we did not sign the Guild’s Code of Conduct, which was unacceptable to us from the start. But we were able to find a path forward that works for both UTA and the WGA. The highlights of our agreement include compromises on the issues of packaging, affiliate production, independent film financing and, most important to UTA, the protection of your confidential information.

This agreement continues to protect your confidential contract and financial information, which was critical to us. This is information the Guild had insisted we hand over to them whether you consented or not, and it was a core sticking point. We expressed willingness to provide contract information but only if you do not object. Our agreement is that if you tell us not to provide your contract information to the Guild, we will not do so. Without this, UTA would not have made this agreement.

We have agreed to eliminate the practice of packaging starting two years from now. We did so despite the long history of packaging that has provided immense benefits to writers, actors, directors and other artists. We made this agreement on the condition that this provision takes effect only if the Guild reaches a similar arrangement with one of the other major talent agencies.

UTA will maintain its involvement in our existing production entities, protecting our ability to provide financial terms for you that are stronger and more beneficial than legacy production entities can offer. We have agreed to cap our minority profit participation and not launch any majority-owned production studio, which are steps we did not ever intend to take.

We also mutually agreed to dismiss our respective legal actions. This includes the litigation launched by the WGA leadership against the major agencies in the moments when this dispute began and the defensive lawsuit we filed against the Guild in response.

Our commitments were squarely aimed at delivering what’s needed most right now: returning writers and agents to their natural role as partners, so we can together face a business stirring with historic levels of uncertainty. This is a time to get people back to work and some sense of normalcy. You deserve that.

UTA made its name in its earliest days, in large part, as a literary agency. Today, we are a strong, thriving, global company that advocates powerfully and effectively for writers and all artists. This agreement ensures we can continue to play that role for you. And in this moment when the world so clearly needs to be lifted up by powerful stories, we look forward to rejoining one another.

As we begin again, we do so with hopes that you and your loved ones are safe.

Jay Sures
Co-president, UTA