The Writers Guild Of America (WGA) is stepping up its war of words amid stalled negotiations with the agencies and has set a press conference next week in which it will outline what it calls the four major talent agencies’ “conflicted business practices that harm Hollywood’s writers”.
WGA brass will present the report, titled No Conflict, No Interest, which the Guild says comes at a time when industry profits have soared and billions in outside investment have flowed into the biggest talent agencies that have become “singularly focused on expanding their bottom line, often at the expense of the clients.”
The Guild went on to say, “The conflicted and illegal practices of the major agencies include demanding direct payment from the studios employing their clients, known as “packaging fees” and leveraging their exclusive access to talent to become producers, making them their client’s representatives and their employers.”
Packaging fees are a bone of contention with the WGA, which will vote on a new code of conduct on March 25 to outlaw them and all agency ties to affiliated entities that are involved in production The Guild’s current agreement with the Association Of Talent Agents expires on April 6.
While packaging fees are nothing new, in some cases agencies have also played the role of sales agent and financier, and have charged extra fees to reflect their larger role on a film or TV project.
The agencies argue that talent save their 10% commission if their agency is one of the packaging agents on a show, and claim talent would pay more were packaging fees to be eliminated, while studios would pay less. With regard to production, the agencies say that consolidated studios, networks and distributors are less willing to finance and distribute a higher volume of content, which is why agencies have taken on greater responsibility in these areas.