Dave McNary Variety September 20, 2019 3:35PM PT
Fresh off a convincing victory in a contentious election, WGA West president David Goodman has asserted that writers need to demand their fair share of the profits — and that the guild will continue to take an aggressive stance.
“This is a booming, expanding industry, and we’re at the heart of it,” he said in an email sent Friday to members. “It should be an easy time to demand our fair share. But nothing’s easy, so we’ll do what is hard.”
The announcement comes with the WGA locked in a heated standoff with Hollywood agents over the issues of how agents represent WGA members. The guild required on April 13 that members fire their agents if the agents had not signed a Code of Conduct, which bans agents from taking packaging fees and prohibits agencies from owning production affiliates.
Goodman and his allies handily won the WGA West contest Monday with a record turnout of 58%. After winning, Goodman promised that WGA leaders would begin meeting soon with individual agencies to sign agreements with the bans on packaging fees and affiliate production.
“I want to thank all of you for your participation in our election,” he said. “As you may have already heard, turnout was the highest it’s ever been, more than doubling the record set last year. This was due in large part to the fact that this election ended up being a referendum on the agency campaign. It’s important for me to state that though an overwhelming majority of members made it clear that they support the current strategy, all voices were heard, and the elected leaders, whether re-elected incumbents or new to the board, recognize and take into consideration the points of view of all Guild members.”
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Goodman also noted that the WGA West board will meet on Sept. 23 and intensify preparations for the upcoming negotiations with Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on a successor deal to its master contract, which expires May 1.
“We will also obviously continue our work on the agency campaign,” he added. “Given the large numbers of Guild-wide emails sent by all the candidates and other members during the election cycle, we refrained from sending out agency updates during that period. Because the outcome of the election was seen as possibly affecting our strategy, many agencies explicitly stated they would not negotiate with us during that period, so there isn’t a lot to report.”
Currently, more than 70 agencies are allowed to represent WGA members thanks to agreeing to a ban of agency packaging fees and affiliate production. A trio of mid-sized agencies — Verve, Kaplan Stahler and Buchwald — have signed deals with the WGA since April. Goodman asserted that non-franchised agency outreach to writers has increased as agents continue to try to pressure and/or entice their former clients to violate the guild regulations in Working Rule 23.
“Anonymous sources are quoted in the media claiming writers have returned to agents in droves,” he added. “That is not true. The anonymous rumor-mongering by some agencies simply shows how badly they are being hurt by the absence of writers. We are working to make a deal, but in the meantime writing jobs are being filled.”
He also said that on Sept. 13, over the agencies’ objections, the federal judge overseeing the WGA/WME-CAA-UTA lawsuits granted the WGA’s motion to consolidate the three cases, and is requiring the agencies to file a new single amended complaint by Sept. 27. “Ultimately the ruling will make the case more streamlined and economical to litigate,” Goodman added.
Goodman received better than 75% of the votes to top Phyllis Nagy, who had advocated resuming negotiations with the major agencies. He acknowledged that the contest had been heated.
“I just want to close by saying elections naturally highlight our differences, but they also have a way of reminding us of even more essential things: in the record turnout, of how much this Guild means to all of us; and in the gracious words of Phyllis Nagy, that, in the end, ‘our goals are the same.,” Goodman added. “With respect for one another – and with some pride in the fact that we’re willing to fight for ourselves and for each other – let’s take on the long list of challenges that face us.”
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