First ATA agency breaks ranks

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  • #16
    Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

    Man, I'm not in the union and likely never will be, but how about this opinion 'from the outside':

    Where the Guild has not had very favorable results in the past, through their various strikes, had much to do with the fact that the 'other side' was able to outlast them. Even idealistic union members have to eat, and without money coming in the well runs dry and, naturally, so can the will to fight.

    But in this case, few writers are losing money, since there's no real work stoppage. They're continuing to earn in their new homes (agencies), am I correct, without much of a hiccup.

    Yet, it seems that some of the reporting (criticized by many, here) fails to take that into consideration, and instead presents this struggle as 'just another strike-type situation'.

    It's not.

    Regarding the ATA's tactics of litigation delay, somebody's giving them poor (read 'desperate') advice, and remember too that all or most of the legal fees resulting from these court initiatives can be recouped by the winning side. That's gotta be a scary thing for investors who were once dreaming about IPOs rivaling Google or FaceBook. ha ha ha

    The Guild should win this, hands own, but they will have to be patient - and at least this time (most of) their members won't be going hungry. Their negotiators can speed the whole process up a bit, through some gutsy compromises that don't matter too much, but I wouldn't give in on any big points. In fact, the longer the thing goes on, the better for union members: Once new shows get up and running, and we see that nothing's changed except the name of the agent/cy, that alone will add weight to the scale on the union's side. (I'm sure that much reportage will remain on the side of the corporate, maybe as representing some sort of proxy for 'viewing audiences'. Like, not.)

    So again, this is just a view from the outside, probably not much different from what a member of the public thinks, even if I am or should be more informed than John Q.

    Naturally, I'm for the little guy and gal, a theme reflected in several of my scripts, and I'm against the immoral and greedy corporate meanies.

    However, they're not all immoral, and money is not in itself immoral, so I am also totally for great working partnerships between the two sides when both can just concentrate on making great movies and art.

    G'luck to all!

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    • #17
      Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

      Originally posted by catcon View Post
      But in this case, few writers are losing money, since there's no real work stoppage. They're continuing to earn in their new homes (agencies), am I correct, without much of a hiccup.
      Not sure if I'd go that far. I know quite a few working union writers in TV who, as mostly low and mid level folks, still really count on their agents for gettings meetings and staffing consideration. And who knows, maybe they wouldn't have gotten staffed anyway. TV is tough. But they definitely weren't getting the meetings and interviews they've gotten the past couple of seasons and it's because they had to fire their reps. So while yes, it's not a formal work stoppage and not as severe as a strike, it's still definitely negatively affecting more folks than the Guild would like to admit.

      Now just to be clear, I'm not saying all this in defense of the agencies and their packaging practices ... although in general I don't think packaging fees are quite the festering evil that the Guild wants us to think they are. Or else I'm sure Chris Keyser (co-chair of the Negotiating Committee) would gladly remove himself from his current lucrative deal being packaged by Endeavor Content. But I think it's important to acknowledge some of the very valid reasons why not all writers in the guild are waving their pom poms around in support of how this whole thing has been handled.

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      • #18
        Re: Gavin Polone to writers: "Don't fold, you've got the nuts"

        Originally posted by Captain Nemo View Post
        Although this piece is a couple of months old, and is somewhat off-thread, it seemed still worth posting, since Polone is a very sharp and knowledgeable observer of the business, and makes a number of points I haven't seen elsewhere. One relevant excerpt:

        "The ATA also has offered to give the writers an insignificant portion of agency package fees and has presented a set of "Agency Standards," which would supposedly give writer clients greater peace of mind but, in fact, are laughably banal. It's as if McDonald's were to put forth a written promise that its employees will always, unless otherwise directed by the customer, place hamburgers between the two halves of the bun and, should the customer pay with currency in a denomination greater than the cost of the meal, they will then return the difference, immediately, to the customer as change.

        While winning the messaging battle is important, it will not deliver the coup de grĂ¢ce: It just keeps the membership in line while the knife is sharpened and then moved to the enemy's throat, both of which take time. The first move, as I suggested in my last column, is to sue the agencies under various statutes that relate to the agencies' conflicted behavior. This the WGA has now done. But to prevail, as I'm sure they will, they will need to surmount various motions to dismiss and other preliminary challenges by the ATA's litigators, which is a sluggish process. Eventually, guild lawyers will have the opportunity to pore over the thousands and thousands of emails related to package fees, and some will surely turn up an ugly "this is an important show to the agency, so stop negotiating and close your client's deal now" view of the agency business, as well as other big client vs. little client conflicts that will be quite uncomfortable for the agents to defend. Even if there are just a few of these emails in a sea of innocuous messages, the point about conflicts of interest will be proved and the WGA membership will be emboldened to maintain their demand that the agencies sign the code of conduct, as drafted.

        The lawsuit will not be an end in itself; it will just support the guild's stance in the minds of the public and, more important, further strengthen the resolve of the members. It is time and technology that will put the smackdown on the current mode of representation for TV and movie writers."


        https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/ne...agents-1209517
        thanks for posting this, Captain Nemo, it's help me understand some areas that were foggy to me.

        i especially loved this, i mean, i actually laughed:
        The WGA's message that this is about gaining unconflicted representation, with no middle ground possible, is clear and has resonated, while what the various agency leaders have been saying is muddled and sometimes comical. The Association of Talent Agents and individual agents alternatively have put forward that this dispute will cause "chaos," that the writers have forgotten that the agents are their friends, and that the agents have "invested" in the writers' careers, so they deserve extra compensation for that. Of those points, maybe the friend part is true, if we're talking about the kind of friends who don't necessarily have their "friend's" best financial interests at heart.
        i remember this kind of **** happening in my old job, "a man" would get "extra" pay for doing his ****ing job. you don't get extra for doing your job well, that is the expectation. you get extra for delivering exceedingly high performance on a consistent and daily basis.

        and this is a reminder of how the industry is proceeding without agents and some may learn, it's not necessarily a bad thing:

        When I look at the list of projects on which I'm working now, I see only one where I was introduced to the writer by an agent. The rest were either people I already knew or were known to the network or studio from another project and the executive on the project suggested we hire them. In all likelihood, if I had an open assignment right now, I'd call one of six or seven writers I've gone to in the past. And if that didn't work, I'd probably talk to other producers and executives to get ideas and I'd scroll through IMDb to find those who wrote movies and shows that I liked. One thing I would not do is stop developing. Other producers won't either. Studios and networks will hire from the lists of people they've worked with before, or tried to work with before.
        and the fear of the working writer that some may not get the jobs they want, others will have an opportunity to get staffed.

        One thing is for sure: Television networks will not decide to take a year off from delivering their almost 500 shows for public consumption because agents aren't able to help them find writers. This means just as many writers are going to get hired, with or without the involvement of agents. Maybe the mix of who is and isn't hired will be different, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing and, in the end, the same number of WGA members will be working.
        one thing i do wonder, how "informed" is the membership itself? i've found it curious in other aspects of the world how people generally get led around by the nose, because they're not interested enough to keep themselves informed on issues that impact their lives. i don't know it that's true, here, but it certainly is in other areas of life.

        i don't know about anyone else, but the idea of exposing the agency emails where the "behind the scene" negotiations happened, are of special interest to me. hopefully, they will reveal what the guild believes will prove their point.
        "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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        • #19
          Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

          Originally posted by JS90 View Post
          Not sure if I'd go that far. I know quite a few working union writers in TV who, as mostly low and mid level folks, still really count on their agents for gettings meetings and staffing consideration. And who knows, maybe they wouldn't have gotten staffed anyway. TV is tough. But they definitely weren't getting the meetings and interviews they've gotten the past couple of seasons and it's because they had to fire their reps. So while yes, it's not a formal work stoppage and not as severe as a strike, it's still definitely negatively affecting more folks than the Guild would like to admit.

          Now just to be clear, I'm not saying all this in defense of the agencies and their packaging practices ... although in general I don't think packaging fees are quite the festering evil that the Guild wants us to think they are. Or else I'm sure Chris Keyser (co-chair of the Negotiating Committee) would gladly remove himself from his current lucrative deal being packaged by Endeavor Content. But I think it's important to acknowledge some of the very valid reasons why not all writers in the guild are waving their pom poms around in support of how this whole thing has been handled.
          I don't get this argument at all. Shows don't hire writers because of agents; they hire writers because they need people to write the show. Every lit agent in Hollywood could die tomorrow, and demand for TV staff writers would not change by even 1%.

          So there are the exact same number of people who got jobs this season as there would have been had we not fired our reps. If the ATA action is "negatively affecting more folks than the Guild would like to admit," then it is, by definition, positively affecting the exact same number of "folks."

          Seriously, what is the thinking here?

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          • #20
            Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

            I'm just expressing that I know plenty of TV writers who feel they've lost work because of this. And I've personally worked on plenty of shows where 1 or 2 low-mid level writer slots absolutely went to folks that only got that job because their agents got them those interviews.

            But just so everyone doesn't pounce on me for being an agency shill, at the end of the day I also want wants best for the writers ... not the agents. I just happen to disagree with the way the Guild's leadership is going upon that.

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            • #21
              Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

              Originally posted by JS90 View Post
              I'm just expressing that I know plenty of TV writers who feel they've lost work because of this. And I've personally worked on plenty of shows where 1 or 2 low-mid level writer slots absolutely went to folks that only got that job because their agents got them those interviews.
              my perspective, hearing it from women (white and non-white) in my writers group who have been staffed on several cable/network shows over the past few years at all levels (script coordinator up to EP) is that the pre-April 2019 system was working at least equally bad but especially in terms of getting entry-level writers into the room and moving up the staffing ladder.

              in part, this is how it's always been -- staffing season is a big game of musical chairs and by the end there will inevitably be some writers left standing without a gig. but it also seems absolutely true (at least in these writers' experience) that the packaging-agents-as-main-gatekeepers system created zero incentive for them to seek out new writers to rep and send out for staffing.

              personally, i think there is a potential compromise to be had if the ATA really wants a compromise (i'm skeptical they actually do) by making TV packaging fees contingent on the agency staffing their clients at each and every level of the food chain, e.g., if any given season you only staff upper level (showrunner/Co-EP) writers, you only get 10% commission and no packaging fees; the more lower-level writers you staff, the more packaging fees you can collect on a sliding scale up to 100% of what you might have earned in the past. it might be hard to implement and enforce but that's a matter of sitting in a room and hammering out the logistics

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              • #22
                Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

                Originally posted by AnyOtherName View Post
                I don't get this argument at all. Shows don't hire writers because of agents; they hire writers because they need people to write the show. Every lit agent in Hollywood could die tomorrow, and demand for TV staff writers would not change by even 1%.

                So there are the exact same number of people who got jobs this season as there would have been had we not fired our reps. If the ATA action is "negatively affecting more folks than the Guild would like to admit," then it is, by definition, positively affecting the exact same number of "folks."

                Seriously, what is the thinking here?
                I agree that the exact same number of people got jobs and all needed writer positions got filled. But I think there's another consideration with regard to the makeup of that pool of people. Some prominent writers of color who have expressed strong support for the WGA have also said on Twitter that they've heard from colleagues who've said that having an agent made it easier to get meetings as a person of color. The same also probably applies to LGBT people. Or people with disabilities. Let's not forget that people who aren't straight white males in this industry are often met with a higher level of scrutiny and skepticism by decision-makers.

                I know there have been efforts to address this with targeted lists of writers distributed on Twitter and searchable fields for writer characteristics in the WGA submission system online. That said, it would be interesting to see whether the percentage of writers of color/writers in other underrepresented groups who got staffed this season went down by any significant amount. That data would be useful.
                "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

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                • #23
                  Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

                  Originally posted by UpandComing View Post
                  I know there have been efforts to address this with targeted lists of writers distributed on Twitter and searchable fields for writer characteristics in the WGA submission system online. That said, it would be interesting to see whether the percentage of writers of color/writers in other underrepresented groups who got staffed this season went down by any significant amount. That data would be useful.
                  I would have to think WGA is going to track all of this info especially close this year (they do an annual survey anyway, as i recall?) to report on how staffing season went post-ATA. my sense is that the timing of everything made it a bit more catch-as-catch-can than usual but that both the Twitter #WGAStaffingBoost campaign and the WGA's own in-house submission system filled in the agent gap reasonably well. To the extent that it all worked "good enough" to get through this season, I assume the goal for next year would be improving on what worked and trying to make it work better for underrepresented voices. Hopefully there will also be some efforts to formalize and make permanent somehow the staffing grid that Liz Alpers and LaToya Morgan were coordinating via twitter. And I'm sure it's going to be on the mind of Verve, KS, and the Abrams 3 that this was a precipitating issue

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                  • #24
                    Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

                    Originally posted by JoeBanks View Post
                    I would have to think WGA is going to track all of this info especially close this year (they do an annual survey anyway, as i recall?) to report on how staffing season went post-ATA. my sense is that the timing of everything made it a bit more catch-as-catch-can than usual but that both the Twitter #WGAStaffingBoost campaign and the WGA's own in-house submission system filled in the agent gap reasonably well. To the extent that it all worked "good enough" to get through this season, I assume the goal for next year would be improving on what worked and trying to make it work better for underrepresented voices. Hopefully there will also be some efforts to formalize and make permanent somehow the staffing grid that Liz Alpers and LaToya Morgan were coordinating via twitter. And I'm sure it's going to be on the mind of Verve, KS, and the Abrams 3 that this was a precipitating issue
                    Yes, I believe the WGA releases an annual report (or commissions data from another organization). Though with this impasse stretching out for the foreseeable future, I'm thinking that there might be a demand for access to the data for this staffing cycle sooner rather than later. Fortunately, the WGA is conducting a survey right now about member satisfaction with the whole process, so that should give it a chance to see how things are going at the moment (though not sure the results will be released publicly as the ATA may jump all over them).

                    I agree that certain strategies that have been adopted during the standoff should remain permanent, like the staffing grid. Regardless of how things go with agents, writers need to have a system in place to help themselves so they never have to feel dependent on the middlemen again. It's the future.
                    "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

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                    • #25
                      Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

                      Originally posted by JS90 View Post
                      I'm just expressing that I know plenty of TV writers who feel they've lost work because of this. And I've personally worked on plenty of shows where 1 or 2 low-mid level writer slots absolutely went to folks that only got that job because their agents got them those interviews.

                      But just so everyone doesn't pounce on me for being an agency shill, at the end of the day I also want wants best for the writers ... not the agents. I just happen to disagree with the way the Guild's leadership is going upon that.
                      I feel like we're going in circles. Those mid-level jobs didn't exist because an agent made them exist. They existed because the show needed to be written. Sure, writer A may have gotten the job in part because of his agent's hustle, and in a world without agents, writer B may have gotten the job instead. You may personally know writer A, and he may be very sad, but "writers" obviously haven't been hurt by the absence of agents in this scenario.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

                        Originally posted by UpandComing View Post
                        I agree that the exact same number of people got jobs and all needed writer positions got filled. But I think there's another consideration with regard to the makeup of that pool of people. Some prominent writers of color who have expressed strong support for the WGA have also said on Twitter that they've heard from colleagues who've said that having an agent made it easier to get meetings as a person of color. The same also probably applies to LGBT people. Or people with disabilities. Let's not forget that people who aren't straight white males in this industry are often met with a higher level of scrutiny and skepticism by decision-makers.

                        I know there have been efforts to address this with targeted lists of writers distributed on Twitter and searchable fields for writer characteristics in the WGA submission system online. That said, it would be interesting to see whether the percentage of writers of color/writers in other underrepresented groups who got staffed this season went down by any significant amount. That data would be useful.
                        There are many, many people saying the opposite-- that thanks to the absence of agents, "diverse" writers had a better year than ever before. Also: the main drivers of diversity in writers' rooms (beyond showrunners' personal and professional commitments to that cause) are studio and network mandates. The idea that agencies have been prime drivers of diversity is, forgive me, comical.

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                        • #27
                          Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

                          Originally posted by AnyOtherName View Post
                          There are many, many people saying the opposite-- that thanks to the absence of agents, "diverse" writers had a better year than ever before.
                          Hmm. I find that statement interesting. Are these many people individuals you have heard from directly? Are these claims ones you've seen on Twitter? I'm just curious about the source.

                          I'm basing my statement in part on some comments from some writers of color who have been outspoken in support of the WGA (e.g., Kirk Moore, Warren Hsu Leonard), as well as one quoted in the recent L.A. Times article that came out:

                          "I will not debate the state of Black writers or Writers of Color unless you come with facts like... data. I honestly don't want to hear, "My Black friend got staffed...- when I have a list, talk to Black writers daily, and could detail my own struggles."
                          https://twitter.com/KirkWrites79/sta...54678660386816

                          "This WGA action has hit POCs more than anyone else from my conversations with my fellow writers. Showrunners are simply staffing their friends, and without an agent pushing them to consider a minority, the Old Boys Club is back in full swing and getting entrenched."
                          https://twitter.com/kamranpasha/stat...64649645064193

                          "We sort of got rid of agents and replaced that with the good old boys' network, which you can imagine does not serve writers of color very well,- said Newson, who is African American.
                          https://www.latimes.com/entertainmen...no-end-in-site

                          "I think what's difficult, maybe even heartbreaking, is the idea that folks who are being hurt by this action - and there are many, I hear from them every day - feel like they're forced to chose between accepting that damage to their careers, or leaving a Guild that they love."
                          https://twitter.com/whsuleonard/stat...11174910627841


                          Originally posted by AnyOtherName View Post
                          Also: the main drivers of diversity in writers' rooms (beyond showrunners' personal and professional commitments to that cause) are studio and network mandates. The idea that agencies have been prime drivers of diversity is, forgive me, comical.
                          When you say studio and network mandates, are you referring to diversity hires? Because if so, I'm referring to the hiring people of color outside of those slots. In those cases, it often helps to have a strong advocate.

                          As for showrunners, I know of a handful that have publicly made diverse writers' rooms a priority, but most of them are people of color.

                          I didn't say that agencies have been prime drivers of diversity; I just meant that those that represent writers of color can give them more of a chance of getting in.
                          "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

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                          • #28
                            Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

                            Originally posted by UpandComing View Post
                            Hmm. I find that statement interesting. Are these many people individuals you have heard from directly? Are these claims ones you've seen on Twitter? I'm just curious about the source
                            I mean, it's people I've heard from directly and people who've shared their experiences on the private writer boards and showrunners who've been vocal on twitter and elsewhere about finally feeling they have access to diverse writers after years of being told by agencies that there "aren't any," etc. And meaning no disrespect to anyone, but I think some of the writers you're quoting are people who are, shall we say, so extremely passionate in their hatred of this action that it has perhaps impacted the clarity of their thinking.

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                            • #29
                              Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

                              Originally posted by AnyOtherName View Post
                              I mean, it's people I've heard from directly and people who've shared their experiences on the private writer boards and showrunners who've been vocal on twitter and elsewhere about finally feeling they have access to diverse writers after years of being told by agencies that there "aren't any," etc.
                              I've seen some of those comments, too. But frankly, there's a difference between saying that you have more access to diverse writers and those diverse writers actually getting staffed. The reality could still be that they are getting staffed at the same or even lower levels than before.

                              Originally posted by AnyOtherName View Post
                              And meaning no disrespect to anyone, but I think some of the writers you're quoting are people who are, shall we say, so extremely passionate in their hatred of this action that it has perhaps impacted the clarity of their thinking.
                              I think that's a rather huge assumption to make. If you have actual quotes or interview excerpts or something tangible to support this belief that they are "extremely passionate in their hatred of this action," then fine -- otherwise you are just acting like an armchair psychologist.
                              "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Re: First ATA agency breaks ranks

                                Originally posted by UpandComing View Post
                                I've seen some of those comments, too. But frankly, there's a difference between saying that you have more access to diverse writers and those diverse writers actually getting staffed. The reality could still be that they are getting staffed at the same or even lower levels than before.

                                I think that's a rather huge assumption to make. If you have actual quotes or interview excerpts or something tangible to support this belief that they are "extremely passionate in their hatred of this action," then fine -- otherwise you are just acting like an armchair psychologist.
                                (I deleted my response to this, because it's just impossible to discuss this issue or these people without getting into things that have been said and done on private writer boards. Suffice to say, while I think it's important to stay vigilant on the issue of writer room diversity, there is simply no evidence that this is action is hurting minority writers, and MANY POC are angry that they're being used as a talking point by those opposed to this action.)
                                Last edited by AnyOtherName; 07-25-2019, 11:53 AM. Reason: Felt like I was letting things that should remain private-ish become too public-ish

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