With production down 97.8% when comparing this season to last, finding some good news and seeing dealmaking occur is a welcome sight. Writers are the forefront and foundation of good content. When consumers enjoy good content it almost certainly started with a book, treatment, or script. Production and then distribution will then follow foundational written content. Unfortunately, the dispute between the writers and their agents over packaging fees and a code of conduct that alleged conflicts of interest, litigation or compromise seemed the only way forward.
With the importance of writing at an impasse because of the dispute between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Association of Talent Agents (ATA), specifically the big four talent agencies that represent literary talent: Creative Artists Agency (CAA), William Morris Endeavor (WME), International Creative Partners (ICM Partners), and United Talent Agency (UTA), seeing UTA leave the group and agree to a deal with the WGA means that some writers will get back to work. It is of note that The Hollywood Reporter also writes that Paradigm, APA, Gersh, Verve, Kaplan Stahler, Culture Creative Entertainment, Buchwald, A3 Artists Agency (formerly known as Abrams) and Rothman Brecher, all smaller agencies, have agreed to work with WGA under similar deals.
Film production in Los Angeles County and beyond has it guidelines, while SAG-AFTRA also released it policy for film production that was supported by the California Governor’s office. The UTA now has its template with the WGA to begin working together to put those scripts to work in production. The major points of the deal between WGA and UTA are as follows: (1) protect confidential information and privacy of WGA members; (2) eliminated the practice of packaging talent in producing content (e.g., writers, directors, and actors) with the condition that WME, CAA, or ICM Partners also agree to a similar provision; and (3) the disclosure of financial terms to writer clients where agencies have existing production entities that involves the WGA and their writers, and furthermore that only minority profit participation will be allowed in production studios.
The above deal does not mean one important thing, but does mean one other important thing. For one, the UTA did not sign the WGA’s Code of Conduct. Second, the WGA and UTA will dismiss their claims against the other in the on-going lawsuit between the WGA and the other major agencies.
As to deal point three (3) above, the United States Justice Department has been investigating tech, social media, and advertising companies for anti-trust activities, but has been more open to entertainment companies, specifically with the expanding relationships between production, theaters, agencies, and studios in reference to the Paramount decrees. To the latter point, entertainment production and distribution has seen significant changes since streaming and technology have made it easier to produce and release content. Nonetheless, it would not be far-fetched to see the Justice Department expand its investigation into entertainment production and agencies as they continue to develop relationships in majority ownership and control where the result is a restraint on free trade and/or free speech in producing content.
Overall, some welcome news that litigation has ended for at least one agency, UTA, while some more WGA writers will be working with their representatives in anticipation of some great content.