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“The Agents Certainly Did Not Like Being Called Crooks”: How Hollywood Writers Won a War

After a furious, two-year struggle, the almighty talent agencies blink. Inside a twist ending.

2/25/2021 11:55:00 PM

How, in a twist ending after a two-year struggle, Hollywood writers won their war with talent agencies:

After a furious, two-year struggle, the almighty talent agencies blink. Inside a twist ending.

in 2019 that packaging “is theft. It is fraud. In the hands of the right U.S. attorney, it might even be prima facie evidence of decades of racketeering.”“The agents certainly did not like being called crooks,” Goodman recalled of that meeting. According to him, one agent complained, “My kids read that in the trades and I have to explain to them!”

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UTA copresidenttoldThe Hollywood Reporterin June 2019, “David [Young]’s history is to go straight to the fight and to embrace scorched earth and chaos as effective means to an end.”For his part, Young deflected such critiques as anti-union propaganda. “If you can get people to believe that I’m unreasonable or get me to believe that I’m being unreasonable, it’s a bargaining strategy, right? ‘You’re being too harsh and you’re trying for too much, and you should scale this all back.’ If the earth was scorched in this case, it’s because the agencies forced us.

Theywould not listen.Theywere not reasonable…. What was at stake meant so much to them that they were going to have to be dragged and bludgeoned to a fair solution.”No one knew exactly how the standoff would play out, least of all those who initiated it. “It took longer and was more difficult, honestly, than I predicted,” Young conceded. “I’ve been in labor wars for 35 years now, but I’d never done anything like this.” headtopics.com

How the dispute would affect writers’ careers was also unclear—and even in the aftermath, that remains cloudy. Many writers had close, long-standing relationships with their agents and felt bereft at the thought of losing someone who championed and steered them. Others felt newly liberated.

Advertisement“I heard from people that this was the best thing that ever happened to their career because the gatekeepers were gone,” saidCathryn Humphris,a TV writer on shows such asNCIS: New OrleansandDare Me,who served as a WGA captain during the agency action. “For other people, it was just the polar opposite: ‘My agents fought for me and now that I don’t have those people anymore, I’m not staffing.’”

A number of writers have decided not to rehire their agents, at least for the time being. The WGA doesn’t yet know how many members are choosing this path, But Humphris herself is among them and says that she enjoys being able to “just pick up the phone and call producers that I’ve known.” Others complain, Humphris pointed out, that agencies have used the WGA action as an excuse to clean house and rid themselves of lower-earning clients, including those who are in the later stage of a career. Those writers, Humphris said, “were just trying to make it through this action and hoping they could go back to their agents, and that didn’t work out for everybody.”

David Young said the WGA will be able to track writers’ income far better now than ever before. Thanks to the new agreement, “we’re now getting real-time information from the agencies on every deal they make for our members.… That’s a completely different ball game for us in terms of being able to say two years from now, ‘Okay, how much has it helped us? Were we right that this needed to be done?’” headtopics.com

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ChernobylcreatorCraig Mazinis among those worried about how this new world without packaging deals will impact lower-level TV writers’ income. “With the money that these studios used to be shipping to the agencies, are they going to be shipping it to the writers?” he

recently on screenwriting podcastScriptnotes.Mazin was initially part of a slate of candidates who ran for WGA office in the summer of 2019 during a deeply contentiousinternal election. It was a moment when talks with the agencies seemed to have stalled and frustrations simmered, with words like “scab” and “toady” being flung around.

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