In April, thousands of Writers Guild members were ordered to fire their agents, in large part because agencies refused to do away with packaging fees. Those are fees that agencies collect directly from studios when they represent one or more of the key elements on a show.
The agencies have made buckets of money from packaging fees and when those fees are collected, the writers don’t have to fork over commissions to their agents. Still, many writers say the practice of collecting packaging fees has hurt their pay.
It’s been five months since the Writers Guild fight with the agencies began in earnest and the two sides aren’t even talking. A few smaller agencies have agreed to forego packaging fees, but the big agencies--WME, CAA, UTA and ICM--show no sign of yielding.
Now the Guild is in the middle of an election pitting current leadership against an opposition slate that says it’s time to get back to the negotiating table. Guild members have until September 16th to cast their ballots.
We thought now would be a good time to check in with both sides, however we had trouble getting anyone from the dissident group to talk to us. We finally found one brave soul to do it. He’s a bit of an outlier in more ways than one, as you’ll hear later in the second half of the show.
On the other hand, we had no trouble at all getting WGA board member Angelina Burnett to give us her perspective as a supporter and member of current Guild leadership. She’s running for re-election and also serves on the Guild’s negotiating committee.
Burnett gives us an update on the WGA staffing platform, explains why she thinks moving the WGA lawsuit to federal court was the right decision, and shares how she believes the Guild will eventually be able to win the battle with the major agencies over packaging fees.
Then, we hear from Guild member Rob Long, was a writer on ‘Cheers’ and hosts the weekly KCRW commentary Martini Shot. Just to be clear, Long’s not running for anything himself, and his point of view, it turns out, is more extreme than the one expressed by other dissidents. Long doesn’t see anything wrong with packaging, and feels that even if packaging fees go away, life will still be extremely difficult for working writers in 2019.