When William Morris Endeavor became the last big agency to reach a deal with the Writers Guild of America in February, it marked the end of an epic two-year struggle. The Guild’s victory wasn’t the ending many expected when more than 7,000 writers fired their agents en masse in April 2019.
The war was over two big issues. One was packaging fees, a decades-old practice where instead of taking a standard 10% commission from the writers, agencies would take fees paid directly by a studio for “packaging” talent for a project. In some cases, this meant agents were getting paid far more than the writers they were representing.
The other issue: The Writers Guild didn’t want agencies to produce and own movies and TV shows. For some writers, that turned their agents into their bosses, which the Guild saw as a clear conflict of interest.
Leading the Guild in this battle were two Davids. David Young is the executive director of the WGA West and served as the lead negotiator in the agency wars. Some of those talks got extremely heated, with both sides suing the other.
David Goodman, who is president of the WGA West, has written for shows including “The Orville” and “Family Guy.” He was up for re-election in the fall of 2019, when the writers were still without agents. An opposition slate emerged that was ready to end the standoff. But Goodman won with more than 77% of the vote.
Young and Goodman reflect on the two-year battle and explain how they managed to stay the course.
And they look ahead to future Guild struggles, especially in the area of streaming, where Young sees there will be a battle over viewership data that Netflix currently refuses to hand over.
As to the possibility of a future strike? Goodman, who is only president of the Guild for six more months, says that’s up to the membership.