Effective Saturday, April 13, 2019, the WGA implemented a Code of Conduct for talent agencies seeking to represent WGA members. You can read the Code of Conduct here. In order to represent WGA members an agency must agree to these terms.
No Current WGA member can be represented by an agency that is not franchised by the Guild in accordance with Working Rule 23. The Rules of Implementation of Working Rule 23 are here. The list of agencies that have signed the Code of Conduct is here.
Guild resources to assist members who are looking for work without an agent are available here.
What does Working Rule 23 actually say?
“No writer shall enter into a representation agreement whether oral or written, with any agent who has not entered into an agreement with the Guild covering minimum terms and conditions between agents and their writer clients.” As of April 13, 2019 that agreement is the WGA Agency Code of Conduct.
Am I prohibited from contact with my agent now that the Code has been implemented and Working Rule 23 is in effect?
You are prohibited from being represented by your agent for Guild-covered services going forward, including deals that were first discussed but not completed before the implementation of the Code. As a rule of thumb, it’s useful to ask, “Is this an action an agent would perform for a client?” If so, that’s representation. Below are some examples:
- Setting meetings for you (either on a project or a general)
- Submitting you or your work to a producer or employer
- Negotiating a deal for purchase or employment, including the long-form agreement
- Advocating on your behalf
- Reading your work and/or providing feedback
- Offering professional advice.
You can contact your former agency to discuss payments and enforcement of deals that closed prior to April 13, 2019. But again, you cannot discuss new projects or new deals. You can ask them in writing to provide you or the representative of your choice information regarding pending deals (those in process but not yet closed), contact information, or inquiries they receive from studios or producers. You can also talk with them about personal matters or about signing the Code of Conduct.
What if I’m a TV writer/producer?
Producing by TV writer-producers has been covered in the MBA since 1973 (Articles 1 and 14). Those provisions specifically say that producing services are deemed part of writing when performed by writer-producers. Thus, when an agent makes a deal for a hyphenate in television—usually an overall deal or a series contract for a per episode fee—the writer-producer services are deemed covered under the MBA. An agent can’t represent only the producing duties.
For a theatrical writer who is also hired as a producer on the same project, the same rules apply. A non-franchised agency cannot represent you on a theatrical project where you would be a writer and producer.
Thus, under Working Rule 23 non-franchised agents cannot represent WGA writers with respect to these hyphenate services, and a member who has historically been employed as a hyphenate cannot avoid the Guild’s jurisdiction by re-labeling a contract as a producer-only deal.
The working rule doesn’t cover other producing. Of course, anything additional a member is willing to do to support the goal of eliminating agency conflicts of interest will help the campaign.
What if I’m on an overall deal?
Like all Guild members, you can only deal with your agent regarding past projects. They cannot help you set up new projects, even if they are commissioning your overall deal.
What if I’m already working on a project that is packaged?
Your deal will continue with the same terms.
My agency was in the middle of trying to make a deal for me but nothing is firmed up. What do I do now?
The new Code of Conduct does not prevent any deal that is in the process of being made from being completed, but not by an agency that is no longer franchised, even if they have already started the negotiation. Completion of the deal can be handled by a lawyer, manager, or franchised agent. If you need contact on potential deal information, ask your former agent in writing to send you and/or the representatives of your choice: the agency is obligated to provide it. Contact the Agency Department if you need assistance.
What right does my former agency have to commission my compensation after the Code is implemented?
You will continue to pay your agent commission under any deals negotiated prior to the termination of your representation agreement with the agency. This may include limited circumstances where an agreement was under negotiation but not finalized until after you left the agency. However, if they only set up meetings and no offer had been made, it’s unlikely that commission would be owed. The former agency may also be entitled to commission where a contract is renewed after termination or where the employer exercises an option for additional services. The rules in this area are technical and the answers are almost always fact-specific. Please contact the Agency Department to discuss your specific circumstance.
What do I do if my former agent continues to solicit work for me by either contacting me directly or through my lawyer/manager?
Once you leave an agency, you should no longer allow them to work on your behalf. Tell the agent to stop. You can also tell them that if they want to represent you they should sign the Code of Conduct. If you think an agency is commissioning you incorrectly, please contact the Agency Department.
What if I get a deal offer and no longer have an agency to work with? Where does the offer go and who negotiates the deal?
If you have a manager and/or a lawyer, it should be business as usual. Managers and lawyers will be able to negotiate contracts for staffing, development, or sale of materials. If you don’t have a manager or lawyer, the offer can go to you. Before you leave every meeting, make sure the executive, producer, or showrunner has your contact information. And after the offer comes in, you can find a lawyer to negotiate with Business Affairs by asking other writers for recommendations. If you are having trouble finding an attorney, or would like the Guild to review terms, contact the Agency Department.
The agencies say it is against state laws for managers and lawyers to help writers find work or negotiate without being connected to an agent.
As a matter of practice, managers and sometimes attorneys already get work for clients. In addition, as the exclusive bargaining representative for writers, the Guild has the right under federal law to delegate authority to other representatives, and on a temporary basis has now delegated that authority to managers and attorneys. Here is the link to the delegation letter. If your manager or attorney refuses to work for you in this time, you should consider finding another representative or contact the Agency Department.
I’m represented by an agency for both writing and another area of work not covered by the Guild (stand-up performance, acting, directing, writing plays, etc.). Is it mandatory that I leave the agent for my non-Guild-covered work?
The Guild cannot direct you to leave your agency for work that isn’t covered by the Writers Guild, although we encourage you to be represented for all your work by a franchised agency that is not conflicted.
Can my agent continue to represent me for animation work?
If you are seeking Guild-covered animation work, you must be represented by a franchised agency. Keep in mind that most primetime animation and growing number of other animated projects are Guild-covered, especially on streaming platforms. While we encourage you to be represented by a franchised agency for all your work, if an animation project is covered by another union, Working Rule 23 does not apply. For assistance getting your animation project covered, please contact the Organizing Department.
I’m not a Guild member but I just got my first offer on a WGA-covered project. Or I’m a member in a category other than Current (e.g. Post-Current, Associate, or Associate Caucus). Do I need to leave my non-franchised agency?
Working Rules do not apply to non-members. In the present campaign, the Board of Directors has elected to apply Working Rule 23 only to Current members. See the Working Rules here. However, once you become a Current member you will need to terminate representation by any non-franchised agent.
My agency receives and processes my checks. How am I going to get paid?
Your former agency is legally required to keep sending you your money. If you’d prefer to revoke that consent and direct your payments elsewhere, contact the Agency Department.
What if my agency receives notices of writing credits for my past projects?
If your contract specifies that the notice of tentative writing credits is sent to the agent who negotiated your deal, that agent has an ongoing fiduciary obligation to forward that credit notice to you, even if you have terminated the agency as your representative. Members should be especially vigilant and watch out for credit notices from the studio as well as from your former agency. If you have concerns, please contact the Credits Department.
Does my British agency need to sign the Code of Conduct?
Your British agency needs to sign if they negotiate deals for WGA-covered projects.
Does Working Rule 23 apply to representation for my work on a Writers Guild of Canada-covered program under a waiver?
My agency sponsored my visa. What do I do?
When do I need to find a new agent?
The choice of if and when to seek representation is up to you. At some point you may decide to seek new or additional representation, which can be a lawyer, manager, or an agent who is franchised by the WGA.
If you are interested in finding a manager and/or attorney, ask your fellow writers about their experiences and for recommendations. If you get an offer and are having trouble finding a new attorney to negotiate the deal you can also contact the Guild. If you need an attorney to review a deal memo or contract, the Guild can provide that service: contact the Agency Department.
The list of agencies that have signed the Code of Conduct is here.
And here is a link to Guild resources to assist writers without agents.
Can a Guild member pitch, sell to, or be employed by an “affiliated studio” (i.e., a studio affiliated with a non-franchised agency) that is signatory to the MBA?
Yes, as long as the member is not represented by an unfranchised agency for the deal. Working Rule 23 does not prohibit Guild members from selling literary material to or being employed by any company signatory to the MBA, including so-called “affiliated studios.”
How will Working Rule 23 be enforced?
Here are the Working Rule 23 Implementation Rules. While individual members have a voice and vote, after the Guild decides on collective action members are obligated to follow Guild rules, which will be enforced. The WGA membership and leadership have ratified this course of action and the membership has a proud history of unity and solidarity. Article X of the WGAW and WGAE Constitutions guides Guild disciplinary procedures. You can contact Agency Agreement if you have questions.