While we continue to work toward a negotiated agreement with the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) prior to the expiration date of the AMBA, we must simultaneously continue with contingency planning.
We have a plan. We know we cannot replace agents. There will be difficult moments. But our goal is to get through staffing season and whatever period of time it takes to make a fair deal with the agencies.
Our industry will not grind to a halt. Studios and producers will still need writers. Writers on staff and working on projects will still go to work. Feature scripts will still get sold, and TV shows will still get staffed. Our ideas and our words will still have enormous value, and the work we all love to do will continue.
THE PLAN, SUMMARIZED
If your agency doesn’t sign the Code of Conduct and is no longer able to represent members, you will not have to sever the relationship alone. As writers we can do it collectively. If you’d like to seek new representation, the Guild will be keeping an up-to-date list of all franchised agents.
Fundamentally, agents provide three things: access, negotiation, and advocacy.
The Guild is launching two online tools to provide access, both for writers looking for work, and for producers and executives looking for writers. For negotiation assistance, members who don’t have other representation and need to make an overscale deal will need to find an attorney and can contact the Guild for assistance.
The Guild is supporting the efforts of members who are stepping up to advocate for each other. Many writers, including showrunners, have offered to provide references for writers they have worked with in the past, and writers are organized through the Guild’s captains and committee structures. In addition, writers are expanding existing informal networks to support each other in this time.
In success, these tools and networks will continue to support the entire membership long after the agency struggle is resolved.
THE PLAN, FAQ STYLE
QUESTIONS ABOUT REPRESENTATIVES
What should I do to prepare if I’m a television writer who might be looking for work in April?
If you have a manager or a lawyer, talk to them about what’s coming. Ask for them to support you through this. If they don’t do it automatically, make sure your agents send you the list of pilots in contention, and then request the scripts of the ones that interest you. Push your agent to submit you and set up the necessary general, pod, studio, or network meetings to position you for a meeting with the showrunner.
What should I do to prepare if I’m a screenwriter?
Try to close any pending deals before April 6. If you have a manager or lawyer, make sure to loop them in on all deals or projects in progress. Make sure you get contact information for any producer or executive you are already working with, or anyone you are pitching.
How do I leave my agents? Do I have to call them up and personally fire them?
No, you don’t need to communicate with your agency directly, unless you want to. This is a collective action by Guild members. All you have to do is electronically sign a form terminating your representation agreement. The Guild will deliver the terminations to the agency in a group. The Guild has prepared a standard termination form which will be available on the website and activated if and when necessary and you will be able to eSign it.
I’m represented by an agency for both writing and another area of work not covered by the Guild (stand-up, acting, directing, etc.). Is it mandatory that I leave the agent for my non-Guild-covered work if my agency doesn’t sign?
No. The Guild cannot direct you to leave your agency for work that isn’t covered by the Writers Guild. Make the decision that is best for you about whether or not to stay with an agency for non-covered work.
My agency processes my payments. How am I going to get paid?
If your agency receives and processes your checks, it is legally required to keep sending you your money. If you’d prefer to revoke that consent, contact the Agency Department.
When will I need, or be able to find new representation?
The choice of if and when to seek representation is up to the individual writer. 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. Updated lists of franchised agencies (those who have signed the Code of Conduct) will be posted on the WGA website if and when the Code is implemented. Check the list to verify if an agent 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 as you normally would. 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.
I’m already working on a project that is packaged. What happens on April 6 if the WGA doesn’t have an agreement with my agency?
Deals that have already been made by April 6 will continue with the same terms. It is similar to what happens when a writer changes agencies.
Am I prohibited from contact with my agent once they are no longer franchised by the WGA?
You would be prohibited from being represented by your agent for writing going forward. (i.e., future projects). You can continue to talk about past projects, and can continue to talk with them about signing the Code of Conduct.
What happens if my agency is in the middle of trying to make a deal for me but nothing is firmed up by April 6, 2019, and there is no agreement with my agency?
The expiration of the AMBA 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. Completion of the deal can be handled by a lawyer, manager, or franchised agent.
What if I have left my agent, but they continue to solicit work for me by either contacting me directly or through my lawyer and manager?
Once you leave an agency, you should no longer allow them to work on your behalf. You can tell them that if they want to represent you they should sign the Code of Conduct. Do not pay an agent who is not franchised without verifying that commission is owed, and if there are any questions or disputes, contact the Agency Department for assistance.
But what if my former agent calls me and says, "Great news, I got you a meeting with An Important Producer tomorrow"?
Your agent may very well try to test you. Former agents sometimes try to dangle meetings for clients after being fired in hopes of the client wavering on representation. But if someone wants to meet with you, it’s because of your writing, not your agent. Here’s an example of how a conversation might go:
Agent: Hey! It’s me. Great news—got you a meeting with Important Producer tomorrow.
Writer: Um, hi, um…
Agent: She read your pilot, thinks you have a great voice.
Writer: Cool, I’ll call her office.
Agent: I already set it up. Eleven a.m.
Writer: I’m sorry, but your agency can’t represent WGA writers now. That means you can’t set up a meeting for me.
Agent: You’re going to turn down Important Producer?
Writer: I’m not turning her down, I’m calling her office.
(The writer hangs up, goes to IMDbPro, looks up Important Producer’s phone number, calls.)
Writer: Hi, this is Writer. I understand Important Producer would like to meet with me and I’d love to set up a time.
What if my former agent set up a meeting before termination and that meeting results in employment after the Code of Conduct is implemented? Do I owe commission?
It depends on the facts. Normally when a writer leaves an agent, a job secured under the prior representation of that former agent is still commissionable by the former agency.
In other circumstances, the right to commission might be less clear and may depend on such facts as the timing and extent of the former agent’s involvement in procuring the employment; the efforts of other representatives; and the timing of the hiring decision. You can contact the Agency Department for guidance and/or to help you with any disputes over commissions.
QUESTIONS ABOUT EMPLOYMENT
IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY EMPLOYED:
Writers who are employed will continue to work as usual.
If your former agency was already commissioning this job, you must continue to pay them (just as you would if you changed agencies).
IF YOU ARE SEEKING EMPLOYMENT:
If you already have a manager and/or a lawyer:
If you have a manager and/or a lawyer, it should be business as usual. Managers and lawyers will be able to work to negotiate any contracts for staffing, development, or sale of materials. Discuss with your representatives how you want to handle meetings and submissions. Make sure everyone’s roles are clear and lines of communication are established.
Some managers and lawyers have expressed concern about whether they can negotiate on behalf of writers without the involvement of an agency. Do managers and lawyers need to work with an agent to help me get a job?
No. First, as a matter of practice, we know that managers and sometimes attorneys already get work for their clients, so this already happens every day. Second, as the exclusive bargaining representative for writers, the Guild has the right to delegate authority to negotiate overscale terms to other representatives—traditionally, to franchised agents. On a temporary basis, the Guild has now delegated that authority to managers and attorneys as well. Here is a link to the delegation letter.
If you have no representation:
For some writers, this may be the first time in many years that you’ve been without representation. But it’s not an uncommon situation. Almost every writer will change agencies at least once in their career. And writers who are “between reps” seek and get work all the time. Many writers will be contacted by people they have worked with in the past regarding an open writing assignment or staffing on a TV series, and members have pledged to step up the efforts. There is nothing new about getting work through a writer’s own connections. What is new are the additional resources the WGA will provide to help writers during this transition.
If you are seeking franchised agency representation, you will find a list of those who’ve signed the Code of Conduct on the WGA websites if and when the WGA implements the Code.
What if I have no representation but I get a meeting, and the showrunner, executive, or producer decides she wants to hire me? Where does the offer go and who negotiates the deal?
The offer will go to you, if you do not have representation. So before you leave every meeting, make sure the showrunner or executive or producer has your contact info. And after the offer comes in, you’ll need to find a lawyer or other representative who can negotiate the deal with Business Affairs. Ask friends and co-workers for recommendations, then contact the attorney. If you are having trouble finding an attorney, contact the Agency Department.
My agency sponsored my visa. What do I do?
For screenwriters, we have focused our efforts on the “Find a Writer” directory. For television staffing, the Guild has developed a Staffing Submission System. And the showrunner community is organizing a temporary support network.
All writers are being asked to step up and help their fellow Guild members by committing to do more of what many do anyway: providing an introduction and reference for writers who previously worked for them.
As every writer knows, a personal recommendation from a fellow writer can be the best way to land the job.
In addition, showrunners currently staffing are being asked to commit to accepting and reading submissions via the Guild’s online system. They are also being asked to recommend writers who have been on their staffs to other showrunners, and to make use of the staffing grids provided by pods, studios and networks. Guild members who are theatrical and non-writing TV producers should also be proactive about looking out for their fellow writers. All are encouraged to consider writers from historically under-represented groups that might be disadvantaged in a time of increased reliance on connections and social networks.
Writers are organizing through the Guild’s captains, committee, and mentor structures. In addition, writers are expanding existing informal networks or organizing new ones. If you aren’t yet part of a team or group, or need particular support, please email Agency Agreement.
Staffing Submission System
After April 6, staffing season will be in full swing. To ensure that writers seeking employment have a way to get their samples in front of showrunners with jobs to fill, the Guild has created a simple tool that allows writers to submit directly: the Staffing Submission System has a page for each show that is hiring. Showrunners can list their specific needs, or they may be open to all submissions. Members in Current status are able to submit themselves to up to three shows, uploading a cover letter, a credits/bio page, a list of references, and sample scripts, along with any credentials that make the writer uniquely suited to the show. Showrunners can receive these submissions in an easily searchable and sortable database, allowing writers and showrunners to connect directly. Showrunners are registering their shows on an ongoing basis. Here is the showrunner registration link.
The Staffing Submission System is open to all Current members but if you have a submitting franchised agent, lawyer, or manager, those may be the stronger options for you. Please consider working through your existing reps so that members without other access can have a better shot at being read through the online system.
Find a Writer Directory
This is the link to the Find a Writer (FAW) directory. It does exactly what its name says: helps employers find a writer by providing a searchable directory with contact information. Originally developed at the request of the Inclusion and Equity Committees, the Find a Writer directory can serve all writers.
Its principal aim is enabling potential employers to contact a writer whose name they already know. For example, producers who have open writing assignments, or who are looking to develop material, may want to contact a specific writer. They can do so easily with FAW.
In addition, it allows searches by various criteria such as gender, ethnicity, orientation, credit, and expertise.
Like any database, it’s only as good as the data we put into it. The Guild has used member employment data to give each writer a “first draft” of their record, but we know there may be errors and omissions in your data. Please check your own record now to ensure accuracy. If you click “Edit” on your profile page (you must be logged in first), you can update your attributes, contact info, and a variety of privacy settings. You must opt in if you want to enable employers to email you. If anything in your profile is inaccurate or if your name doesn’t come up in a search where it should, please let us know by sending an email to: Directory.
Contact with Producers/Studio Executives
If and when the Code of Conduct is implemented and after the membership is notified, the WGA will send out a notice to all signatory companies and producers telling them about the tools we have available and how to access them.
To help writers contact producers and executives, the Guild has arranged a discount on IMDbPro. To redeem the 30% discount off the $20/month retail price, go to www.imdbpro.com/redeem and enter WGADISCOUNT. The account starts with a free month.
Also, if you’re having trouble finding contact information for a specific company or individual, contact the Guild Agency Department for assistance.
My question wasn't answered here or I want to talk to Guild staff. Where do I go?
If you have a question specific to your situation and need more help, please email Agency Agreement. Guild staff will work to help you.