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Writers Guild Boosting Efforts in Project Development Amid Agency Standoff

Dave McNary

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The Writers Guild of America, locked in a six-month standoff with major talent agencies, has announced that it’s boosting efforts at gathering TV, streaming and film project development data to help members find new employment opportunities.

The WGA made the disclosure in a message to members on Monday. The guild directed its 15,000 members to fire their agents on April 12, following the major agencies’ refusal to sign onto a new code of conduct, which bars them from collecting packaging fees and engaging in affiliate production. The union had argued that the fees create an unlawful conflict of interest. More than 70 agencies — including mid-size agencies Buchwald, Kaplan Stahler and Verve — have signed deals with the WGA with those bans in place.

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“We are in the process of expanding our project development coverage and are now tracking projects from inception through production,” the guild said in the message to members. “The first example is available with the release of the 2020-2021 Network Pilot Development List, which can be found on the WGA Platform under Quick Links’ ‘Interactive Pilot Listing.'”

“To gather this information, our Online Services Department is constantly reaching out to executives at networks, studios and production companies to make sure we have the latest information,” it added. “This new department is staffed with industry professionals who have worked in development, at talent agencies and at Studio System, and are now using their skills to make sure WGA members have the most up-to-date listings of current OWA’s and staffing opportunities. And of course, if you hear about a new project that you don’t see listed on the WGA platform, please let us know by emailing us at wgaplatform@wga.org.”

The guild also asked showrunners to list any staffing needs on the WGA’s staffing submission system. “A member of our team will walk you through the setup and management process and address any questions or concerns you may have. Showrunners have reported meeting writers and finding new voices that they previously would not have had access to before the advent of our platform,” it added.

On Oct. 11, the WGA filed for a dismissal of the antitrust suit filed by CAA, UTA and WME, which accuses the union of engaging in an illegal group boycott and sought a Dec. 6 hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte. The agencies had consolidated their complaint on Sept. 27 and repeated allegations that were filed in individual agency suits in June and July, accusing the WGA of abusing its collective bargaining authority and engaging in an unlawful “power grab.”

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