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Script competition

US agency Verve signs WGA code

The stand-off between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Association of Talent Agencies (ATA) could be entering a new phase after US-based Verve Talent and Literary Agency agreed to sign the WGA’s new code of conduct.

More than 7,000 of the WGA’s members, such as Shonda Rhimes, David Simon and Damon Lindelof, fired their agents last month after members of the ATA, including CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners, refused to sign the new code.

The code would have required them to eliminate the television packaging fees they currently charge for bundling talent and bringing projects together, with some suggesting the dispute could see a power shift towards unrepresented writers.

The WGA has filed an anti-packaging lawsuit against the ATA and the two remain at loggerheads.

However, US-based Verve Talent and Literary Agency has now signed the WGA’s code after declaring it was “in the best interest of our clients and our company.”

Verve is not an ATA member, nor does it own an affiliate production company, which is one of the key factors in the dispute. However, it does represent around 300 writers and joins the more than 60 smaller agencies to have signed up to the WGA code.

Verve said it would be required to share more “documentation” with the WGA as a result of singing up to the code, but that it did not engage in many packaging deals – another practice that the WGA says must stop as part of its new code.

The agency added that some of the language in the code had been amended for clarity by the WGA, which to date has made few concessions, and said it had also agreed a clause that would see it abide by any future decision agreed upon between the WGA and the ATA.

The ATA said the agency’s decision “will ultimately harm their business and the artists they represent on many levels.”

It added: “The WGA leadership has put writers and agents alike in an untenable position. It is disappointing but not surprising that some of the most vulnerable agencies may reluctantly be forced to sign an onerous agreement.”

The WGA, meanwhile, described its dealing with Verve as “the most substantive negotiation with an agency we’ve had to date” and said the agreement was “an important step forward.”

The Guild added it was willing to “modify the code while maintaining the fundamental principle that agencies should neither own production companies nor accept fees from the employers of writers.”

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