Movies

APA Chief Jim Gosnell Blasts Writers Guild in Wake of Verve Defection

APA topper Jim Gosnell slammed the Writers Guild of America’s leaders in the wake of rival agency Verve signing the WGA’s Code of Conduct.

The blistering statement, released Friday, underlines the anger that agents are feeling toward their ex-clients, who were required to fire their agents a month ago. In it, Gosnell accused the guild’s leaders of continuing “to hurt the very members its leadership allegedly is trying to protect.”

Verve became the first sizable Hollywood talent agency to sign the code late Thursday, giving the guild a win in its standoff with the largest agencies over the issue of packaging fees and ownership of production companies. Unlike the larger agencies (CAA, WME, UTA and ICM) at the heart of the battle with the WGA, Verve does not have a legacy of profit participation stakes in TV shows and movies to provide ongoing revenue, nor a large base of clients with overall deals.

APA is recognized as a leading agency in the tier below the Big Four along with Verve, Paradigm and Gersh. Gosnell is APA’s longtime president and CEO in addition to being the president of the Association of Talent Agents — which failed to negotiate a deal with the WGA after more than two months of formal talks over efforts to revamp the 43-year-old rules governing how agents represent WGA members. Instead, the ATA has resorted to taking potshots blaming the guild.

“APA has no intention of signing the WGA’s Code of Conduct, which in its current form will have a negative impact on our clients by limiting their choice, opportunities and privacy, among other things,” said Gosnell’s statement.

“APA has been a member of the ATA since 1962 and stands in unity with all of its members,” the statement continued. “While the WGA negotiating committee continues to hurt the very members its leadership allegedly is trying to protect; it is our sincere hope that the WGA committee will return to the table to negotiate in good faith so we can work together to bring stability back to our industry.”

The WGA blasted back late Friday afternoon with a historical reference: “APA was founded in 1962 by former MCA agents when Bobby Kennedy’s Department of Justice told Lew Wasserman his agency had to choose between being talent’s employer or being their representative. Now APA apparently thinks such conflicts are legal and desirable, but for writers they are not.”

No new negotiations have been scheduled. Hollywood is waiting to see if any other agencies will join Verve — by far the most prominent and largest agency among the nearly 70 that have agreed to the Code of Conduct so far.

The WGA’s campaign to ban packaging fees and affiliate ownership includes a lawsuit, filed by the guild on April 17 against the four largest agencies, and the April 12 directive from the guild to its nearly 15,000 members to terminate relations with agents that refuse to sign the guild’s new Code of Conduct.

In a message to WGA members Thursday announcing the Verve signing, the guild’s negotiating committee said, “This agreement is an important step forward in our efforts to realign agency incentives and eliminate the conflicts of interest that have undermined representation of writers.”

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