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Maybe Jill Ellis could make the WGA and ATA play nice

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Jill Ellis, the U.S. women's soccer coach extraordinaire, may or may not be part of the World Cup-winning team's victory tour that may or may not kick off at the Rose Bowl in August, but it would be really great if she could make time to visit L.A. soon.

Because someone needs to step the heck in on this whole WGA vs. the talent agencies freak show.

Seriously, with lawsuits and vitriol flying on a near-weekly basis, the Writers Guild of America West and the biggest talent agencies in Hollywood have reached that stage many couples know so well: when you finally decide to go to therapy to either save the marriage or figure out the best way to end it.

Statistically, it is usually the latter. And though no doubt most writers would prefer to have their agents back, it must be said that the mass firing demanded earlier this year by the WGA when the Assn. of Talent Agents refused to accept its new code of conduct, did not, despite dire predictions, bring on the apocalypse, or even disrupt staffing season much.

But clearly we cannot go on like this; with the WGA suing the major agencies for violating California's fiduciary duty law and portions of the Taft-Hartley Act and the agencies suing the WGA for violating antitrust laws the only people actually benefiting from the process are the lawyers.

Eventually, the extra burden of open-submission staffing will take its toll, especially on showrunners, while many younger or less-known writers will feel the loss of a personal advocate. More important, the role, and power, of talent agencies in modern Hollywood needs to be decided. Are they even talent agents anymore? And if not, what are they?

 

There is far more money to be made in television production than in representation, but doing both represents a clear conflict of interest -- even in marriage counseling, the first rule is: Do not use a therapist one of you has been seeing individually.

The question is, who could sit in the big chair in the middle and either find a compromise between the WGA's "Yes, you will" (stop packaging and working with "in-house" production companies, and go back to representing like we're paying you to do) and the ATA's "No, we won't" (because we've been packaging for years and this is how the business works now) or figure out how to tell the kids and divide the assets.

If it's a therapist that's needed, I'd vote for Dr. Reisman, the gently steely, clear-eyed therapist played by Robin Weigart on "Big Little Lies" except 1) She's a fictional character and 2) Given that she appears to be the only therapist in Monterey, Reisman probably has an agent or a TV show in the works, possibly both.

And that's the problem -- so many people have skin in this particular game. Representation by one of the big agencies is often hard to get and can be a game-changer while the WGA is a powerful advocate for writers.

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