What started as a heated debate between the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which represents thousands of Hollywood writers, and the American Talent Association (ATA), which represents most of those writers’ talent agents, has turned into a nasty brawl.

The latest: On Wednesday, WGA filed a lawsuit against Hollywood’s 4 biggest talent agencies — WME, ICM, CAA and UTA — alleging that the groups have a conflict of interest in representing their writers.

Details: The lawsuit, filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that the packaging fees that talent agents take as a part of representing writers are illegal under California and federal law. “The plaintiffs will seek a judicial declaration that packaging fees are unlawful and an injunction prohibiting talent agencies from entering into future packaging deals,” WGA West general counsel Tony Segall said in a statement.

  • In response, the ATA said WGA leadership was on a “predetermined path to chaos” and that “leaders are unnecessarily forcing their members and our industry into long-term uncertainty.”

Between the lines: The fundamental issue that’s being disputed is a complicated one. The Guild argues that Hollywood's biggest talent agencies are undercutting the writers they represent by moving from a long-standing percentage-cut payout model to a model focused around packaging fees and production.

  • This has gotten more attention lately as talent agencies continue to invest in production companies and events as new sources of revenue.
  • The 2 groups met several times last week to try to strike a deal before the extended deadline to renew their decades-old former contract expired, but were unable to come to an agreement.

Bottom line: The drama unfolding right now in Hollywood is so unprecedented, it could be its own movie.


Go deeper: Hollywood at war: Thousands of writers told to axe agents at midnight

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