Entertainment

While most of us look back on the last twelve months as a horrible dream, Hollywood’s labor unions can actually point to a string of successes. Early in the pandemic, all three of the above-the-line guilds closed new three year deals that among other things included significant increases in residuals for high-budget streaming programs. Just this month, the WGA finally closed the book on its two-year campaign to bar talent agencies from collecting package commissions and owning interests in production entities exceeding 20%. Now, in a less dramatic but also forward-looking move, SAG-AFTRA has provided a structure under which social…
In what must be counted as a victory for solidarity among WGA members and the often controversial tactics of its executive director David Goodman, the leading agency WME reached a deal for a franchise agreement with the union. This will permit the agency to resume representing writers almost two years after its writer clients fired the agency en masse. In exchange the agency will phase out package commissions on scripted projects and will reduce its stake in the production company Endeavor Content. WME was the last to settle of the largest agencies. Its rivals UTA and CAA reached agreement last…
We recently reported on a lawsuit that the actor Faizon Love brought in November against Universal Pictures. Love was one of the stars of the 2009 movie Couples Retreat, whose overseas publicity campaign aroused controversy when it was discovered that Love, the movie’s only Black star, and his Black female partner had been removed from the key art. In his 2020 lawsuit, Love said that he refrained from suing at the time in reliance upon promises that the offending art would no longer be used and that he would be offered attractive acting roles to compensate, neither of which promises…
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced widespread postponement and cancellation of film and TV production in 2020, it brought a corresponding explosion of insurance claims by producers. This led inevitably to coverage disputes as carriers sought to deny coverage wherever they could. A recent lawsuit by ViacomCBS illustrates some interesting issues that can arise in these disputes. ViacomCBS had a Television Production Portfolio Policy with Great Divide Insurance Company that covered all of its productions. The policy provided separately for each production, $30,000,000 of Cast coverage, $10,000,000 of Extra Expense coverage, $10,000,000 for Imminent Peril coverage $1,000,000 for Ingress/Egress coverage and…
Owners of copyright in characters are often well-advised not to press their claims too far in litigation at the risk of losing their rights altogether. This may be what motivated a quick settlement of litigation over Sherlock Holmes. In June, 2020, the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sued Netflix and others over their planned release of Enola Holmes. This was a movie starring Millie Bobbie Brown as Sherlock’s younger sister, a character not found in the original Doyle oeuvre. The lawsuit claimed that the depiction of the iconic detective in the movie constituted copyright infringement and also infringed…
Happy New Year to all. To kick off 2021, I’ve provided quick takes below on some of the bigger stories we’ll be watching WME v. WGA Just before Christmas, CAA closed a deal with the Writers Guild regarding phasing out of package commissions and partial divestiture of its ownership of production entities. That left WME as the last agency without a deal. The parties were reportedly negotiating but without resolution. Meanwhile, WME’s attempt to gain an advantage on the litigation front suffered a setback in District Court. The WGA’s long campaign against the agencies succeeded because its members refused to…
The 2009 Universal ensemble comedy Couples Retreat sparked controversy when its Black performers were erased from the film’s international marketing. That controversy has come back to life as the film’s co-star Faizon Love has filed suit against Universal alleging that promises that were made to him were not kept. In posters for the US release, Love was billed fourth after Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman and Jon Favreau, and pictured with Kali Fox, his onscreen partner, who also received prominent billing. Overseas, however, the names and likenesses of both performers were removed. This was first brought to public attention by UK…
In my last blog, I expressed cautious optimism that the WGA was making progress in settling its long-running dispute with CAA and WME, the two largest talent agencies and the last two holdouts in signing a franchise agreement that would permit them to represent writers. In April 2019, the WGA directed its members to fire their agents who did not agree to abandon package commissions ownership of production companies. Since then, the WGA agreed that agencies could own stakes of up to 20% in production entities. CAA announced in early October that it accepted the WGA’s requirements in principle,…
In April, 2019 the WGA directed its members to fire their agents unless the agents agreed to adhere to a Code of Conduct that would end the collection of package commissions and strictly limit their ownership stake in production entities. Buoyed by solidarity among its members, the union was successful in obtaining widespread agreement from the agencies, beginning with Verve in May 2019 to industry leaders UTA and ICM Partners over the summer. This leaves the two largest agencies, CAA and WME, still to negotiate deals. The WGA has now reported that it is in advanced talks with both agencies…
The battle between the Writers Guild of America and the major agencies has been waged on two fronts for over a year, with mixed results. Attention recently has focused primarily on the WGA’s pressure campaign to require agencies to sign a Code of Conduct renouncing package commissions and ownership of production companies as a condition of representing its members. This campaign has proved largely successful. Most of the boutique and mid-sized agencies and two of the big four, UTA and ICM Partners, have signed agreements to this effect, leaving only CAA and WME insisting on their rights to package and…