Connect with us

Entertainment

Hollywood Writers Sue Their Agents Over Pay and Competition Issues

Published

on

  • The Writer’s Guild of America is suing four major talent agencies alleging unfair competition practices and pay issues.
  • The WGA claims that the packaging fees that agents take as part of representing writers are illegal under California and federal law.
  • In some cases, the WGA says agents take 80 percent of packaging fees that are paid by the studios, rather than the standard 10 percent of a writers’ income.
  • The lawsuit was dropped after the agencies refused to sign the WGA’s code of conduct, which banned packaging fees.

Lawsuit Filed

The Writers Guild of America filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against four major talent agencies in a fight over writers’ wages and unfair competition practices.

The Guild and eight other writers, including The Wire creator David Simon, filed the complaint in a California superior court against William Morris Endeavor, Creative Artists Agency, United Talent Agency, and ICM Partners.

The main issue at hand focuses on “packing fees.” These are deals that allow agents to be paid directly by studios for bringing clients together on a project, instead of having agents receive a standard 10 percent of a writers’ income.

According to the WGA, the Big Four agencies currently receive about 80 percent of the packaging fees that are paid by studios.

One plaintiff, Meredith Stiehm, who created the CBS police drama Cold Case, said that after about six years with CAA, she learned that the agency made 94 cents for each dollar she made from the show.

That is indefensible,” she during a press conference. “An agency should make 10% of what their client makes—not 20, not 50, not like in my case, 94%. 10% is enough.”

The Claims

Along with issues about pay, the writers are also concerned about other ways the industry operates. For instance, they take issue with the trend of agents becoming producers themselves, which creates conflicts of interests.

In the lawsuit, WGA makes two legal claims: that packaging fees violate state fiduciary duty laws, and that those fees violate federal unfair competition laws.

First, under California state law, talent agents are considered fiduciaries. This means they are bound to represent writers, without conflicts of interest. Second, the Guild says that packaging fees constitute illegal “kickbacks” to agents, which would be a violation of both state and federal law.

The lawsuit cites the Taft-Hartley Act, a federal law passed in 1947. The anti-kickback section of the act prohibits “any employer or association of employers to pay, lend, or deliver, or agree to pay, lend, or deliver, any money or other thing of value … to any representative of any of his employees who are employed in an industry affecting commerce.”

Lawyers for the WGA argue that agency packaging fees fall under this ban.

“The plaintiffs will seek a judicial declaration that packaging fees are unlawful and an injunction prohibiting talent agencies from entering into future packaging deals,” Tony Segall, general counsel for the Writers Guild of America West, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

“The suit will also seek damages and repayment of illegal profits on behalf of writers who have been harmed by these unlawful practices in the past,” he added.

How We Got Here

The WGA has been trying to address this issue in recent days. The writers and agents have been without an agreement to govern their relationship with each other since one expired last weekend.

In fact, the WGA had even drafted a code of conduct for agencies that calls for the banning of packaging fees. Around 95 percent of the Guild’s members voted in favor of implementing it and the Guild then asked agencies to sign it. The Big Four agencies refused.

At one point during negotiations, Talent Agencies offered writers a 1 percent cut of their production fee money, but the Guild says that proposal was unacceptable.

On Saturday, the WGA told writers to fire agents who refuse to sign the union’s code of conduct. Some writers complied and have posted images of the letters they had sent to their agents. The letters say that under union rules, they can’t be represented by the agency until a negotiation is reached.

WGA West President David Goodman said the lawsuit shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. “We always had this as part of our strategy,” he said.

“The lawsuit is really at attempt to try and address the situation and make agencies realize this has to be fixed. It wasn’t a matter of the negotiations falling apart and then there was a lawsuit. It’s all part of the same thing.”

Defense

The Association of Talent Agents stands by the packaging fees. In its FAQ sections, the ATA writes, “Packaging agencies help assemble a show’s creative elements before the show is pitched to potential buyers and continue to service the show during its lifecycle.”

If packaging fees were to be eliminated, the ATA says “those packaging fees likely would not be redistributed in any way to talent.

The ATA also noted that United Talent Agency’s analysis found that its writers earn more money on shows that the agency packed and less on shows that it didn’t.

They issued a response to the lawsuit late Wednesday saying, “This development is ironic given that the guild itself has agreed to the legitimacy of packaging for more than 43 years. Even more ironic is the fact that the statute the WGA is suing under prevents abuses of power and authority by labor union leaders, even as the guild has intimidated its own members and repeatedly misled them about their lack of good faith in the negotiating room.”

What now?

Neither side appears to be willing to budge on the issue. The WGA says negotiations can continue as the lawsuit moves forward, with Goodman saying the WGA is waiting for the ATA to make contact with his team.

Without a deal soon, Hollywood productions could be stuck in limbo, leaving thousands of writers without work and hundreds of studio projects on hold.

“The agencies are the ones who’ve made it clear that they’re not taking it seriously. If they’re ready to do that, we’re here,” Goodman said.

The WGA has released a list of agencies that have agreed to their code of conduct and can represent its members. However, the Big Four agencies dominate much of the industry.

The tension unfolding between both parties is unprecedented and a meaningful agreement could change the industry practices for years to come.

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (The Hollywood Reporter) (The Washington Post)

Entertainment

Kim Kardashian’s Private Island Party Generates Backlash and Memes

Published

on

  • Kim Kardashian-West posted about her 40th birthday bash on Tuesday, saying, “After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time.”
  • She noted that they “danced, rode bikes, swam near whales, kayaked,” and more, adding that she is “humbled” by how privileged her life is.
  • However, many found the party and her remarks tasteless, noting that they came at a time when over 1.1 million people have died from Covid-19. Millions more are without work and struggling to make ends meet, unable to run off to a private island to escape reality.
  • Eventually, part of her post became a copypasta, with people tacking on photos of the island from “Lost”, the Fyre Festival, and other nightmarish places.

The Now-Infamous Birthday Post

Kim Kardashian-West generated a wave of backlash Tuesday but also inspired a new internet meme after posting about her private island birthday bash online.

The reality star shared photos from her 40th birthday party, claiming that she feels “humbled and blessed” after celebrating with the people who helped shape her into who she is today. However, what followed was a series of statements that many found tasteless to make during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Before COVID, I don’t think any of us truly appreciated what a simple luxury it was to be able to travel and be together with family and friends in a safe environment,” she said.

“After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time.”

Photos she shared showed her family and friends gathered closely together, hugging, posing for the camera.

We danced, rode bikes, swam near whales, kayaked, watched a movie on the beach and so much more,” she continued. ” I realize that for most people, this is something that is so far out of reach right now, so in moments like these, I am humbly reminded of how privileged my life is. #thisis40”

Internet Reactions

As you can imagine, that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way because most of the world can’t run off to a private island to escape reality.

Keep in mind, this post came at a time when over 1.1 million people around the world have died from coronavirus. Millions more are unemployed or struggling to make ends meet. Many people haven’t even seen their own loved ones in months. 

In fact, to many, her post sounded like: “Hi Poors! I know you’re hurting right now and can’t figure out how you’re going to feed your family, but please enjoy these photos of my family’s expensive vacation! I know I’m lucky to be so fabulously wealthy so I’ll make mention of it to sound sympathetic (I’m really not tho).”

Some were angry, viewing this as insensitive bragging. Others instead laughed about how out of touch she seems to be. 

A lot of people also hit back at her with that infamous Kardashian meme: “Kim, there’s people that are dying.”

Eventually, part of her post became a copypasta, with people tacking on photos of the island from “Lost”, the Fyre Festival, and other nightmarish places. 

Kardashian-West has not addressed the responses to her remarks as of now, but the memes have continued to pour in.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Mashable) (The Guardian)

Continue Reading

Entertainment

“Among Us” Developers Scramble to Fight Off Pro-Trump Hacks

Published

on

  • The video game “Among Us” has been struggling to fight off a hacker that spent the weekend blacking out lobbies, spamming chat boxes with pro-Trump messages, and causing other game disruptions.
  • InnerSloth, the developers behind the game, implemented anti-hacks to try and regain control, but some bugs and other issues persist.
  • The alleged hacker, who has since been doxed online, told Eurogamer they were trying to gain publicity for Trump and themselves since they design and sell in-game cheats. However, they also told Kotaku they were just curious to see what would happen and found the hack funny.
  • The disruptions began about two days after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez playing the game in front of more than 435,000 Twitch viewers in an effort to encourage youth voting.

Hacker Target’s ‘Among Us’

Developers of the game “Among Us” are actively working to combat a hacker that has flooded the app with pro-Donald Trump messages since Thursday.

The multiplayer murder mystery game has grown in popularity this year thanks to support from Twitch streamers and users who found it particularly good to play during this age of social distancing.

Just last Tuesday, the game received extra attention when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) hosted her first Twitch stream playing it with huge gamers like Pokimane, Valkyrae, Jacksepticeye, and others. The stream was part of a larger effort to encourage voting and ended up bringing in over 435,000 concurrent viewers.

However, by Thursday, users began reporting that the game was facing hacks. Players complained about their lobbies turning completely black, meanwhile, some were disconnected from games altogether.

Others reported spammed chat sections that told users to subscribe to Eris Loris on YouTube otherwise the hacker would “kill your device.”

The hacker also shared Twitter links, Discord links, and other pro-Trump messages, even writing “Hacked by Russians.” in some spam messages.

InnerSloth Rushes to Fight Back

Eventually, “Among Us” developer InnerSloth released a statement about the problem on Twitter.

We’re are super duper aware of the current hacking issue and we’re looking into it,” it said. “We will be pushing out an emergency server update so people who are in game will get kicked from games. Please play private games or with people that you trust!!! Bare with us!! 😰”

One of the developers later said he was rolling out server updates, but warned that players would be impacted for an unknown amount of time.

That’s likely what actually happened since complaints continued throughout the weekend. By Saturday evening, the developer said he had rolled out “wave 2” of anti-hacks, but noted that there are some bugs and issues he’s already aware of.

If you try to play the game right now, you’ll be hit with a warning message about the problems as the game undergoes emergency maintenance.

In it, the developers reminded players that they were stopping plans for Among Us 2 as they focused on Among Us 1, which we know has exploded in popularity recently. 

Image

Hacker Speaks Out

Many felt the hack was done in an effort to bring support for President Trump in front of the same audience that Ocasio-Cortez reached.

However, as far as the motive, all we know is that both Eurogamer and Kotaku claimed they made contact with the hacker, who has since been doxxed and threatened online.

They told Eurogamer they design and sell in-game cheats and consider this “a publicity stunt,” claiming to have affected 1.5 million matches. 

They also said “I’m a college student and I support Trump,” adding that they hoped this generated publicity for the president as well.  

But when speaking to Kotaku, they made it sound more like a trolling effort, saying, “I was curious to see what would happen, and personally I found it funny.”

“The anger and hatred is the part that makes it funny. If you care about a game and are willing to go and spam dislike some random dude on the internet because you cant play it for 3 minutes, it’s stupid.”

For now, it’s unclear if all the problems are close to being completely resolved, but this has put a harsh spotlight on InnerSloth’s small team. 

See what others are saying: (NME) (PC Gamer) (The Verge)

Continue Reading

Entertainment

“Borat” Sequel Reportedly Catches Rudy Giuliani in Compromising Situation, But Giuliani Says It’s “Doctored”

Published

on

  • President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was caught in a compromising situation after stills from a mock-interview in Sacha Baron Cohen‘s upcoming “Borat” sequel showed Giuliani laying down with his hands in his pants in front of a fake reporter.
  • That fake reporter, Maria Bakalova, was in character as Borat’s 15-year-old daughter. In real life, Bakalova is 24.
  • It has been reported that Giuliani did not know this context until just before he left the scene. Giuliani has also denied that he engaged in any appropriate sexual activity, saying he was tucking his shirt after having his mic removed. 

Alleged Details About the Rudy Giuliani Interview in “Borat”

Drinking, agreeing to eat a bat, and sticking his hand in his pants — that’s all part of a strange fake interview between Rudy Giuliani and Borat” actress Maria Bakalova.

The interview was filmed against Giuliani’s knowledge for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” which will be released on Amazon Prime Friday. In it, Giuliani can be seen entering a hotel suite with Bakalova, who is in character as Borat’s 15-year-old daughter.

The film, starring Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat, includes other notable pranks, such as one that involves crashing the Conservative Political Action Conference to catch Vice President Mike Pence off guard; however, that might not come as much of a surprise to many considering how Cohen is known to have pulled similar antics in the past.

During the interview with Giuliani, Bakalova — who is 24-years-old in real-life — poses as a reporter for a conservative news show. 

Near the beginning of the interview, hidden cameras reportedly capture Giuliani taking off a mask he was wearing. Throughout the interview, reports also indicate that he coughs and repeatedly touches Bakalova.

At one point, Bakalova, in character, says she’s nervous. Giuliani grabs her hands and reportedly tells her, “You’re going to do great.”

Bakalova’s character then brings up the coronavirus pandemic, asking what needs to be done so a similar pandemic doesn’t happen in the future. Giuliani reportedly responds by shifting blame to China, alleging (without evidence) that the country  “manufactured” the virus and deliberately spread it around the world.

“I don’t think anyone was eating bats,” he reportedly said. 

Bakalova’s character then responded, “If you eat a bat with me, I would.”

“OK, I’ll eat a bat with you,” Giuliani said. 

Because the footage of the interview has yet to be released publicly, it is unclear whether Giuliani is possibly joking. 

From there, the interview continues.  According to INSIDER, in one shot, the two sip what appears to be scotch.

After a subsequent interruption from a disguised Borat, Bakalova asks if they can move the interview into the bedroom. Giuliani agrees, reportedly telling her at one point, “You can give me your phone number and your address,” before appearing to tap her on the small of her back a few times.

Giuliani proceeds to sit on a bed, and Bakalova’s character appears to remove his mic.

The film then cuts to Giuliani laying on the bed, where he can be seen putting his hand in his pants. 

At that point, Cohen — still playing Borat — jumps into the room in pink lingerie and tells Giuliani that “Bakalova” is 15-years-old before pleading for Giuliani to take him instead of her. 

Giuliani then reportedly tells him, “I don’t want you,” and leaves the suite. 

Giuliani Denies Allegations of Inappropriate Behavior 

With the release of the stills, Giuliani’s moment on the bed has drawn widespread condemnation and scrutiny. Many online have asked why Giuliani seemed to be putting his hands down his pants when he was in the same room as a person he could have believed was 15. 

However, according to NBC News, in the context of the film, Giuliani had no reason to believe that Bakalova was 15 — at least not until Cohen jumped in and shouted it at the end. 

By Wednesday afternoon, Giuliani attempted to dispel the rumors that he possibly engaged in some sort of inappropriate sexual situation with a minor.

“The Borat video is a complete fabrication,” he said in a Twitter thread. “I was tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment. At no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate. If Sacha Baron Cohen implies otherwise, he is a stone-cold liar.”

Giuliani then referred back to a Hollywood Reporter article from July 8 that confirmed he’d called the police after being pranked on camera by Cohen. 

In fact, it does seem to be the case that this interview was recorded in July because around the same time, Giuliani told PageSix, “This guy comes running in, wearing a crazy, what I would say was a pink transgender outfit. 

“It was a pink bikini, with lace, underneath a translucent mesh top, it looked absurd. He had the beard, bare legs, and wasn’t what I would call distractingly attractive.”

In his Twitter thread, Giuliani went on to call the release of the images a deflection against the recent leak involving Hunter Biden’s supposed emails.  

“This is an effort to blunt my relentless exposure of the criminality and depravity of Joe Biden and his entire family,” Giuliani said. “We are preparing much bigger dumps off of the hard drive from hell, of which Joe Biden will be unable to defend or hide from. I have the receipts.”

Along with Giuliani, a number of other conservatives have jumped to his defense, with many also accusing Amazon, Twitter, and the news media of deflecting against the Hunter Biden story.

Celebs Question Giuliani’s Motives During Interview

Nonetheless, many — including a number of celebrities — have continued to question Giuliani’s motives with Bakalova during the fake interview. 

“So you normally drink with reporters, follow them to the bedroom and then lie on the bed and let her take off your mic for you?” singer Demi Lovato said. “I guess I’ve been doin my interviews all wrong…”

On “The Late Show,” host Stephen Colbert said, “I watched the footage. Why did you go into a bedroom at the suggestion of a young woman to have cocktails to take off a mic? I take off a mic every night. Never once have I reclined on a kingsize bed and then launched a fact-finding mission to my own groin.”

See what others are saying: (INSIDER) (The New York Times) (The Guardian)

Continue Reading