Talent Agencies Start Belt-Tightening Amid Writers Strike
Hollywood talent agencies are getting into a cost-cutting mode amid a second industry work stoppage in three years. Many have implemented extra scrutiny/cuts in travel and expenses and some are also contemplating/planning temporary salary reductions.
The measures are being taken as the WGA strike is entering its fourth week. While writers are not working, they are not getting paid, their term deals are suspended and many series and some movies have delayed or halted pre-production or production, affecting other above and below the line talent. As a result, agencies’ film and TV revenue stream is starting to dry up, leading to the belt-tightening.
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I hear CAA, WME, APA, Gersh and Paradigm are scaling back T&E and other expenses, with some restricting non-essential travel and getting stricter with overtime approvals and other spending. In many cases, film and scripted TV departments, which are most heavily impacted by the strike, are also the ones where the cost-cutting measures are focused on.
At Innovative Artists, expenses have not been cut but they are being personally reviewed by President Scott Harris and everyone is being encouraged to be scrupulous about their spending, I hear. All agents and support staff are on full salary and no one has been let go.
That is currently the case at most agencies though a couple are contemplating temporary salary reductions. I hear APA has started the process by making a request to its highest-lever agents and executives for temporary pay cuts of up to 20%.
“We are among the companies that are making sensible and fair short-term business decisions with the hope that the labor disruption will be resolved quickly and to everyone’s satisfaction,” a rep for APA told Deadline, declining further comment.
Verve, whose legacy business is film and TV literary, also is said to be eying potential temporary salary reductions that could come after Memorial Day though nothing is formalized. The agency would not comment on the possibility or rumored expense trims.
The moves are reminiscent to the wave of cost-cutting measures implemented by the talent agencies during the pandemic, which brought film and TV production to a halt for months. At the time, salary reductions became the norm, along with furloughs and layoffs.
Having gone through the pandemic, which sent agencies into the red, is expected to help them better navigate the effects of the strike and possibly avoid layoffs. Also, some of the pandemic-related cuts –which came on the heels of a string of agency layoffs during the long standoff with the WGA over packaging an year earlier — were so deep that the agencies were left leaner, alleviating the need for serious reductions less than three years later.
While a global pandemic is not something one can really plan for, agencies anticipated a potential writers work stoppage, with some of them tracking the situation since 2022 and managing their business accordingly over the last year in order to avoid drastic measures in the event of a strike.
UTA underwent a round of layoffs in February; CAA also had a few layoffs in March. That would help minimize the need for major cost-cutting measures like overhead reduction.
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