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WGA Strikes Media Rights Capital Deal

The Writers Guild of America, saying each new deal helps “divide the conglomerates,”  has reached yet another interim agreement with a producer, the latest being with Media Rights Capital, the independent film, TV and digital studio.

The guild, on strike since Nov. 5, Monday said it had reached a comprehensive interim agreement with MRC “that forges a new alliance between writers, producers, and financiers in the production of feature films, television shows, and digital programs.”

The pact comes on the heels of the WGA’s other interim deals with Weinstein Co., United Artists and Worldwide Pants.

“This is an exciting agreement that will open up opportunities for writers, especially in new media,” Patric Verrone, president of the WGA West, and Michael Winship, president of the WGA East, said in a joint statement. “We know that Guild members will be eager to be a part of the MRC creative team.”

MRC finances film, TV and broadband content using money from investors such as WPP Group, Goldman Sachs and the talent agency Endeavor. This fall, MRC said it was investing $250 million to fund eight films, and in August the company unveiled a deal for Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane to produce 50 original digital shorts for Google’s AdSense network.

“MRC operates from two basic concepts and this agreement is a natural extension of that ethos: we treat talent as our partners and we maximize distribution across all digital, film and television platforms,” MRC co-CEO’s Asif Satchu and Modi Wiczyk said in a joint statement.

“As with all of our partnerships, we could not have accomplished this agreement without creative talent,” they said. “In this case, we especially want to thank our colleague Seth MacFarlane for helping pave the way with the WGA and also to the leaders of the Guild who worked with the utmost professionalism.”

In his own letter Monday to WGA members, Winship cited the deals the union recently cut with studios, such as MRC and United Artists.

“More of these agreements are in the works and we will announce them to you as they occur,” Winship wrote. “Each demonstrates our willingness to bargain fairly and reasonably and shows that the companies with whom we’re making these deals realize that what we’re asking for is equitable and realistic. What’s more, each deal helps divide the conglomerates and creates competitive pressure.”

Winship pointed out that MRC is currently working not only with MacFarlane, but also Larry David, Ricky Gervais and Gordon Ramsey.

“Although not yet a household name, MRC has more motion pictures and TV shows in production than all the other entities with whom we've made agreements so far combined,” Winship said in his letter.

 “Most important, they have over a dozen original made-for-the-Internet properties with many more to come,” he wrote. “The deal represents a paradigm shift to original content for new media, produced and distributed under a Writers Guild contract without the involvement of a major studio or network.”

Talks between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke off Dec. 7.

Winship noted that on Saturday the Directors Guild began formal negotiations with the AMPTP.

“In a joint press release with the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guilds, East and West, wished the DGA well and offered our hope that they achieve a fair deal that incorporates principles that benefit all creative artists,” Winship wrote. 

“We further stated that, while the DGA has to do what it believes is best for its membership, it is important to remember that they do not represent writers and actors,” he said. “If the DGA is able to reach an agreement with the AMPTP, we will carefully analyze the terms to see whether or not they advance our interests. SAG will do the same.

AMPTP spokesman Jesse Hiestand said "these one-off agreements are meaningless because the companies signing them know they will not have to abide by their terms for very long, since they'll be superseded by whatever final industry-wide accords are reached. If companies truly had to live by the terms of these one-off agreements, we are confident none would ever be signed."