EXCLUSIVE: A few hours after WGA West executive director David Young allegedly threatened to “kill” WME partner Rick Rosen during a heated phone conversation on August 11, Rosen fired off an email to WME attorney Courtney Braun that memorialized the phone call.
Deadline has reviewed the email, which supports Rosen’s claim. “He screamed ‘I AM GOING TO KILL YOU,’” Rosen told the attorney. “’I AM GOING TO KICK YOUR ASS!’ and then hung up.”
Rosen made the allegation public in a declaration filed in federal court Wednesday under penalty of perjury. “After Mr. Young repeatedly threatened to ‘kill’ me during a phone call on August 11, 2020,” he told the court, “I called WGAW’s President David Goodman, with whom I have a good professional relationship. I informed Mr. Goodman of Mr. Young’s threats to me. Mr. Goodman responded ‘Oh God,’ which I interpreted to mean ‘that’s terrible’ but ‘it’s unsurprising.’ This to me underscores that such behavior by Mr. Young is both expected and condoned by the Guilds.”
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A spokesman for the guild said Wednesday that “Both David Young and David A. Goodman deny Mr. Rosen’s claims.” Asked if Goodman denies that he spoke to Rosen about the alleged threat, the guild said today, “The Guild stands by the comment it issued yesterday.”
Rosen, meanwhile, sent a message to the agency’s former writer-clients today, saying that the Writers Guild is continuing to “delay and stall” the agency’s efforts to end their long legal standoff, but didn’t mention the alleged death threat.
Earlier today, WME and CAA asked U.S. District Court Judge André Birotte Jr. to deny the WGA’s request for an eight-week continuance of a hearing date on the agencies’ motion for a preliminary injunction that would force the WGA East and West to drop their group boycott against them. A hearing is currently scheduled for December 18, but the guilds wants it put off until February 12.
Attempts to reach an out-of-court settlement have failed, and WME says that the evidence is now “crystal clear” that “the Guilds’ negotiations were a charade,” and that the “stark evidence” shows that the boycott “is motivated by the illegitimate objective of putting WME out of the business of representing writers.”
“We promised to keep you fully informed on developments surrounding our decision to file a motion for preliminary injunction against the Guilds,” Rosen told the agency’s former writer-clients, who were forced by the guild to fire their agents. “This is why we write to you again today so you can hear the latest news directly from us.
“The Guild has responded to our motion by requesting a two-month delay (not just a few weeks) in the next hearing, pushing it from December 18th, 2020, to February 12th, 2021, to conduct discovery of information already publicly available and in the Guild’s possession.
“The Guild’s request for an extraordinary delay is no surprise to us – this tactic is quite emblematic of what we have experienced when attempting to negotiate with the Guild for the past 18 months—delay and stall.”
Citing three other “delay and stall tactics” allegedly employed by the guild, he wrote:
• “When we were served with a notice of termination of our previous franchise agreement, in April 2018, we immediately sought to meet to resolve and negotiate before the expiration of the term. However, after being rebuffed by the Guild numerous times, an initial meeting didn’t take place until February 2019, nearly one year later, running out the clock and forcing members to fire us.
• “During initial negotiations between ATA (the Association of Talent Agents) and the Guild, responses from the Guild took weeks and only included one-word answers, such as ‘No,’ instead of a counter or a discussion about what the Guild would be willing to agree to.
• “A two paragraph, standard NDA (nondisclosure agreement) took an entire week to finalize, something that typically gets done in less than 24 hours.”
“The fairly objective and simple conclusion,” Rosen wrote, “is that the Guild is certainly not looking to move quickly.” He also noted that WME has “agreed to end packaging and limit content affiliation to 20%, meeting the Guild’s demands on all substantial terms.”
The dispute arose in April 2019 when the WGA ordered its members to fire their agents who refused to sign the guild’s Code of Conduct, which banned packaging fees and agency affiliations with related production companies. Since then, every major agency except CAA and WME have signed a modified code that phases out packaging fees and reduces ownership interests of production companies to just 20%.
“We will continue to keep you updated,” Rosen told the agency’s former clients. “We do all of this in hopes to be working with you again very soon.”
On Wednesday, Goodman said this about WME’s motion for a preliminary injunction:
“For the past few months, the Guild has been engaged in an ongoing and sometimes productive negotiation with WME in order to resolve their various conflicts and to provide them a path forward to signing the UTA/ICM Franchise Agreement. Four weeks ago, WME asked for contract language from us and, in return, the Guild repeated its prior request for additional information on their corporate structure in order to provide them with such language. They have been silent since.
“Today, WME joined CAA in seeking to end the agency campaign, not by picking up negotiations where they left off a month ago – not by looking to resolve their own conflicted practices – but, instead, by once again asking the courts to deny the Guild’s basic right to represent its members in collective action.
“That is not a way forward. As we said to CAA yesterday, the Guild and its members will not be bullied into giving up our right to fair and non-conflicted representation. If WME honestly believes that the way to win writers’ hearts is to threaten us with undermining the Guild itself, they do not know writers – twenty months in and they still do not know writers.
“Like every other agency before them, WME (and CAA) will have the opportunity to get writers back when they return to the table – when they stop attacking us and take seriously the work of reforming their own deep-seated conflicts. Meritless court actions will not save them from that.”