The Association of Talent Agents: A Light in the Dark that is the Entertainment Industry

As far as guilds and unions go in the entertainment industry, it seems that you only really hear about a few of them. During various strikes, organizations such as the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild have gained public interest, and therefore have become slightly more familiar to the average American. What people might not have realized isthat the list of guilds and unions that have been established over time in the entertainment industry is much more extensive. One of these lesser known unionizations that I find to be deserving of attention is the Association of Talent Agents (ATA).

“Established over 65 years ago, ATA is a Los Angeles based nonprofit trade association of over 100 talent agencies mostly based in the New York and Los Angeles areas. Almost all of the agencies that deal with film, theater, television, and other forms of entertainment are part of the Association of Talent Agents. According to the company’s website, virtually 1000 talent agents are represented by ATA.”




This group was formed in response to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which guaranteed basic rights of private sector employees to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining for better terms and conditions at work, and take collective action including strike if necessary (source). Luckily, the members of the ATA have not had to go on any major strike, but they did have a minor role in the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike. Cynthia Littleton writes in her book TV on Strike, “By the time the WGA initiated its strike-authorization vote, agency leaders were meeting together on the matter under the auspices of the Association of Talent Agents”. This endorsement of the talent agencies most definitely kindled the fire while possibly relieving some of the major stress held by those on strike. At least these writers could have some peace of mind knowing the agencies that help get them get work were supporting their cause despite the fact that the talent agencies weren’t making any money off their striking talent.

When researching the Association of Talent Agents it is easy to see how much they care about their image in terms of legitimacy and professionalism. Just by looking at the application for acceptance into the association one can sense its veneration for these values due to the extensive, yet reasonable requirements laid out within the application.

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The ATA also respectfully boasts its emphasis on regulation and cooperation. They claim that, “in contrast to many other industry professionals, ATA agents are licensed and strictly regulated by state and local government agencies” (source). They also specify that these regulations can be even more scrutinous depending on the state in which the agent is licensed. As for cooperation, the ATA claims that “since 1937, ATA agencies have worked in partnership with artists and their guilds to make sure that creative artists are protected in their business relationships and negotiated agreements” (source).

In my opinion, in an industry that seems more and more cut-throat the deeper you look, it’s refreshing to see what appears to be a moral organization. While one might argue that the good will of talent agencies could very well just be a strategy to get on the good side of potential clients, I think regardless the intentions, this kind of cooperation is extremely valuable and should be acknowledged. If this kind of cooperation was attempted even in the slightest by these problematic studio heads whose utter and explicit greediness have lead to numerous ugly altercations, maybe the artists and creators in the industry would be given the credit they rightfully deserve.


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