Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor are two of Hollywood’s top talent agencies. They are currently being sued in federal court in the Southern District of New York by a man named Justin Samuels, who is arguing that he was denied work by the two companies based on their racially and sexually discriminatory practices. But was he discriminated based on his race/sex or was it due to the quality of his work? There is nothing illegal about the latter.
Samuels has been quoted as saying the following:
“[Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor’s] extremely restrictive recruiting policies for screenwriters locks out non-white and women screenwriters. I tried to break in for nine years. I’ve sent out hundreds, if not thousands of query letters.
Major production companies always respond by saying that you need an agent to submit to them. Major agencies — such as CAA and WME — say that they don’t accept unsolicited communications, and that the only way they would consider you is if a major player in the industry referred you.”
The film industry is entirely closed. To get read by a major producer or studio, your work must be sent by an agency. The agents only read work recommended by players. This disproportionately locks out non-whites.”
One confusing aspect of Samuels’ claim is the inclusion of sexually discriminatory practices. Meanwhile, Samuels is a male and actually benefited by any such practice (if in fact proved to be true). Thus, I am not sure how he has standing to bring that particular claim. As for the racial discrimination claim – I am not buying it, and I doubt a judge will, either. This seems more like the common story of someone doing his best to “make it” in a cutthroat field and just not having the connections and/or quality of work that is demanded to break in. Samuels will likely have to join the club along with others who have been spurned by mega agencies in the past. One this is certain – Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor cannot just bring on every screenwriter who thinks he is G-d’s gift to Hollywood. They would lose their clout and lose their businesses.
Samuels is proud of his educational background, which includes a Bachelors of Arts from Cornell University. Again, there are plenty of well educated screenwriters who just did not make the cut with a big agency in Hollywood. To blame it on race/sex discrimination without any hard proof of same will not work in court.