DGA and AMPTP Agree to Media Blackout During Talks

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The Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers announced a joint media blackout on Wednesday, as the two sides met for their first day of collective bargaining.

The DGA negotiators are convening at the AMPTP headquarters in Sherman Oaks to present their proposals, which include a hike in international streaming residuals and an increase in scale minimums to account for inflation.

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The talks are beginning on the ninth day of the Writers Guild of America strike. Talks with the writers broke down on May 1, after the studios rejected WGA demands for a TV staff size minimum, a minimum number of weeks worked and a viewership-based streaming residual, among other issues.

Though communications from both the WGA and AMPTP were generally limited during the six weeks of WGA talks, the two sides never agreed to a formal media blackout.

In previous writers strikes, the AMPTP has sometimes turned to the DGA for an agreement, which then helps address the writers’ issues and end the work stoppage. But even assuming the DGA talks go relatively smoothly — a big if — it’s still far from clear that a DGA contract would help end the current strike.

A deal on streaming residuals could help resolve that issue for the WGA. But many of the writers’ top issues are not in the DGA’s jurisdiction — including TV staff size, a premium for development rooms and having writers on set throughout production. The DGA is also focused on many other issues that are not relevant to the writers’ contract, like turnaround times on set and set safety.

SAG-AFTRA is set to start its negotiations on June 7. Both the DGA and SAG-AFTRA contracts expire on June 30.

Fran Drescher, the president of SAG-AFTRA, drew some backlash on Monday after giving an interview to Deadline at a WGA picket line in which she suggested that the two guilds have little in common in terms of negotiating issues.

“I don’t think what’s very important to writers — and I’m a writer too in the WGA – is the kind of stuff that we’re going after,” Drescher said. “Although I’m very empathic for their needs to be honored, I feel like our conversation is going to be very different. And I feel very hopeful that maybe we won’t get to this point.”

Those remarks cut against the broad message of pan-guild solidarity that the WGA has promoted since the strike began last week, and drew a quick negative reaction among many SAG-AFTRA members, who wish to show a more united front against the AMPTP.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the SAG-AFTRA executive director, gave remarks during a panel in Denver on Monday that were a little more on-message, according to The Wrap.

“I think we all understand that things have been moving in the wrong direction as a result of the technological innovations in the industry, and that really has to stop because we can’t have a vital industry if the people who are responsible for creating all of that content can’t have a career, can’t pay for their basic living expenses,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “It’s not right. And, frankly, actors are facing the same problem…. I can assure everyone that we feel just as strongly as the writers do, making sure that this industry supports the people who actually make it work, who bring the crucial element of creativity that is everything this industry is about.”

The WGA also announced Wednesday that it has raised $1.7 million for the Entertainment Community Fund to help workers across the industry during the strike, with gifts from big names including J.J. Abrams, Greg Berlanti, Adam McKay, Ryan Murphy, Shonda Rhimes, Mike Schur and John Wells.

The WGA also has $19.8 million in a separate strike fund, according to its most recent financial report, which it can use to make loans to members who are suffering economic hardship.

“This is a time for our entire industry to band together,” Chris Keyser, co-chair of the WGA negotiating committee, said in a statement. “Withholding our labor has proven to be the only way we can force the studios to give us a deal that allows writers to earn a fair, sustainable living at our craft. That said, the WGA is not insensitive to the toll that this work stoppage will take on the entire industry. Our guild’s strike fund is available to help WGA members, but other workers need assistance too.”

Keyser encouraged members who are able to to donate to the Entertainment Community Fund.

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