DGA Is United, Prepared and Ready to Fight for Our Future (Guest Column)

On Wednesday, the Directors Guild of America will begin negotiations with the major Hollywood Studios. We’re going to fight — no matter what it takes — for a strong contract that treats our members fairly and allows us to share in the success of an evolving entertainment industry.

We know this will be a difficult challenge. But we will not yield from the premise that has sustained our industry for the last century: When artists succeed, everyone succeeds.

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That’s why this year’s negotiations are about more than reaching a fair agreement for the next three years — they’re about setting the course for the future of our industry.

Like many others, we had hoped the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers would reach a fair and reasonable agreement during the WGA’s negotiating window. But despite six weeks of negotiations, the AMPTP refused to adequately address the writers’ core issues and concerns.

Now, with our contract expiring on June 30, we have a legal and contractual obligation to begin bargaining. And equally important, we have a responsibility to our 19,000 members to negotiate the best deal we possibly can, and we take that commitment extremely seriously.

SAG-AFTRA’s contract also expires June 30. They have announced they will sit down with the studios on June 7, which leaves us a small window to negotiate. We are going to take full advantage of that window to sit across from the AMPTP and fight for our members’ priorities.

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As a longtime working director, I know how big the stakes are in this fight. Many directors and members of our teams don’t know when the next project will come around, and they rely on fair, regular residuals to sustain them in between. As we all know, current wages simply aren’t keeping up with the skyrocketing cost of living.

At the same time, the studios who employ us have merged or been bought by vertically integrated behemoths with control over both production and distribution. Their business models have shifted, and they have largely stopped selling the films and television programs we create on the open market, in order to maximize their streaming platforms here and abroad, which has had a huge impact on our residuals.

And as their streaming platforms have gained millions of subscribers around the world, they haven’t allowed directors and our teams to share fairly in the international growth of these platforms or the global distribution of our work.

Make no mistake: the current position of the studios is a threat to the economic model that for decades has protected tens of thousands of good, union jobs in our industry. The studios have built their businesses on the creative talent of directors, writers, actors, producers, craftspeople and other artisans across the industry and today our voices are strong and clear and in solidarity. If the studios want our partnership, they should act like our partners.

DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter, center, at work on the set of HBO’s “Love and Death.”
DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter, center, at work on the set of HBO’s “Love and Death.”

We are clear on our priorities. Our approach to negotiations this year, just as it has always been, is to follow where our extensive research leads us. Our Negotiations Committee, made up of more than 80 members from all categories, genres and geographic areas, has been working for over a year developing proposals that will protect our members, now and in the future. We are extraordinarily prepared to begin conversations with the studios, equipped with thorough research and analysis of industry trends.

We are ready to fight for a strong, fair contract that treats our members fairly and reinforces our shared interest in building a vibrant and sustainable industry.

What does that mean? In these negotiations, it means securing wage increases that address inflation, and ensuring the strength and sustainability of our pension and health plans. It means negotiating meaningful increases and thoughtful, forward-thinking structural changes to residuals formulas that allow us to share in the global growth of streaming. These are goals we share with our sister guilds.

It also means fighting to protect the role and vision of directors, especially as the shift to streaming upends traditional production models. It means protecting our jurisdiction over projects produced abroad for U.S. audiences, and establishing minimum terms and conditions to protect and compensate our members.

It means leading the industry on safety by expanding and encouraging training and addressing long workdays. It means increasing diversity and strengthening the voices of underrepresented people throughout the industry. And it means looking out for the full directorial team – the Assistant Directors, Unit Production Managers, Associate Directors and Stage Managers who sustain every production with their hard labor and professionalism.

To be sure, the coming weeks won’t be easy. There’s no disputing that our industry faces an uncertain economic climate. But the issues we’re bringing to the table are essential, and the studios must be prepared to invest more in us, in directors and directorial teams, and in all our collaborative partners. In this team sport of ours, we are only as good as our teams.

We always have — and we always will — fight for our future. We’re going to stand together to win a strong contract that values our work the same way it’s valued by billions of people around the world.

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