Directors Guild Committee Warns of ‘Conflict’ as Studio Contract Talks Begin: ‘Battle Will Test Us’

As the Writers Guild of America and its members settle in for what is expected to be a months-long strike, the Directors Guild of America is set to begin its negotiations for a new labor contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the chairs of the DGA negotiating committee Jon Avnet, Karen Gaviola and Todd Holland released a short video to members giving their support to striking writers and outlining the main points that they will be pushing for during this negotiating cycle.

“We know there will be conflict. The battle will test us. But we won’t rest until we win a strong contract today that builds a bridge to continued DGA prosperity into the future,” Holland said.

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The chairs acknowledged that the negotiating period they have with the AMPTP will be much shorter than the talks with the WGA, which began on March 20 and continued until negotiations failed at the May 1 deadline with only a weeklong pause. The DGA has approximately three to four weeks to make a deal with studios, as the AMPTP is scheduled to begin its bargaining with SAG-AFTRA on June 7.

But such a deal has been done quickly in the past. In 2008, during the last WGA strike, the Directors Guild and the AMPTP reached a tentative agreement after just a few days of formal negotiations, thanks in large part to months of preliminary talks that ironed out major issues such as compensation for streaming, then known as new media.

Given Holland’s warning that these talks are expected to be more contentious, it is not as clear whether this round of talks will be completed in under a month’s time. Among the major issues the DGA looks to address, as noted in the membership video, are studio contributions to the guild’s health and pension plans, increases in global streaming residuals, and creative rights protections.

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Holland also says that the DGA is also looking to expand training safety for crew members and to “address the health and safety crisis of dangerously long workdays,” an issue that has become prominent for all of Hollywood’s labor unions after the death of Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust” when a loaded firearm held by Alec Baldwin accidentally fired.

At least some of these issues were discussed in preliminary talks with studios, but an agreement on priorities wasn’t reached. This was a major reason why the Directors Guild announced that it would not go first in AMPTP talks after doing so in the past three negotiating cycles, saying that the studios were “not yet prepared to address” the union’s concerns.

In an op-ed published on Tuesday by Variety, DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter said that radical changes to streaming compensation are necessary to counter the rapid consolidation happening among Hollywood studios.

“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,” she wrote. “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.”

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