Hollywood directors strike deal with studios as writers’ strike continues

Hollywood directors strike deal with studios as writers' strike continues

The union representing thousands of film and TV directors reached a tentative deal with Hollywood studios on a three-year deal early Sunday morning, a deal that guarantees workers peace with a major corporation as the writers’ strike enters its sixth week.

The Directors Guild of America announced in a statement overnight that it had unprecedented gains, including improvements in salaries and streaming residuals (a type of royalty), as well as guardrails around artificial intelligence.

We have concluded a truly historic deal, Jon Avnet, chair of the DGA’s negotiating committee, said in the statement. It provides significant improvements for every director, assistant director, production manager, associate director and stage manager in our guild.

The deal prevents the Hollywood apocalyptic scenario of three major unions going on strike at the same time. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which negotiates on behalf of the studios, will begin negotiations on Wednesday for a new contract with SAG-AFTRA, the guild that represents the actors; their current deal expires June 30. SAG-AFTRA is in the process of collecting a vote to authorize the strike.

The entertainment industry will be taking a close look at what the negotiations between the directors and actors will mean for the Writers Guild of America, the union that represents writers. More than 11,000 writers went on strike in early May, disrupting many Hollywood productions.

Over the past month, writers have enjoyed a wave of solidarity from other unions that WGA leaders said they haven’t seen in generations. Whether a deal with directors or a possible deal with actors later this month weakens that solidarity is now an open question.

WGA leaders signaled to writers late last week that a deal with directors might be in the offing, a strategy said to be part of the studio’s playbook for divide and conquer. The writers and studios left the negotiating table on May 1, far apart on major issues and did not resume negotiations.

They pretended they couldn’t negotiate with the WGA in May because of negotiations with the DGA, the WGA’s negotiating committee told writers in an email Thursday. It’s a lie. It’s a choice they made in hopes of bringing the divide and conquer strategy to life. The essence of the strategy is to strike deals with a few unions and tell the rest that’s all there is. It’s gaslighting, and it only works if the unions are divided.

Our position is clear: to resolve the strike, companies will need to negotiate with the WGA about our full agenda, the email continued.

Representatives from the Alliance of Film and Television Producers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The writers and directors shared some priorities, including salaries, streaming residuals, and AI concerns. WGA leaders had said the studios had offered little more than annual meetings to discuss AI and were refusing to bargain over guardrails. The DGA said on Sunday it had received a groundbreaking agreement confirming that AI is not a person and that generative AI is no substitute for the duties performed by members.

Some of the requests from screenwriters, however, are more complex than those from directors. WGA leaders have described the dispute in urgent terms, calling this moment existential and saying the studios are apparently intent on continuing their efforts to destroy the writing profession.

Despite the explosion in television production over the past decade, writers said their wages have stagnated and their working conditions have worsened. In addition to pay improvements, writers are calling for greater job security, as well as staffing minimums in writers’ rooms.

The WGA has vowed to keep fighting. The writers, who last went on strike 15 years ago for 100 days, have historically been united.

We are girded in an alliance with our brother corporations and unions, said Chris Keyser, chairman of the WGA bargaining committee, in a video message to writers last week. They give us strength. But we are strong enough. We’ve always been strong enough to get the deal we need using only the power of the writer.

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