The Directors Guild of America released a memo to members Saturday announcing that it would not be the first guild to enter contract negotiations with Hollywood studios, marking the first time since 2010 that this is the case.
The guild told its members that the decision to delay the start of talks was made because “studios are not yet prepared to address our key issues.”
“The date we begin to bargain is far from the most important issue,” the DGA memo read. “The more important issue at stake is whether the Studios will decide to appropriately address the concerns of our members. Those concerns include wages, streaming residuals, safety, creative rights and diversity. If the Studios do not address these issues, they know we are prepared to fight.”
The 80-person negotiating committee for the DGA unanimously agreed to postpone talks until later in the spring. There’s still several months before the expiration of bargaining agreement between the Directors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents studios in labor talks.
That contract expires on June 30, the same day that SAG-AFTRA’s contract expires and two months after the WGA contract expiration date on May 1. In all cases, the existing expiration date can be extended if AMPTP is in the midst of contract negotiations with another guild.
The order in which Hollywood’s labor guilds negotiate with the AMPTP has a major impact on contract negotiations as the guild that goes first usually sets the pattern of bargaining on issues shared by all three guilds such as annual pay raises and residuals. Streaming residuals in particular are expected to be a heavily contested issue for DGA, SAG-AFTRA and WGA given the launch of several streaming services in the past few years and the subsequent surge in production of streaming films and TV shows.
The issue of streaming residuals was expected to be discussed during contract talks in 2020 as services like Disney+ and HBO Max were in the early stages of launch; but the issue was tabled as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all film and TV productions for six months and discussions between the guilds and studios turned to developing COVID-19 safety protocols that are still in effect today.
Read the full memo to DGA members from the guild’s negotiating committee and National Executive Director Russ Hollander below:
After careful consideration, our 80-person BA/FLTTA Negotiating Committee unanimously determined today that it is not in our interest to begin negotiations well in advance of our contract expiration. We will work with the Studios to schedule bargaining dates for later this Spring. As you know, our major contracts expire June 30.
Our approach to bargaining is, and has always been, guided by one simple principle: we will only negotiate when we believe we will win the best possible deal. Sometimes this has meant negotiating several months in advance of our contract expiration, if we feel the Studios are prepared to satisfactorily address our concerns in exchange for the stability an early negotiation can bring to everyone.
In other negotiations cycles, we have won strong gains by waiting to negotiate until later in the process. Some of our most important gains, including the establishment of our groundbreaking Pay TV residuals formula, have been won when we negotiated closer to the expiration of our contract. Regardless of when we bargain, our history, including recent negotiation cycles, has been that we have achieved industry leading contracts that have protected our members and the business.
Over the last eighteen months, we have been following our normal, thorough process to prepare for successful bargaining. That preparation includes rigorous research, strategy development, consulting with leading industry experts, building a negotiating committee that represents our diverse membership, surveying and talking with members to develop our priorities, and much more. This process also includes preliminary conversations with the Studios to determine whether they are prepared to address the issues our members care most about. At this point, the Studios are not yet prepared to address our key issues.
The date we begin to bargain is far from the most important issue. The more important issue at stake is whether the Studios will decide to appropriately address the concerns of our members. Those concerns include wages, streaming residuals, safety, creative rights and diversity. If the Studios do not address these issues, they know we are prepared to fight.
It comes down to this: we are partners in this business. This means negotiating a new contract that continues to treat our members fairly and with respect, that recognizes and rewards our vital contributions to this industry no matter how it evolves, that reinforces our shared interest in building a healthy, vibrant, stable business that will entertain and inspire audiences around the world.
Our process and preparation will continue – expect to hear a lot more from us in the coming weeks and months – until we have won a stellar contract. This cycle’s negotiations are about more than just bargaining a strong contract for the next three years – they are about setting the course for the future of our industry and that is what we are going to achieve.