Guilds At Odds Over WGA Contracts

Pity the Writers Guild of America when it comes up against the teeth-gnashing of its sister union, the Directors Guild of America.

Those helmers play hardball. Consider the WGA’s recently inked deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture & TV Producers. While the AMPTP and WGA were deep in talks over pesky issues like the Fox network, interactive property rights and possessory credits, the DGA was heading off what it deems another crucial problem with the scribes – the long-standing desire by the WGA to gain for its members the right to view the director’s cut of a movie before the producers.

Writers always complain that they don’t get enough input into the final product. A contract clause already exists for WGA scribes that allows writers to “view the final director’s cut or a subsequent cut prior to the final cut of the motion picture.”

What’s unclear is when.

DGA officials, led by president Gene Reynolds, went straight to the top. Last week, they met with CEOs for all the majors to plead their case that directors should decide when writers can see their films.

While some helmers work closely with writers throughout the production process, others would rather ban the meddling scripters to icier parts of Siberia.

Says one source: “Some directors would just as well have the writers see the cut two weeks after it opens.”

Among the top-ranking CEOs at the meeting were Warner Bros.’ Robert Daly, DreamWorks SKG captain Jeffrey Katzenberg, 20th Century Fox’s Peter Chernin and Universal’s Tom Pollock.

Cried one insider who sat through the angry confab: “This thing is a tempest in a teapot.”

The language in the new contract reportedly says that writers can see the “director’s cut” either before, during or within 48 hours of the producers’ viewing. “But it’s each studio’s call on each picture,” said the source.

So the bottom line is that directors and writers alike need to lobby the studios on each individual pic, not quibble with each other.

The saddest aspect to all this, says one source, is the depths to which reps of the WGA and DGA stoop in these proceedings.

“The emotional level on which they deal with each other is unbelievable,” says the source. “It’s a shame. It’s embarrassing to see some of Hollywood’s most intelligent and creative people in this type of environment.”

Stay tuned for news from the front of the battle between the guilds on this issue.

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