Shea urges showbiz to avoid strike

Cable, foreign residuals must be improved, DGA prexy says

HOLLYWOOD — The top officer at the Directors Guild of America has urged industry execs to take steps to avoid a pair of strikes next year by union writers and actors.

“It is vitally important to remember that strikes are not tea parties: People lose their houses and cannot provide for their children,” said DGA president Jack Shea in a report to members. “But also to the artists who create motion pictures and TV shows — the directors, writers and artists — would be a series of contracts that do not recognize the changing economic climate of the entertainment industry.”

“It is our responsibility as leaders to make sure there is a fair deal without a disruption of the industry, ” he said.

The statement comes amid an increasingly complex labor outlook in the industry. The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists are in their fifth month of striking against advertisers, and both are expected to strike again next July when their basic film-TV contract expires; the Writers Guild of America is also seen as likely to walk out next May when its current agreement ends.

Shea’s acknowledgment of Hollywood’s labor problems gives an early signal as to where the DGA, viewed by many as the industry’s most powerful union, will focus when it starts contract negotiations in late 2001 or early 2002. He stressed that cable and foreign residuals must be improved because of their “exponential” growth.

“Then there’s the Internet: an outlet for advertising that was nothing more than a gleam in someone’s eye less than a decade ago, and outlet that will thrive on audiovisual content,” Shea said. “”We want to assist in building this exploding market, and any discussion about upcoming negotiations must include this area of distribution.”

Shea also issued a plea for multi-union unity with what could be viewed as a veiled reference to the DGA’s long-running dispute with the WGA over the “A Film By” credit. “Last but certainly not least, we encourage our sister Guilds to put aside issues that might divide us,” he said.

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