But topper leaves door ajar for compromise

Directors Guild of America prexy Jack Shea has declared the possessory credit proposals by the Writers Guild of America are unacceptable, but has conceded there should be limits on awarding “a film by” credits.

“The Directors Guild will not accept any provision in the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement that affects what credit a director may take,” Shea said in a recent letter to members in recapping the DGA’s reaction to the suspended WGA contract talks.

Shea’s comments underscore the complex task facing negotiators for the WGA and companies with a May 2 contract expiration approaching amid unresolved creative rights issues and a gap of as much as $102 million on financial proposals.

Both sides said when talks broke March 1 that they had achieved significant progress on creative rights proposals generally and on the possessory credit issue specifically, but have since cautioned that they have not finalized an agreement.

Shea specifically targeted three WGA proposals as unacceptable: to cap the possessory credit to 10% of films each year; to “grandfather” the credit by allowing directors who have already received it to continue to do so; and to allow another 10% of films to receive “a film directed by” credit.

Door ajar

But Shea’s letter also left the door open for compromise on the issue, which has been a source of contention between the DGA and the WGA for decades.

Shea argued that the DGA’s proposals to companies, which have been formulated over the past year without disclosure of the specifics, will “improve the prospects of avoiding a strike while protecting directors’ interests.” But he also conceded that the current situation should be changed.

“We know from our meetings with our feature film directors that most do feel that current industry practices have served to lessen the significance of the possessory credit by awarding to directors without discrimination or determination of merit,” Shea wrote.

‘More meaningful’

“The proposals we have developed, if followed by the studios, would make the possessory credit more meaningful and restore its value to those who have earned it,” he continued. “Moreover, they would preserve the important principle that the WGA should not control a credit, which in the free market has largely been award to directors.”

The WGA’s original proposal sought elimination of the possessory credit on the grounds that it unfairly diminishes the role of writers in the moviemaking process. It has estimated that directors take the possessory credit on about 70% of all WGA-covered films.

The WGA has said it plans to relaunch the contract talks with companies in April but has not yet set a date.

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