Guild fast-tracks ratification of contract

The Directors Guild of America, seeking to implement key contract revamps as soon as possible, has mailed out ratification ballots for its tentative three-year deal to its members.

The DGA leaders decided last month to seek speedy ratification in order to enact interim provisions on TV production before the start of the spring production cycle and pilot season; the rest of the contract would take effect July 1. Guild leaders shortened the ratification period from 45 to 20 days and have set a Feb. 6 due date.

The interim provisions will place film-style shoots (such as series and telefilms) under the current pact’s basic contract provisions, with taped programs (such as gameshows, news and sports) under the freelance live and tape TV agreement. Current language calls for making that determination based on whether the production is on film or tape.

DGA prexy Jack Shea noted in a cover letter that the new pact would prevent the possibility of all shows shot on digital video being covered by the less advantageous freelance provisions. The so-called “blended contract” also is designed to preserve jobs, since DGA-covered unit production managers are required on all basic-contract shoots.

DGA toppers have contended that staging early talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers — and removing the pressure of a deadline — helped achieve what they view as a breakthrough in the TV provisions.

The DGA deal includes a sweetener in the form of a $20,000 payment to the director of a movie if it’s turned into a sequel. It also calls for a meeting on runaway production by January 2003 with the AMPTP and other unions that could also address “possible contract remedies.” Several other areas of the proposed contract:

  • Minimums will increase, in all areas except primetime TV, by 3.5% annually.

  • Primetime minimums will increase by 3% annually.

  • Fox Network residuals will rise gradually to Big Three levels — 80% the first year, 90% the second and 100% the third. Residual payments, estimated at $1.26 million for 2001, will rise 58% in 2004 to $1.99 million.

  • Foreign residuals will be uncapped at a rate of 1.2% once sales targets are met.

  • Basic cable residuals will be boosted on the second through fifth runs by 40%.

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