Guild to notify competing studios of screeners being sent

News flash: You can send awards-season screeners to the 13,400 members of the DGA, even though no one has before this year.

That’s a surprise for many who are handling the current kudos campaigns. Most have been laboring under the notion that the Directors Guild of America doesn’t allow screeners to be sent to their members under any circumstances.

In a letter dated Dec. 15, the DGA outlined its current policy about the mailing of screeners. It basically says that the guild will allow screeners to be sent out to members but will first notify the competing studios and indies that the screeners are being sent. This notification, says the letter, will provide for a level playing field and give rivals a chance to make the same move.

A DGA rep said Tuesday that the memo spells out details of its long-standing policy and that guild execs decided to send it out after receiving several inquiries.

The DGA had never issued a written policy about screeners. But awards campaigners who were contacted Tuesday said they had been firmly told that screeners fall under the DGA’s “blackout policy.” Under that ruling, no one can contact guild members directly (even to provide invitations or info about screenings) when ballots are out for the DGA.

Awards campaigners — who are always watching each other’s moves — angrily asked on Tuesday why some studios were told about this policy last Friday, while others received a faxed copy of the memo Monday and still others received it Tuesday through the mail, five days after the letter was written.

“Why didn’t they email all of us?” one exec asked.

For some, it’s a moot point. It costs $5-$10 to mail out a DVD, and more than that if you use FedEx. Sending screeners to the 13,400 DGA members would represent a considerably larger expense than sending them to the 6,000 members of AMPAS or the 2,100 members of the SAG nominating committee, for example.

If a studio has several films in contention, that’s a hefty chunk of change for only one award category. But it’s a key category.

Most studios had long ago firmed their plans (and budgets) for screeners. Since Oscar nomination ballots go out Tuesday, it’s unlikely any studio can get enough discs manufactured and sent out in time to tap into DGA voters.

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