Guilds show solidarity on new media

DGA sharing its inside info re: compensation

In a surprising show of union solidarity, the DGA has agreed to share its inside info on new-media compensation with striking scribes.

The Directors Guild of America and Writers Guild disclosed the development in a brief announcement Monday afternoon — four days after the DGA ran out of patience with the lack of progress in the WGA’s negotiations and said it would schedule its own talks in January if there’s no writers’ deal by the end of the year.

In a joint announcement, the DGA and WGA said they would meet shortly to discuss new media, including info the DGA has developed from its research and studies.

“Neither the WGA nor the DGA will have any further comment on the meeting or any of the information shared in the meeting,” the pair announced.

The meeting with the directors may lead to a warming of the historically chilly relations between the DGA and WGA — although that prospect may prove illusory given the scribes’ continued hardline stance as reflected Monday night in the WGA’s decision to deny waivers for use of clips on the Oscars. Gil Cates, chief of the DGA’s negotiating team, is also producer of this year’s Oscarcast.

The DGA’s gesture is likely to bolster the town’s consensus that the directors are confident they’ll be able to work out a deal with the majors. The helmers have signed high-powered attorney Ken Ziffren to act as a consultant in the upcoming talks.

DGA leaders have touted the fact that the guild has spent time and resources over the past 18 months on developing ideas, numbers and formulas for the looming negotiations.

For its part, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Televison Producers indicated last week that it was cautiously optimistic about sitting down with the helmers — after spending the past five months in fruitless talks with the WGA.

“We look forward to talking with the Directors Guild of America in an atmosphere of professionalism and respect,” the AMPTP said in response to the DGA’s announcement last week.

Move comes 10 days after the WGA’s negotiations with the AMPTP collapsed over the guild’s refusal to take half a dozen proposals off the table. The DGA announced Thursday that it would give the WGA two more weeks to make a deal, asserting that the directors could no longer stay on the sidelines as damage from the strike mounts — though DGA president Michael Apted took pains to stress that the WGA is a “sister guild” and he views the AMPTP as their common adversary.

The DGA-WGA meeting is likely to be perceived as a way for the Directors Guild to outline where it believes a deal can be made in the fast-changing digital world. The confab may also serve to defuse resentment among striking writers that the DGA’s undercutting the WGA through its willingness to make its own deal — at terms that may be unacceptable to writers.

Earlier this month, about 300 members of the DGA — many of them also WGA members — urged the DGA to hold off on scheduling talks with the AMPTP.

The DGA-WGA announcement came on the heels of a strong pledge of support to the strike by SAG president Alan Rosenberg, who asserted, “Your fight is our fight.”

The DGA and SAG contracts both expire on June 30. SAG is expected to begin negotiating in the spring.

Rumbles of internal dissent have been heard in recent days over the WGA’s negotiating strategy — particularly the leadership’s refusal to narrow its demands to new-media issues. But scribes have been reluctant to criticize guild leaders publicly, partly out of concern that such statements would be used by the AMPTP as part of its continued sniping at the WGA.

An estimated 2,000 WGA members attended a membership meeting at the Santa Monica Civic on Monday night — the first such gathering since the Nov. 1 meet at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Hopes are dim for resumption of talks any time soon, with the WGA and the AMPTP engaged in a firefight over which side is to blame for the failure of negotiations.

The guild announced over the weekend that it will seek to bargain with the companies individually in an effort to break its negotiations impasse with the AMPTP — although AMPTP insiders dispute whether the companies have a legal obligation to engage in individual negotiations with the WGA.

The AMPTP’s latest attack hit the guild over the strike’s economic consequences, asserting that below-the-line workers have already lost more than $200 million in the Los Angeles area alone, while “working writers” have lost more than $115 million.

“Unfortunately for all of us, the WGA’s existing unreasonable, inconsistent and impractical negotiating strategy is guaranteed to produce only losers in this strike,” it added. “The WGA’s organizers refused to engage in early bargaining and then started this strike, and their subsequent negotiating tactics have ensured that the hardships suffering by below-the-line workers and their families will continue to worsen.”

In response, the WGA pointed out that the AMPTP walked away from the bargaining table on Dec. 7 and said that NBC “forcing” Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien back on the air without writers is not going to provide the quality entertainment that the public deserves.

“The only solution to the strike is a negotiated settlement of the issues,” the WGA said. “If the AMPTP won’t come to the table, then it’s time for responsible companies to come forward and negotiate a fair deal.”

Monday also marked the final day of Writers Guild strike picketing for 2007. Pickets will return to Los Angeles studio lots on Jan. 7 — assuming there’s no deal by then.

The WGA staged pickets Monday featuring soap stars on both coasts. In New York, pickets enduring freezing temps at Time Warner Center included stars from all four New York-based daytime dramas — “All My Children,” “As the World Turns,” “Guiding Light” and “One Life to Live.”

Pickets included Kim Zimmer, Grant Aleksander, Marj Dusay, Tina Sloan, Robin Strasser, Michael Easton, Hilary B. Smith, Kamar De Los Reyes, Trevor St. John, Bree Williamson, Beth Ann Bonner, Melissa Archer, Catherine Hickland, Jerry Ver Dorn, Don Hastings, Julia Barr, Mark La Mura, Terri Garber, Jill Larson, Kassie DePaiva, Forbes March, David Kreizman and Ellen Dolan.

Other notables included John Sayles, Steve Martin, Nick Pileggi, Chris Elliott, Adam Resnick, Terry George, Peter Hedges, Tom Fontana and Seth Meyers.

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