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DGA taps Cates for contract negotiations

Secretary-treasurer to head talks

The Directors Guild of America has tapped secretary-treasurer Gil Cates chairman of its film-TV negotiating committee for the third consecutive time.

The DGA, which faces the June 2008 expiration of its current three-year deal, made the announcement Thursday after a recent board decision.

“While our current agreements expire in June of next year, the board felt that it was important to begin preparing for negotiations on the complex issues confronting our industry,” said DGA president Michael Apted. He added that the full negotiating committee probably would be appointed in the spring.

The announcement highlights the differences in approaches to negotiations between the DGA and the Writers Guild of America, which has spurned an offer to launch early negotiations and won’t start talks until July, less than four months before its contract expiration. The WGA announced its negotiating committee members earlier this week.

SAG, which also has a June 2008 contract expiration, hasn’t yet appointed a negotiating committee.

Speculation has emerged in recent months that the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, the negotiating arm for studios and networks, would prefer to negotiate a deal first with the DGA in order to set the pattern of contract terms — particularly in the new and complex areas of digital delivery platforms — for the WGA and SAG.

But Cates told Daily Variety the timing of the DGA’s appointment — 16 months before expiration — isn’t out of the ordinary and simply reflects the DGA’s desire to begin prepping as early as possible.

“We want to go through this process very, very, very carefully,” he said. “Once you get to negotiations, you have very little time to do any spade work at all.”

Cates said key issues for the DGA include the growth of digital delivery platforms, pension and health contributions, the overall health of the industry and relationships with other guilds.

Cates served two terms as DGA president from 1983-87 and has been on the board for more than two decades. He’s produced the Academy Awards a record 13 times and is producing director of the Geffen Playhouse.

The DGA also announced that fourth VP William M. Brady would head the network staff negotiating committee for the third consecutive time. He’s been a member of the national board since 1999 and a director with CBS News in New York since 1982.

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