Biz opens books for DGA

Study to determine residuals

Hollywood studios have agreed to provide “unprecedented access to their books” as a way of determining residuals owed, Directors Guild of America president Jack Shea told members Wednesday night at the union’s annual meeting.

Shea said that an upcoming industrywide residuals study — a probe of what he called “the economics of television” — will “allow us to take a hard look at all TV residuals, including the problem areas of basic cable and foreign.”

A spokeswoman for one of the majors, who asked that neither she nor her studio be identified, said all the studios are going to cooperate in these efforts. But she cautioned that neither the DGA nor any other guild would have direct access to studios’ books.

Instead, she said, a mechanism is being set up whereby the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers would act as middleman. A spokesman for the AMPTP could not be reached for comment.

“This is something the studios agreed to in the negotiations process for the economic terms of the new contract,” a DGA official said Thursday, referring to the pact set to go into effect July 1. “The studios said they would work with us.”

Helpful info

The information gleaned from the residuals study, Shea told the Beverly Hilton gathering, “should help us immeasurably in future negotiations, and will help to ensure that you receive the residuals to which you are entitled.”

Residuals contribute more than 60% of earnings in the basic plan of the DGA’s pension fund. Shea said that the basic pension plan has raised its monthly maximum benefit to $3,950, and that he anticipates it will soon be higher.

Despite a shaky economy in Hollywood, the guild has continued to grow, Shea said, with membership at about 11,000 and residuals at more than $150 million in 1998.

Shea also discussed the backlash against the entertainment industry in the wake of the high school killings in Littleton, Colo. (His speech was delivered the night before Thursday’s shootings in Conyers, Ga.).

“There has been a lot of talk about violence in America, some of it aimed at the creative community here in Hollywood,” Shea said. “The DGA shares the legitimate concerns about the culture of violence in America. There are valid issues to be discussed about violence and responsibility. But we must recognize that often politicians in search of a quick fix and simplistic solutions forget about the rights and freedoms of individuals.

“In addition, the gun lobby is pointing its finger and money at Hollywood as the prime culprit behind events such as the one in Littleton. They are avoiding any examination of the role of gun ownership in our society. We all agree that Hollywood should be a part of the dialogue on violence … We will provide leadership in dealing with legitimate issues concerning gratuitous violence and the societal responsibility of artists.”

Concern over runaways

Addressing the issue of runaway production, Shea said that while film and TV production is still predominantly centered in the U.S., “the number of films and shows shooting abroad is growing at an alarming rate.”

“We have watched a disturbing number of movies for television and feature films be drawn to Canada and other countries by government production incentives and concessions, and it is an important objective of mine to reverse this trend,” he said.

The DGA and the Screen Actors Guild are jointly funding an analysis of runaway production. The study should be finished next month.

“I know that this issue is of paramount concern to many of you sitting in this room,” Shea said. “I want to assure you that your guild shares these concerns, and we will do everything in our power to address this issue. This industry was built by members of the DGA and other guilds and unions, and we will not stand idly by and allow our jobs to be exported by companies that have little loyalty to our members, and only care about profits.”