Late scripts hamper helmers

DGA survey finds that the problem is widespread

Tardy scripts have become a growing problem for TV directors, specifically those working in episodic, single-camera skeins, according to a study commissioned by the DGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

Researchers began tracking script delivery in the fourth quarter of last year and found 318 of 651 one-hour TV scripts came in late — 20% by as much as seven to 15 days.

A survey sent to DGA members last spring found that of 199 member directors, 80% had received at least one tardy script. Respondents also estimate that half of the scripts they directed arrived late, coinciding with the study’s findings.

Contractually, writers are required to turn in scripts at least eight days in advance in order to give directors time to prep. Writers claim it’s become harder to deliver scripts on time due to budget cuts and networks’ insistence on increasingly sophisticated fare.

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Issue is also a problem for studios, as delays in script delivery lead to cost overruns that add to a show’s budget.

Findings were released Wednesday at a confab between the orgs and top studio and net execs. DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg, CBS topper Leslie Moonves (both repping AMPTP), DGA creative rights committee chair Steven Soderbergh and DGA TV committee chair Rod Halcomb were in attendance.

“There is a real need for improvement in the culture and practices that permit what’s happening to directors in television,” Soderbergh said. “The lack of preparedness does not just affect the ability of directors to do their jobs but makes work more difficult for the entire cast and crew.”

The DGA and AMPTP resolved to deal with the issue of tardy scripts last year during the last round of negotiations.

“The tracking data reinforces our concerns,” Halcomb said. We now have hard evidence to back us up –proof that late script delivery has proliferated into an industrywide problem — and that we need to stop it in its tracks.”

“We’ll work with the exec producers, showrunners and writers to take appropriate measures to ensure that shows come in on budget and at their creative best,” Katzenberg said.

Also in attendance: Touchstone TV exec VP Howard Davine, NBC Studios prexy Ted Halbert, Universal TV production prexy David Kissinger, Columbia/TriStar Domestic TV programming and production prexy Russ Krasnoff and Warner Bros. TV Prods. senior VP Gregg Maday.