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DGA nixes screeners

Guild reverses field, bans award DVDs

After a major ruckus last year, the Directors Guild of America has quietly reasserted its ban on studios sending screeners to guild members.

A press release Thursday trumpeted the timetable for the guild’s 60th annual awards. At the bottom of the release were two short paragraphs saying that screeners will not be allowed.

The move comes after the DGA allowed, then rescinded, the mailing of titles in December 2006. The new decision also revokes its Dec. 20, 2006, vow that the guild would allow screeners this season.

“The DGA recognizes that this decision is different from what was stated last year,” the press release said. But “closer examination” revealed a need for the ban to maintain a “level playing field” during the upcoming awards season.

During the zenith of awards season campaigning last year, the guild gave Paramount-DreamWorks permission to send out “Dreamgirls” screeners to the 13,400 DGA members — surprising competing studios and indies, who pointed out that the DGA had never allowed such a mailing to take place.

Campaigners asserted they had been firmly told in the past that screeners were forbidden. The DGA insisted at that point that no one had asked for permission previously and asserted its policy allowed for screeners to be sent to members — following notification of competing studios and indies.

But in the wake of protests by rival studios, the DGA rescinded its permission a week later on the “Dreamgirls” DVDs, even though thousands of the screeners were ready to ship. At that point, the guild apologized for the mixed signals and asserted that it would allow screeners during the next awards season.

Thursday’s announcement of the policy reversal means that the DGA’s probably managed to avert further controversy over the screener issue — which has emerged in a variety of forms during recent years — long before the upcoming awards season heats up.

The last sentence of the press release said, “Maintaining a level playing field for all feature directors and their films in contention is of paramount importance to the guild.”

The DGA also announced Thursday its schedule for the awards season, setting the awards dinner for Jan. 26. Feature ballots will be mailed Dec. 3 with a Jan. 7 deadline; nominees will be announced Jan. 8.

TV ballots will be mailed Dec. 12 with a Jan. 3 deadline; smallscreen, commercials and docu nods will be disclosed on Jan. 10.

The DGA winner in the feature category has matched the director Oscar winner in 53 of the last 59 years, including Martin Scorsese this year for “The Departed.”

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