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DGA sets torrid pace to deal talks

Cates to head guild's negotiating team

The DGA loves to be early when it comes to negotiations.

Two days after the Writers Guild announced its negotiating team for this summer’s talks, the DGA chimed in Feb. 8 with news that it had named Gil Cates to head its negotiating team — nearly 17 months before the DGA contract expires.

Cates, an easygoing sort known for his conciliatory style, insists it’s standard for the DGA to make such a move, but the timing of the announcement spotlights the contrast with the WGA’s strategy: Begin talks as late as possible.

The DGA’s announcement is sure to heighten speculation that if the WGA’s talks derail this summer — certainly a possibility, given the sour relations between the writers and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers — the DGA will step in and make a deal, setting a template for the WGA and SAG.

That’s exactly what happened in 2004, when the WGA couldn’t make studios and networks budge on the two-decade-old DVD residual rates. The DGA reached the conclusion that even a strike wouldn’t change the minds of the companies and made a deal, with its biggest gains in health and pension contributions.

Within six months, the WGA and SAG followed suit.

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