When the Directors Guild announced that it had reached an early contract settlement with the AMPTP on Jan. 17, it was a reminder that in Hollywood, it’s all about the deal — and the credit.
The last time the DGA and the Writers Guild contracts were up for renewal, the WGA was all worked up about possessory credits. The scribes wanted to remove the “a film by…” credit that most directors attained so effortlessly.
This time around, possessory credits were barely a blip on the radar. But by sealing a deal with the AMPTP after six days of negotiations, those gosh-darn directors got the credit. They upstaged the writers — again.
Everybody in town hailed the helmers last week for their breakthrough, while the writers were still out of work after 11 weeks.
There’s no doubt that the WGA’s hardline stance — and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice of going on strike — opened the door for the DGA to prod the majors into making compromises.
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But the DGA reps waltzed in and got the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers to allow substantial gains in new-media, which will put more coin in the pockets of film and TV helmers.
It’s not as much as the writers were looking for in their negotiations, but at a time when the majors are still uncertain about the long-term future of their primary profit centers, many see the DGA’s gains as what the market will bear.
In a film, writers and directors can often be like cats and dogs: If they’re not fighting, they’re at least watching each other warily. But after the deal, at least some scribes were signing up for the DGA fan club.
“I never in a billion years thought that was going to happen,” one scribe said when he heard that the Directors Guild got the AMPTP to yield on distributor’s gross.
But then, this strike is not really a film strike, it’s a TV strike. And in TV, showrunners are neither cats nor dogs — they’re hybrids.
Showrunners have been eager to bring people back to work and get their shows back on the air, and many were particularly impressed that the DGA persuaded the AMPTP to yield on Internet jurisdiction.
“This looks pretty good, actually,” said one showrunner who describes himself as a moderate. “It looks like some pretty important issues got addressed.”
That’s not to say scribes are convinced there may not yet be some hard bargaining to come.
One showrunner predicted that top-level screenwriters “will love this deal” but that TV scribes still have some tough questions to ask about the formulas being used for determining residual payments for electronic sell-through.
If enough showrunners find the DGA deal workable, pressure is expected to build for a conclusion to the nearly 3-month-old WGA strike — and a deal between scribes and studios could be in sight.
That would be a happy Hollywood ending. Except for one nagging question: If, after a long and painful strike, there is finally peace — will the directors get the credit?
Reported and compiled by Josef Adalian, Timothy M. Gray, Cynthia Littleton and Michael Schneider.