THE DEALMAKER: Gil Cates has been through plenty of tough negotiations in his career. But never were the stakes higher than in early January when the Directors Guild of America began its contract talks with the studios.
Cates, a seasoned film and TV director-producer, led the effort as the DGA’s negotiating committee chair alongside DGA prexy Michael Apted and national exec director Jay Roth.
The talks would have been challenging in any circumstance, because for the first time the DGA contract had to address the growing world of new media.
But as the DGA went to the bargaining table, the Writers Guild of America had been on strike for more than two months. The pressure was on Cates and Co. to come up with a compensation formula that would satisfy directors and help end the WGA standoff.
The DGA succeeded, in Cates’ view, because it was armed with detailed studies of the nascent new-media marketplace and because of the reservoir of good will between those on both sides of the table.
“The most important aspect of any deal is information and trust,” Cates says. As the two sides hashed out issues in uncharted territory, the strength of the DGA leaders’ relationships with the studio brass ensured that “they wouldn’t look us in the eye, say one thing and then do another.”
KEY DEALS: Negotiated deal for DGA, which helped settle the WGA strike.
DEALMAKER DOS: Define at the outset what you expect to achieve and the minimum of what you will accept. “Anything you get over that is good.”
DEALMAKER DON’TS: Negotiate in the press. “I find it downright dumb.”
TOP DEALMAKERS ENCOUNTERED: Jay Roth