A bitter dispute has arisen between casting directors and television studios over the issue of who pays for assistants to the casting directors during pilot season.

The casting directors, who are repped through the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters, have told the studios that it should become standard practice for the companies to foot the bill for assistants during pilot season. The studios have refused to revise a long-standing practice.

Reps for the Teamsters and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers had no comment last week about the dispute. No negotiations have been set yet for a successor deal to the current contract, which expires in October and covers about 500 casting directors and associates in Hollywood and New York — but doesn’t cover assistants.

According to sources with knowledge of the dispute, the companies have asserted that they’re not required to alter the practice and that they’re perturbed over the timing of the casting directors’ demand, as it was delivered with studios about to move into casting dozens of pilots.

For casting directors, the issue of paying for assistants out of their own pockets during pilot season has long been a sore spot since other employees in the industry aren’t required to pay for assistants. The assistants hired during pilot season are usually paid $600-$650 a week.

The companies have also asserted that they’re opposed to paying for assistants working for casting directors who are casting multiple shows — meaning that the studios don’t want to be paying for someone to work on shows that aren’t the property of the studio.

Should the dispute remain unresolved, the studios may opt to rely on their inhouse casting departments to handle casting during pilot season.

In 2005 the Teamsters were able to obtain the first union contract for casting directors following an organizing campaign that lasted three years. The casting directors had been one of the few significant groups of Hollywood workers that were not unionized.