The DGA Factor

This was submitted by Thania St. John, WGA Member since 1988.

So, the AMPTP is finally talking to someone.

Friday’s announcement that formal talks were starting with the DGA over the weekend wasn’t surprising. The surprise came from the fact that it took them a little longer to get there than they thought.

When negotiations broke off with the WGA in early December, the AMPTP very publicly scheduled a start date of Jan 7th to begin talks with the more “reasonable” guild in town. But neither side would even schedule a formal session unless there was a real deal to be made. After their “preliminary” talks broke down last weekend, Jan 7th came and went. Nerves started to fray.

Were the “reasonable” directors asking for a piece of new media as well, the same thing the “unreasonable” writers had been asking for? (Apparently the AMPTP was not prepared for the DGA to come to the table with real demands.) [According to our sources, that's exactly what happened -- LK.]

This prompted a mid-week face-to-face with the DGA leadership and a few of the actual CEOs. Perhaps the CEOs now realize that the DGA isn't going to automatically accept what they want to give and that new media is something that has to be dealt with. I can hope, can’t I?

The Golden Globe fiasco finally ended yesterday with a confusing series of “press conferences” announcing the winners and a general sense of audience alienation and corporate financial loss. The Oscars are on Feb 24th and it is of great concern to both the directors and the producers that that show go on as usual. But even if the directors make a deal this week, the WGA has to agree to its terms as well.

And then there's SAG. Let’s be honest, the awards season is in jeopardy because our brave and selfless colleagues in front of the camera chose principals over publicity. The actors could make the writers look like UN diplomats if they're not on board with the DGA settlement. Things are definitely heating up in the next 6 weeks.

Then there's the March issue. If we don't settle by then, not only will this TV season and the next be severely gutted, feature film production will grind to an absolute halt. No one will begin principal photography knowing that actors could walk out in June, stopping a film mid-shoot. Is that why CEO Les Moonves lobbed that remark out there about things getting settled “in the next few months” at his press conference on Thursday? The Big Six know they can't wait around much longer before they start negotiating in good faith, especially with important side deals now being made allowing their independent competitors to make product.

The smartest move we writers made was going out in November by ourselves and not waiting to align with SAG in June. The studios had prepared for that and we changed the playing field of this negotiation by taking them by surprise. We took the first bullet and subsequently created an atmosphere of pressure and public awareness for the DGA to fight for a better deal than they might have been able to get on their own.

And now, the town is anxiously waiting for them to do the right thing.

Personally, I don't care who gets credit for doing what. For the first time in a long time I feel like the whole creative community is in something together, whether we got on board ourselves or were caught up in the sea of change. Times like this remind us that, no matter how much money Wall Street might have, it can’t buy something if we don’t make it. (And that maybe – just maybe – they might need us just a little bit more than we need them, especially with all that venture capitol money circling out there.)

DGA, WGA, SAG, IATSE, Teamsters – we are Hollywood. It might all start with the page, but we’ve got nothing until each component contributes its crucial and unique element to the process. So good luck, DGA brothers and sisters. Help us all get the fairest new media deal we can.


serena said...

I know I'm deaming, but it seems DGA, WGA, and SAG all have the same concerns i.e., new media. If each union sent in reps together; to strike a deal with the AMPTP.......maybe all three union contracts could be done in one-fell-swoop. Like I said , I'm dreaming. This strike is heartbreaking for everyone hurting. Welcome to the new world of global corporations. Work hard and be paid as low as possible.
As for the award shows, bfd- too many people are out of work to care about the "pretty party".

Geo Rule said...

It's posts like that which reenforce what I've felt all along. It was utterly necessary that someone be willing to be "bad cop", and WGA has done a service to all the guilds/unions be stepping up and fulfilling that role. If AMPTP does make a deal with DGA that everyone can live with, and then comes out and says "See, it was just those wild-eyed radicals at WGA that we couldn't work with", so what? If that's the face saver they need, then no problem. . . everyone who counts will know the real truth.

Captain Obvious said...

Everyone with a part to play in the creative process, all across the spectrum, has a stake in the outcome of this struggle; whether they know it or not.

We truly are all in this together.

I'm pleased to have been a part of this important event, tragic though it often was and is. It fills me with pride to consider many of you my friends, colleagues, and comrades-in-arms.

The community we've built here over the past few months has been nothing less than inspiring. As someone else has said; normally writers work alone or in small groups, in seclusion, and we rarely find an opportunity to congregate. The AMPTP has inadvertently provided us with just such an opportunity. As we've come together we've grown ever-stronger. Most of us have taken the creative energies we normally expend on our favorite projects and focused them on fighting this fight. It has been nothing short of amazing. It has been nothing less than beautiful.

I love you all, I really do.
Thank you.
Thank you for being creative.
Thank you for bringing your imaginations to life.
Thank you for inspiring countless fans to take up arms in an effort to return you to your rightful place in their lives.

I hope we can continue to build and enjoy this vibrant community of creative souls long, long after the ink has dried.

hollarback said...

I agree that now was the right time to go out on strike. Painful, but waiting would have weakened everyone's hand.If the WGA waited until summer the strike would be doomed as they wold have stockpiled enough to watch us all starve on the lines. All of the unions would have suffered even more than we are now.

Had to be done, and most people are getting the reasoning now, despite the talk coming from the trolls and paid flunky types.

Richard Gadsden said...

Is it just me who thinks that a WGA member ought to know the difference between principals and principles?