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.