1/10/2008

DGA Not Giving In to Congloms

Today's Los Angeles Times talks about "Directors Guild Talks Intensifying" -- and it's a fascinating article.

First off, it points out the the DGA always has "informal talks" before their main negotiations -- and in these informal talks, all the parameters of the deal are worked out so that when formal negotiations begin, they can go quickly and smoothly.

This time, it's apparently not so smooth.

In their current talks, directors are said to be frustrated over what the studios have indicated they would offer them in the area of Internet residuals, according to several people briefed on the discussions who declined to be named because of the confidentiality of the talks."Anybody who thought this was going to be a cakewalk for either side was mistaken," one said. "These are tough issues that have to be hammered out."

And I keep saying it: We aren't the problem. The AMPTP is the problem.

What we've done, and continue to do, is making a difference in those back-channel discussions. The WGA strike -- and SAG's firm support behind us -- have given the DGA leverage that they never would otherwise have had.

Much is made of the DGA's role as "peacemaker" in the town -- the union that can get people back to work. I fervently hope that they do. There's every chance the moguls will offer the DGA a decent deal eventually (when they realize they can't bully them into anything else) and then the congloms will trumpet how the strike was all for nothing, and they would happily have given the WGA the same deal if we'd only been "reasonable" before.

And that's just fine with me. Because all I care about is a fair deal for Internet work. But at the moment, it doesn't look like the DGA is being any more "reasonable" than we were -- they don't want to work for free either, or see their health and pension gutted as new work moves to the Internet.

With NBC publicly crowing about $1 billion in estimated ad revenue for digital (which includes streaming) this year alone, the conglom's assertion that they can only afford to pay writers $250 a year for their work is looking a little unreasonable. And apparently it does to directors as well.

And the article answers the question I hear people ask a lot: if the DGA takes a deal that doesn't address our Internet concerns, is the WGA bound to it? The answer is NO.

Hollywood has a history of "pattern bargaining," in which the first contract settled between one of the talent unions and the studios become the template for subsequent contracts.However, there is no guarantee the writers or actors will automatically approve the deal negotiated by directors.

Translation: pattern bargaining doesn't guarantee that whatever the DGA takes, we all have to take. And that's good: it gives the DGA power to tell the congloms that they'll only take a deal they know can end the strike.

Because that's what they want too. We all want to go back to work -- the directors, the actors, the writers, and the studios as well:

The writers strike has given DGA chief negotiator Cates and Executive Director Roth considerable leverage with the studios, which are eager to end a strike that has imperiled the current and upcoming television seasons and thrown Hollywood's awards season into disarray.

Let's hope that the DGA can get the moguls to listen. Or at least give them a way to save face.

All we want, all the town wants, is a fair deal.

11 comments:

hollarback said...

So.... how exactly do they intend to make movies without scripts actors or directors?

Geo Rule said...

Mwahaha. Go DGA, go!

I've always thought that if AMPTP was really worried about the short term, that it was easy enough to make a deal where internet residuals kick in, say, in year three.

But the thing is, a reasonable deal is always in reach when reasonable people sit down with the determination to make one.

This isn't about being reasonable, or even moderately cautious in the near term, for AMPTP. It's about achieving another 20 year screwing of the writers much like the DVD screwing. Until they give up on that dream, no progress is possible.

jimmy said...

I'd be careful of blurring "digital" and "streaming" as the same thing. $1 billion in digital is not all streaming.

I'm sure it includes all revenue from their websites, including online DVD and merchandise sales, downloads, and other things that are not "streaming."

The thing is, it doesn't matter if the streaming number is only like $250 million. It ain't zero. That's the point.

But by overstating the number by using the wrong definition, you open yourselves up to be called "misinformed" and "incorrect" and all the stuff that still doesn't change the fact that they are projecting to make millions and millions of dollars on the very thing they are claiming needs more study before they pay the people helping to make the products they will sell for those millions.

Just a thought.

Laeta Kalogridis said...

Good point, jimmy. I'll fix it right now.

We're hamstrung by the fact that they congloms won't give us any real numbers -- which is the way Hollywood accounting works over all platforms, not just digital -- so we find ourselves having to guess at what the real #s are. But you're right, I misstated, and it's bad to confuse the two. Thanks!

WGA/DGA/SAG member said...

Can this now end the constant ridiculous comments I've had to hear on the picket lines from day one that the DGA is going to cave and "get a crappy deal"?

We're all in this together and we always have been. So, let's stop accusing each other and concentrate on the real enemy in all this - the AMPTP.

Charlie said...

I just posted here yesterday that if you don't hear from the DGA by the end of the week that talks with AMPTP are beginning on a set date, there would be cause for concern because they are far apart which would not be good for the WGA or SAG. As I said a couple of weeks ago, the studios will implement Force Majeure within the next two weeks and go to the table with the DGA just after that.

The AMPTP is intentionally stalling for a couple of reasons.

MrKlaatu said...

We keep mentioning the $250/year offer. It's even worse than that. It's $139 for half-hour episodes, zero for films, and zero for everything if they want to call it promotional.

In all articles, we should say that they have yet to offer us any money for the Internet, which, with that promotional clause, is true.

Evan Waters said...

There's something vaguely comforting about knowing that the AMPTP are being jackasses when it comes to everybody, not just the writers.

As much gets said about the WGA's tactics and jurisdictional issues and so on, I think this makes it clear that it wasn't reality or animation that stalled the talks, it was and is the fact that the AMPTP just does not want to budge on this. Not for the writers, not for the directors, probably not for the actors either.

Which means that they're not just trying to break the WGA but the DGA as well, and that makes their job harder.

JimBob said...

Evan, I think maybe you give THEM too much credit. What they're doing now is a clusterfuck, not a strategy. The sure-fire battle plan Nick Counter laid out for them hasn't worked and doesn't look like it's GOING to work, so now we're down to raw egos. Trying to break the unions? Maybe, but not because it's a good business plan -- because they're angry kids who want to break some toys. At some point we can only hope they'll wake up, grow up and realize that the only way to get their businesses back on track is to save as much face as they can while making a fair deal with us. That's why I don't like all the mocking and nose-thumbing (t-shirts about some high-school comment an executive made..?). Let's let them save a little face, tell them they're our partners, our brethren and cistern. That'll do more to budge this thing off top dead center than making fun of their unfortunate statemnents.

Cyber said...

I was reading a post about the internet being 'more valuable than we may think', and then something clicked in my mind:

*Months* ago, Microsoft released the plans for technology that would allow people to watch tv from all around the world over the internet (and right on their living room tv set). This would not allow people to watch normal television as they do now, but tv channels from just about anywhere in the world -including making their own channel that airs content right from their home.

Now reports say that because of the amount of traffic on the internet, within the next 5 years it will become too much for the 'Internet Service Providers' (ISPs) to handle, and the internet would crawl to the same speed as the old days of 56k dial-up (in other words, *Really* slow). However, this would bring global economy to a crawl, and the outcry from business alone would motivate ISPs to upgrade their servers to handle the traffic load. Which can easily be done with 64bit processors (which recently came out).

The result? The internet should be able to handle -with no problem- the type of technology Microsoft currently has at it's disposal. Apple, I do believe, has something similar cooking.

Then we have the fact that many big corporations are global (like McDonalds and Wal-Mart, to name a few). As I understand it, networks charge these big companies a certain amount of money for ads while promising a certain number of viewers.

Now provided the law allows this, think of how much money a network could get in ad revenue from global viewing. Remember also that English is a global language, and that many people in non-English countries have a good grasp of English from using the internet alone. Also keep in mind that many countries (especially in the East) have large populations. China holds a 3rd of the world's population, and Japan is overcrowded. Then we have South Korea. English-speaking nations would include the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, etc. Just about everywhere the internet is popular, there is a potential viewing market.

Then we also have accessibility: Many people right now watch shows recorded by someone, turned into a torrent, and illegally available for download by the rest of the world. People also wouldn't have to choose between watching a show on one channel or another because -unlike the tv- the internet can very easily allow for picking which episode to watch any time during the time frame in which that episode is available. It pretty much renders time-shifting obsolete. Which means potential new viewers who either could not -or chose not to- watch a perticular show in favour of another or in favour of a different activity. With this technology, people could watch pretty much what they want when they want.

Conclusion: If the content creators don't get a fair deal on the internet and dvd sales, within a few years they may get barely any pay at all while the companies role in dough.

Amanda said...

Sadly, they are ALREADY getting barely any pay while the companies roll in dough!