Jonathan Handel: Hoping the DGA Will Play Peacemaker

Yesterday,, in his Los Angeles Times piece "DGA As Peacemaker", Jonathan Handel articulated the worries and hopes that many of us feel about the ongoing DGA negotiations with the corporations. In part, he points out that the concerns and constituency of the DGA are different from the WGA and SAG:

... the Directors Guild likely is more willing to trade off new-media residuals against other issues, such as larger base payments up front. Indeed, the studios would prefer to hike those minimums rather than increase residuals. That's because the first residuals deal negotiated often becomes a blueprint for the others -- it's called "pattern bargaining" -- but upfront minimums don't work that way. If the directors' deal were to become the contract template, each dollar of residuals the studios grant multiplies into more than $12 across all the unions' contracts.

If the DGA deal doesn't include terms that, via pattern bargaining, could provide a livable template for WGA and SAG, Handel points out "the stage is set for a disaster":

If the directors accept a lowball new-media deal, the Writers Guild and SAG may well reject it as a template, and pattern bargaining would break down. SAG's position would embolden the Writers Guild leadership to maintain the strike, despite pressure from some writers to end the walkout. Come June 30, when the actors deal expires, SAG would go on strike too.

But the DGA is uniquely positioned to keep this "all-out civil war" from happening.

There's an obvious way to avert this scorched-earth scenario: The directors have to insist on a deal that the writers and actors can live with, even to the point of threatening a strike of their own. That's a tough script to follow: It's hard to negotiate on someone else's behalf, and strikes are alien to the directors (they've only walked out once in seven decades, and that was for just five minutes).

But if the DGA negotiators pull it off, pieces start to fall into place. A good directors deal gives the writers and studios incentive to restart their own talks, which ended five weeks ago when the studios walked out. They could then close a deal on new media on the same terms as the directors, ending the strike. SAG would presumably do a similar deal, without ever striking.

Due to the press blackout, no one knows what's really happening in those negotiations at the moment. I think we're all frustrated, waiting and waiting with no real news (except the obvious observation that if the congloms are so easy and reasonable to work with, how come it's taking so long?) But we can hope, and continue hoping, that the DGA will use the leverage the strike has given them to hammer out a deal that starts us all on the road back to work.


Scott Goodwin said...

This author's position of "what's taking so long?" is silly, marring an otherwise well-written piece. The DGA has only been officially bargaining for a week. While I know everyone wants the producers to come forward with a decent offer (hell, coming forward period), the WGA talks broke down after six months of negotiating. As the UH writers have posted before, stay strong and let it take its course.

Geo Rule said...

I know there are some hyphenates around here, so I'll admit my tongue is partly in cheek when I say we need to be stroking those egos of the "Great White Fathers" at DGA and how they need to save the whole town from imploding . . . and a sell out won't get it done. I still believe in my heart that's obvious to them as well.

Staniel said...

Lets say the WGA finds the terms of the DGA deal acceptable; is there any guarantee that the producers will even extend this offer to the WGA?

My cynicism tells me the producers won't return to the table right away, leaving the WGA twisting in the wind as "punishment" for striking.

Skyfleur said...

Let's say you're right, staniel. Then, it means, they don't give a fig abut the Oscars. And I think we all know that a deal must be reached before the ceremony. Of course, nothing has hinted that SAG would boycott the Oscars like they did the GG. After all the GG can't be taken seriously with no real true foreign press journalists on its committee and the Oscars is a better window for actors to help their career but it is also a ceremony and actors mostly loathed them. They know it's a necessary event, they can't shun it but still they could boycott it.
If they boycott it, then what's the use ? Furthermore, Oscars are a boost for dvd sales and theatrical re-releases. Studios aren't that crazy, are they ?

Studios are already punishing writers and producers with force majeure. Punishing them more for exercising their true right would only be childish and backlash.

The Phone Call Is Coming From Inside The House said...

How is five days of negotiations long? Five WEEKS might be long. But I appreciate the information, so thank you.