EXCLUSIVE: With the clock ticking and writers out on the picket lines all over town, the Directors Guild of America and the studios are far from even the framework of a deal.
Two weeks into their negotiations, the Lesli Linka Glatter-led union and the Alliance of Motion Picture Producers and Television Producers haven’t “agreed on anything significant,” well-positioned sources say. Not entirely surprising at this juncture in the media-blacked-out talks, the reality of the situation extinguishes the rumor flying around town today that an agreement is close.
“There is a process, it takes time,” a high ranking DGA member told Deadline. “Everyone in the rooms is following [the process] in full knowledge of what’s happening on the picket lines.” Another DGA member added of the pickets and protests: “There’s a lot of noise outside, in front of the studios, but negotiators can’t get too caught up in all that. We have to stay focused, we have a lot of ground to cover before any agreement is in sight.”
In fact, having first sat down face-to-face on May 10, just over a week after the Writers Guild went out on strike on May 2, the DGA and AMPTP negotiating committees having been emphasizing a modular approach. After the initial meetings in the AMPTP’s Sherman Oaks offices, the two sides broke off into smaller sub-committees to spotlight particular topics of contention like “securing wage increases that address inflation,” as the guild made public its priorities earlier this month.
Neither the AMPTP nor the DGA responded to request for comment on the state of the talks.
Looking at the calendar, the Jon Avnet-chaired 80-member DGA negotiating committee and the Carol Lombardini-fronted AMPTP still have a fair amount of time to come to an agreement. The DGA’s current contract with the studios and producers expires on June 30.
Like almost all Hollywood guild talks, this one will likely come down to the final week to prove either successful or not. With the town and industry at an inflection point in this streaming era, there is always a possibility the generally more moderate DGA could join the more militant WGA on the picket lines. However, a DGA strike would be an even greater break with tradition than the Directors Guild giving up its first-place negotiations spot to the scribes earlier this year.
The now 19,000-member strong DGA last went on strike back when Ronald Reagan was in the White House. That LA 1987 labor action lasted for just three hours and 15 minutes on the East Coast (or five minutes less than the running time of Godfather II), and for 15 minutes on the West Coast before a new deal was struck with the studios.
Certainly, many in the WGA are looking anxiously to see where the DGA ends up. With not so recent history in mind, more than a few writers have said that a deal for the latter could prove a blow to the former as it did in the last scribes’ strike in 2008.
Residuals aside, there are many issues that differ this time round between what the WGA wants from the AMPTP and what the DGA is seeking. Still, the two guilds have been publicly very supportive of each other. A number of individual directors have taken to the picket lines with the writers over the past three weeks, and Avnet was onstage at the Shrine Auditorium for the WGA rally on May 3 with scribes’ brass and other union leadership such as Teamsters Local 399 boss Lindsay Dougherty.
Due to the architecture of Tinseltown labor talks, now that the AMPTP is negotiating with the DGA, they cannot officially engage in bartering with the WGA – not that the studios and the scribes were exactly beating down the doors to get back around the table after their five-week long talks ended in acrimony on the evening of May 1.
At the same time, while the DGA and the AMPTP have stayed silent during their negotiations, the guild has been very busy online.
The DGA posted this on Instagram on May 23 featuring some pretty high profile members expressing pride in being in the guild.
The DGA posted this on May 21, with tweets from Sen. Bernie Sanders and other politicians supporting the DGA at the bargaining table.
Flying the solidarity flag digitally, the guild also posted this on Instagram last week with members, including board member Ava DuVernay, expressing their pride in being a part of the guild.
David Robb contributed to this post.