A union representing thousands of film and television directors reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract with Hollywood studios on Sunday morning, a deal that would ensure labor peace with a major guild as the writers’ strike enters its sixth week.
In a statement overnight, the Directors Guild of America announced “unprecedented gains,” including improvements in remuneration and streaming residuals (a type of royalty) and security around artificial intelligence.
“We have concluded a truly historic agreement,” John Avnet, chairman of the DGA’s negotiating team, said in the statement. “This provides significant improvements for every director, assistant director, unit production manager, associate director and stage manager in our guild.”
The deal avoids a doomsday Hollywood scenario where three major unions go on strike at the same time. On Wednesday, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of the studios, will begin negotiations for a new contract with SAG-AFTRA, the guild that represents actors; Their current contract expires on June 30. SAG-AFTRA is in the process of gathering a strike authorization vote.
The entertainment industry will be closely watching what the directors’ contract — and actors’ negotiations — do with the Writers Guild of America, the union that represents writers. More than 11,000 writers went on strike in early May, halting many Hollywood productions.
In the past month, writers have experienced a wave of solidarity from other unions that WGA leaders say they haven’t seen in generations. Whether a director’s deal — or a potential cast deal later this month — will unite is now an open question.
WGA executives signaled to writers last weekend that a deal with the directors might be over, which the studio said was part of the “playbook” to “divide and conquer.” The writers and studios walked away from the bargaining table on May 1, far from the main issues, and have not resumed negotiations.
“They pretended they could not negotiate with the WGA in May because of negotiations with the DGA,” the WGA negotiating team told writers in an email Thursday. “That’s a lie. It’s a choice they’ve made in hopes of breathing life into a divide-and-conquer strategy. The essence of the strategy is to make deals with a few unions and tell the rest. It’s gaslighting, and it only works if the unions are split.
“Our position is clear: To resolve the strike, the companies must negotiate with the WGA on our entire agenda,” the email continued.
Representatives for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers declined to comment.
Writers and directors shared some priorities, including concerns about salaries, streaming residuals and artificial intelligence. WGA leaders have said the studios have offered no more than “annual meetings” to discuss artificial intelligence and have refused to negotiate over the guards. The TGA said on Sunday it had “reached a landmark agreement confirming that AI is not a person and cannot replace AI that creates duties performed by members.”
However, the demands of some writers are more complex than those of directors. WGA leaders described the dispute in urgent terms, calling the moment “existential” and saying the studios “seem intent on continuing their efforts to destroy the writing industry.”
Despite the explosion of television production over the past decade, writers say their pay has stagnated and their working conditions have worsened. In addition to improvements in compensation, writers are seeking greater job security and minimum staffing in writers’ rooms.
The WGA has vowed to fight back. The writers, who went on a 100-day strike 15 years ago, have historically united.
Chris Keyser, chairman of the WGA bargaining team, said in a video message to writers last week that “we are bound by alliances with our sister associations and unions.” “They give us strength. But we are strong enough. We were always strong enough to get the deal we needed using only writer power.