Hollywood directors talk with studios in a bid to end writers' strike
The union representing Hollywood directors said it would begin contract talks on Saturday with studios in a move that could affect the ongoing strike by writers.
The announcement was made in a brief joint statement by the Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
No further details were released. Both sides said they would have no further comment.
A quick deal by directors could undercut the bargaining power of writers by serving as an industry template for the central issue of new media compensation.
The directors guild said late last year that it would delay the start of talks to give writers a chance to come to an agreement with studios.
But directors, known for conducting early and efficient talks, clearly lost patience after negotiations between the writers and studios broke off on December 7 and the strike dragged on.
The writers guild did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment on the start of talks on Saturday.
Earlier this week, Jeff Hermanson, assistant executive director of the Writers Guild of America, West, cautioned against expecting directors to be compliant in negotiations.
"They're going to be cautious here and I doubt they're going to be as easy to deal with as in the past," said Hermanson, citing the complexity of the "epoch-making issues facing us and facing them."
A series of preliminary meetings between the directors union and the heads of some major studios were held in recent weeks to lay the groundwork for the negotiations.
The guild had said those discussions were a prerequisite for talks to begin.
Directors have only gone on strike once. That walkout in 1987 lasted just five minutes on the West Coast, and because of the time difference, three hours and five minutes in the East.
Both sides in the two-month writers strike have said the central issue is compensation for programs, movies and other content streamed or downloaded over the Internet.
That issue also could dominate studio negotiations with directors and the Screen Actors Guild. The contracts of both those unions expire in June.
The directors guild has spent nearly $2 million (Dh7.3 million) to research new media issues and the potential revenue from digital distribution through the next decade. Studios have said it is premature to put a value on emerging new media.
"We're trying to get a handle on the future," Gil Cates, negotiations chair for the directors guild, said in a previous interview.
He also said a media blackout would be in place during the negotiations with studios.
The start of talks between directors and studios was lauded by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the guild that represents 50,000-plus TV and movie stagecraft workers who have been affected by the writers strike.
"I hope that the DGA and the WGA can reach an agreement that puts us all on the road to getting back to work," stage employees guild president Thomas C. Short said in a statement.
Meanwhile, independent film company The Weinstein Co. said a deal with the writers guild that would allow the resumption of production was still pending.
The deal was said to be similar to the one signed by Worldwide Pants to allow David Letterman's late night TV talk show to return with union writers.
A spokesman for The Weinstein Co. said there was a delay in finalizing the agreement by Friday, as previously planned. (AP)
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