Similarly, in contrast to writers, directors are known for their less combative approach to negotiations. "Directors make very tough deals with us but they're not as confrontational," the studio executive said.
Even before negotiations, directors have had an informal, ongoing dialogue with studios in the last year on a number of issues, including the changing economics of new media.
Like writers and actors, directors have voiced concerns about getting their fair share of revenue from digital downloads of shows and movies. Last year, the three unions criticized the ABC television network for using a controversial pay formula that applies to DVD sales for determining residuals on TV episodes sold through the Apple iTunes store.
"I don't think they're going to have an easy time of it," John Wells, writer-director ("ER" and "West Wing"), said of upcoming negotiations. "These are issues that affect all three guilds."
Still, directors may be willing to accept a lower rate for Internet residuals than writers want, analysts say. Typically, directors rely less on residuals than writers because of their higher initial pay. About 40% of the members are not directors but are unit production managers, assistant directors, associate directors and stage managers who get mostly small residual payments.
In previous negotiations, the union has put greater emphasis on getting increases in its health and pension plan. In 2004, for example, the guild negotiated the largest benefits package in its history, worth $60 million.
That enabled the writers to go in a few weeks later and get the same deal. Even so, writers complained that directors had undercut them by refusing to push for higher home video residuals. That formula gives writers about 4 cents for every DVD sold and has been a major source of friction between the unions dating to 1985.
Writers had been seeking a higher pay rate and felt undercut when directors agreed to the formula the year before. When the home video and DVD business boomed, writers thought they had been shortchanged.
Now, many writers feel a sense of deja vu. Striking writer-director Paul Haggis ("Crash") said he was not counting on the DGA to do the heavy lifting.
"The DGA has never been supportive of the WGA," he said. "But the writers will be fine being out there on their own."
Times staff writer John Horn contributed to this report.