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DGA STRIKE--SHORT BUT SWEET

Times Staff Writer

The “Strike-to-Shut-Down-Hollywood” closed within minutes of its 6 a.m. curtain time Tuesday.

Someone in a passing car shouted the news to picketing members of the Directors Guild of America in Burbank.

But the response from the advance guard of 90 or more guild members and supporters from other unions who marched for about 30 minutes on Olive Avenue in front of the Burbank Studios was immediate.

“I’m elated,” said Gary Eppert, a tall, placard-carrying free-lance director, who greeted the news of the strike against Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros. and NBC with shouts, handshakes and expressions of hope that this latest labor-management dispute might signal a turning point for other film and television industry unions.

“We’ve been informed that they settled everything except CBS and ABC,” said Lee Rafner, a DGA member, after hearing the details of the settlement from guild negotiating committee members who arrived at the picket site about 6:40.

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“The producers association essentially capitulated and has withdrawn all the offensive take-backs,” Rafner said.

The last round of negotiations on separate contracts for the major television networks and more than 200 movie and television producers represented by the Alliance for Motion Picture and Television Producers had resumed Monday night--after producers threatened directors with an industry-wide lockout.

NBC had reached a tentative agreement with the guild at about 2:30 a.m. (PDT) in New York. The network was never formally struck. (See accompanying article.)

(For the record, the two sides couldn’t agree on exactly how long the strike lasted. Rick Clausen, a spokesman for guild said, the strike lasted about 12 minutes, adding that it ". . . was all over by 6:12 a.m.”

(Carol Akiyama, a senior alliance vice president, claims it was more like a 5-minute work stoppage. “You accepted our offer at 6:05 a.m.” Akiyama jokingly told Clausen in a brief exchange at the alliance offices in Sherman Oaks before the settlement was announced.)

But even as a full-page ad in Tuesday’s editions of the Hollywood Reporter brashly proclaimed “On Strike,” the picketing guild members were already confident that they had withstood the lockout warning delivered by CBS and the alliance.

“Let’s face it,” said Phil Bondelli, a free-lance director, expansively, “it was a power play.

“My feeling is, this is the first time in 51 years (since the guild’s founding) to have this kind of show of strength,” Bondelli continued. “I personally believe they (the producers) didn’t feel we would all unite. But it happened.”

Expressions of solidarity from Local 399 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the apparent willingness of the various groups within the guild--directors, as well as lower-paid assistant directors and production managers--to walk out over the issue of movie and television program rebroadcast residuals proved too much for the 200 members of the alliance, others said.

A second wave of about 100 guild members never got to disembark from their chartered school buses because they got to the Burbank Studios after the strike had been called off.

Patty Duke, president of the Screen Actors Guild, was present for the short-lived strike. She left after a few moments to drive the few blocks to Walt Disney Studios. There she joined her union’s striking cartoon voice actors, who have been on strike since June 17.

“The same way you get strike fever going you can get settlement fever going, too,” Duke said. “So far, we’ve had a lot of long sessions (in the animation strike) without any progress. Maybe this will help.”

Still, even as the DGA members were packing up their picket signs, just blocks away at the offices and studios of NBC, disappointment was on the minds of members of the National Assn. of Broadcast Employees and Technicians.

Tuesday marked the 18th day of their strike against the top-rated network.

“I’m glad they got what they wanted, but we needed their support,” said one striking video editor who asked not to be identified. “They went out for 30 minutes and we are going to be out for three months.”

Pointing at a trucker driving past the NABET picket line, another union member lamented that his fellow 2,800 strikers have not been able to win the support of the powerful Teamsters union that the directors apparently did.

“We are kind of disappointed because I think (a guild strike) would have helped us,” said Jo Emprey, a network video news editor.

For guild directors such as Gaeme Clifford, the settlement provided the green light for completing a feature film, “Gleaming the Cube,” for Gladden Entertainment.

“I start today,” Clifford said. “I am back in pre-production. We begin shooting Aug. 31, so there’s a lot of work to do immediately. I have made a lot of decisions (about casting), but we couldn’t make the deals because we didn’t know when we would start.”

Times Staff Writers Jack Mathews, Michael Cieply and Times intern Craig Quintana contributed to this story.


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