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Directors promise fight with studios over pay and safety in contract talks

Little gold director's chairs.
The Directors Guild of America Award for outstanding directorial achievement.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
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Hollywood’s directors have given studios their first warning that they face a fight over pay next year.

The Directors Guild of America, which has more than 19,000 members, promised they would battle producers for higher streaming residuals, wage increases as well as improved safety measures in the next round of contract negotiations.

The DGA’s current contract expires on June 30. The contracts for writers and actors also expire next year, setting the stage for a turbulent year of bargaining in Hollywood at a time of rapid shifts in the entertainment industry.

“This promises to be an extremely challenging negotiating environment — one of the most difficult and complicated we have faced in many years,” the DGA’s negotiations chair Jon Avnet and National Executive Director Russell Hollander said in a statement. “This will not be an ordinary negotiation.”

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The industry and its economic model has changed radically since the DGA negotiated its last contract in 2020. Most of the studios have since launched streaming platforms, and production workers face head winds of inflation and possible recession, which has already triggered layoffs.

Unions across the film and TV industry have been pushing for a bigger share of streaming profits as more of the content they produce appears online and theatrical releases have become less important.

“We are ready for negotiations and, if necessary, we are prepared for a fight,” Avnet and Hollander said to their members.

Among their top priorities, union leaders said they want to increase the residuals they receive from streaming platforms based on “real world, global values”; push for higher wages that account for inflation; secure the union’s health and pension plans; and boost protections for television directors. The DGA said its chief goals also include increasing diversity and safety on sets and pressing for greater transparency from their employers.

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SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America will also be in talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers next year to secure new contracts. SAG-AFTRA’s contract also expires June 30.

The WGA’s contract expires a month earlier. Writers nearly staged a walkout in 2020, but a production shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic weakened the union’s leverage to call a strike.

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