Hollywood directors and studios plan contract talks

Fri Jan 11, 2008 9:02pm EST
 
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By Steve Gorman and Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The union representing Hollywood directors has agreed to open formal contract talks with major film and television studios on Saturday in a move seen as a potential blow to striking screenwriters.

The announcement of a start date follows two weeks of informal discussions between the Directors Guild of America and the studios' bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, aimed at laying the groundwork for official bargaining.

In a joint statement, the Directors Guild and studios said talks would start at the AMPTP headquarters and the two sides would not comment to the media until negotiations concluded.

The DGA, whose contract covering 13,000 members expires on June 30, is widely seen as less militant than the writers' union and more likely to reach a deal quickly with the studios, one that could undermine the writers' bargaining position.

There was no immediate comment from the Writers Guild of America, which launched its strike against the studios on November 5 in a dispute that has centered on how writers should be paid for work distributed over the Internet.

Talks aimed at ending the walkout by 10,500 WGA members collapsed in acrimony on December 7, with no further talks in sight. Since then, much of U.S. TV production has ground to a halt while major movie projects have been derailed and year-end Hollywood awards ceremonies have been canceled or scaled back.

OSCARS SHOW UNCERTAINTY

One of the DGA's chief negotiators is Gil Cates, who also is producer of next month's Oscars show, an event whose fate has been left uncertain by the threat of WGA pickets.   Continued...

 
<p>A picket sign from the Writers Guild of America is seen as members protest in front of NBC studios in Burbank, California January 2, 2008. The union representing Hollywood directors has agreed to open formal contract talks with major film and television studios on Saturday in a move seen as a potential blow to striking screenwriters. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>