Directors Guild, studios reach contract deal

Thu Jan 17, 2008 9:40pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Hollywood directors' union reached a contract deal with major film and TV studios on Thursday in a move likely to renew momentum for settling a 10-week-old writers strike that has crippled the industry and clouded the year-end Oscar season.

The studios' tentative three-year labor pact with the Directors Guild of America (DGA) includes provisions to pay union members more for work distributed over the Internet -- a key sticking point in stalled contract talks with the writers.

But leaders of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which has been on strike since November 5, said they needed to analyze terms of the DGA agreement before deciding whether they could serve as template for their own settlement.

The directors' deal came five days after contract talks began, following weeks of informal discussions with the studios -- and months of economic research by the union -- to lay the groundwork for official negotiations.

The studios' bargaining arm, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, immediately invited the Writers Guild to engage in a similar round of "informal discussions ... to determine whether there is a reasonable basis for returning to formal bargaining."

The last round of WGA negotiations collapsed on December 7 when the writers' union refused studios' demand to withdraw several of its proposals as a condition for continued bargaining.

WGA West President Patric Verrone said he welcomed the latest olive branch extended by the studios, but added, "They walked away from the table."

"Ultimately, to put this town back to work, we have to make a deal that ends the strike," he told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>Signs are piled up at the end of a rally of striking members of the Writers Guild of America, West in Hollywood, California November 20, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>