LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood directors said on Thursday they would delay opening contract talks with major film studios until at least January to give striking screenwriters time to restart their own stalled negotiations.
Industry watchers believe the launch of Directors Guild of America contract talks would undermine the position of striking writers because the directors are widely regarded as less militant and more likely to reach a deal acceptable to the studios.
Last week more than 300 writer-directors, including Sean Penn, Ed Zwick and Lawrence Kasdan, signed a letter to leaders of the Directors Guild urging them not open negotiations with the studios until the Writers Guild of America (WGA) settles its dispute.
Talks between the studios and the WGA collapsed in acrimony last week, dashing hopes for a speedy end to a strike by 10,500 screenwriters that began November 5. The walkout has crippled the TV industry, derailed several high-profiled movies and left thousands of production workers in Hollywood out of work.
No further talks have yet been scheduled.
The Directors Guild, whose current contract covering some 13,000 members expires on June 30, has a history of concluding labor agreements with the industry months in advance.
But in a letter to members on Thursday, DGA president Michael Apted and negotiations chair Gil Cates said they will wait until January 1 to see if the WGA renews its own talks with the studios' bargaining entity, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP).
"Although the DGA has a long history of early negotiations, this year we held off starting our own formal talks with the AMPTP for two months out of respect for our sister guild," Apted and Cates wrote.
They said they were deeply disappointed by the breakdown of screenwriters' talks, with no end to the strike in sight.
"Because we want to give the WGA and the AMPTP more time to return to the negotiating table to conclude an agreement, the DGA will not schedule our negotiations to begin until after the New Year, and then, only if an appropriate basis for negotiations can be established," they said.
"If that's the case, then the DGA will commence formal talks in the hope that a fresh perspective and the additional pressure we can bring to bear will help force the AMPTP to settle the issues before us in a fair and reasonable manner."
A Writers Guild spokesman declined immediate comment.