LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood directors said on Thursday they will seek to start contract talks with major film studios in January, giving striking screenwriters more 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 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 settles its dispute.
Talks between the studios and the writers 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.
In a letter to members, Directors Guild President Michael Apted and negotiations chair Gil Cates said they will wait until January 1 to see if the Writers Guild renews its own talks with the studios’ bargaining entity, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.
“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.
“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.
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 The AMPTP said in a statement it expects the discussions with directors to be a difficult process.
“All of us — producers, directors, writers and everyone working in the entertainment business — need to get this right, because in the rapidly evolving new media marketplace, there is little margin for error,” the group said.
The Writers Guild said in a statement: “The DGA has to do what is best for its membership, and we will do what is best for ours. Our strike will end when the companies return to negotiations and make a fair deal with the Writers Guild of America.”
The WGA also filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the studios’ bargaining entity, accusing it of refusing to negotiate in good faith.