The union representing thousands of film and television directors reached a tentative agreement with Hollywood studios on a three-year contract early Sunday morning, a deal that guarantees a labor peace with one major union as the writers’ strike entered its sixth week.
The Directors Guild of America announced in a statement overnight that it had made “unprecedented gains,” including improvements in pay and tailings flow (a kind of royalty), as well as guardrails around AI.
“We’ve struck a truly historic deal,” John Avnet, chairman of the DGA’s negotiating committee, said in the statement. “It provides significant improvement to every director, assistant director, unit production manager, associate director, and stage manager in our union.”
The deal prevents the Hollywood doomsday scenario of three major unions striking simultaneously. On Wednesday, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which is negotiating on behalf of the studios, will begin negotiations for a new contract with SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents actors; Their current agreement expires on June 30th. SAG-AFTRA is in the process of gathering the vote on permission to strike.
The entertainment industry will be looking closely at what a directors’ deal – and actors’ negotiations – will mean for the Writers Guild of America, the union that represents writers. More than 11,000 writers went on strike in early May, shutting down many Hollywood productions.
Over the past month, writers have enjoyed a wave of solidarity from other unions that WGA leaders say they haven’t seen in generations. Whether a director’s deal – or a possible cast deal later this month – undermines that solidarity is now an open question.
WGA leaders were signaling to writers late last week that a deal with the principals might be imminent, a strategy it said was part of the studio’s “playbook” to “divide and rule.” The writers and studios left the negotiating table on May 1 so far apart on major issues, they never resumed negotiations.
“They pretended they couldn’t negotiate with the WGA in May because of the negotiations with the DGA,” the WGA negotiation committee told the writers in an email Thursday. “That’s a lie. It’s a choice they made in the hopes of breathing life into a divide-and-conquer strategy. The essence of the strategy is to make deals with some guilds and tell the rest of whatever is there. It’s gassed, and it only works if the guilds are divided.
“Our position is clear: To resolve the strike, companies will have to negotiate with the WGA about our full agenda,” the email continued.
Representatives for the Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance declined to comment.
The writers and directors shared some priorities, including wages, tailings flow, and concerns about artificial intelligence. WGA leaders said the studios only offered “annual meetings to discuss” AI, and that they refused to compromise on the firewalls. The DGA said on Sunday that it had received “groundbreaking agreement affirming that AI is not a person and that generative AI cannot replace tasks performed by members.”
However, some of the writers’ demands are more complex than those of the directors. WGA leaders described the conflict in urgent terms, describing the moment as “existential”, and saying that the studios “seemed intent on continuing their efforts to destroy the writing profession”.
Despite the proliferation of television production over the past decade, writers said their wages had stagnated and their working conditions had deteriorated. In addition to improvements in compensation, writers seek greater job security, as well as minimal staffing of writers’ rooms.
The WGA vowed to keep fighting. Historically, the writers, who last went on strike 15 years ago and for 100 days, have been united.
“We are surrounded by an alliance of trade unions and sister unions,” WGA Negotiation Committee Chair Chris Keyser said in a video message to the writers last week. “They give us strength. But we are strong enough. We have always been strong enough to get the deal we need using the writer’s power alone.”
“Communicator. Music aficionado. Certified bacon trailblazer. Travel advocate. Subtly charming social media fanatic.”