The Directors Guild of America (DGA) announced this weekend a tentative deal with Hollywood’s bargaining representative for studio companies.
The agreement, which aims to gradually improve wages and establish guardrails for union members against artificial intelligence replacement, could avert an expansion of a strike that is rocking the film industry.
In a news release, DGA union officials touted “unprecedented gains” in the prospective three-year collective-bargaining deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which negotiates virtually all industry-wide guild and union contracts for hundreds of producers in the entertainment industry.
“We have concluded a truly historic deal,” said Jon Avnet, chairman of the DGA’s Negotiations Committee. “It provides significant improvements for every Director, Assistant Director, Unit Production Manager, Associate Director and Stage Manager in our Guild.”
Avnet said the negotiations made advances on wages, streaming residuals, and creative rights while ensuring artificial intelligence would not replace the duties performed by the DGA’s 19,000 union members.
Although some “highlights” are included in the press release, DGA officials said they would release further details of the tentative agreement after submission to the Guild’s National Board for approval at a meeting scheduled for June 6.
The announcement comes about a month after Hollywood writers represented by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike when union officials failed to reach an agreement with Walt Disney Co., Netflix Inc., and other media companies while seeking higher wages and limits on the use of artificial intelligence.
Amid a shift to streaming services and dropping profits in cinema as well as television, WGA officials have cited the advent of artificial intelligence as a possible mechanism to increase work capacity for screenwriters, a phenomenon which could enable studios to decrease their headcounts and lead to calls from the union to regulate material produced with the technology.
This is an “existential” moment in the industry in which studio heads are “seemingly intent on continuing their efforts to destroy the profession of writing,” WGA leaders have said, according to The New York Times.
In an email sent last week, WGA leaders told writers that the emerging DGA deal amounted to a “divide and conquer” strategy “to make deals with some unions and tell the rest that’s all there is. It’s gaslighting, and it only works if unions are divided.” WGA negotiators also said companies will have to negotiate on the group’s “full agenda” in order to resolve the strike.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) has begun asking members to cast a ballot for a strike authorization vote in negotiating with AMPTP. The union begins negotiations for a new contract with SAG-AFTRA on Wednesday before its current agreement expires on June 30.
Ben Zeisloft contributed to this report.