01/13/2008 11:58 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

WGA Strike Primer: The Directors Call 'Action'

The Directors Guild officially sat down with the AMPTP corporations on Saturday to begin their contract talks.

All good wishes to them for much success.

Perhaps this will allow the AMPTP corporations to save the face they've been looking for after walking away from the table with the writers. Signing deals with United Artists, the Weinstein Company and Worldwide Pants made clear that the Writers Guild's requests are plainly fair and reasonable enough for these notable companies to agree with. But after the AMPTP stomped off, it's likely been difficult for them to return. (It shouldn't be, the WGA would happily welcome them and even bring a nice deli platter.) What the DGA provides is a way out for the proud, obstinate Men of the AMPTP Corporations.

"We couldn't make a deal with those obnoxious writers, but see! Here's how you make a deal with reasonable people!"

Hey, if that's what it takes to get a good, fair deal, count the WGA in. If the Writers Guild has to be the bad cop to the DGA's good, swell. A good deal is a good deal, and writers will gladly take it. Wherever it comes from. Writers might be annoying and belligerent, but they are used to spending their careers being accommodating. ("No, it doesn't have to be a Great White Whale; it could absolutely be a giraffe." "Sure, their names don't have to be Butch and Sundance -- Sparky and Mike would be just as good." "Yes, we can easily change the Mother Theresa character. A hot, 25-year-old babe works much better, and of course her string-bikini top would fall off.")

Look, if you want to give the DGA all credit for the worldwide attention writers brought to New Media, go ahead. Writers are used to that, too. Call it A Movie Deal by Alan Smithee. Not a problem. The only thing that matters is a good deal.

But it must be a good deal.


The Directors Guild doesn't have a good track record on this. After all, they pride themselves in being accommodating. That's great for dinner parties, less good for improving labor conditions. In its entire history, the DGA has struck once -- and that was for five minutes. (There are rumors that it wasn't really a strike, but that the messenger got lost and didn't deliver the O.K. in time.) In fact, in the mid-1980s, it was the directors negotiation that infamously dropped residuals for home video by 80%, which is why all artists now get that pathetic four cents per DVD. The man who headed up that crack DGA negotiation was Gil Cates... the same accommodating fellow heading up the team today. Here's hoping he's learned from that ghastly mistake. Here's hoping the Writers Guild focused so much attention on how critical New Media is for the future existence of all guilds that even Mr. Cates can cross his arms and tell the AMPTP corporations, "Guys, you don't get it -- you have to make a real offer. Or we're letting the Writers Guild back at you."

If the DGA can use everything that's been handed them for the Forces of Good, and a fair deal is reached, then the Writers Guild will joyously accept it, as well, and the strike will be over. But what the DGA can't do is decide to once again be accommodating and sell out its own members' future, not to mention the rest of Hollywood's, merely because it wants to be seen as "people who can make a deal." The trick is making a good deal.

A bad deal by the directors will backfire on them badly. A bad deal will not be accepted by writers, not will it be accepted by actors. Which means the DGA will have its deal but no movies or TV to make. And when the WGA and SAG eventually do get their deals with a fair, reasonable coverage in New Media, which eventually they will, the directors will be stuck with their accommodating one.

But -

This year may well be different. This year the stars are lined up for the DGA and Gil Cates to actually get a good deal. There's far too much money at stake for the AMPTP corporations not to settle soon. The writers and actors have given protection to the directors on either side. The DGA has spent $2 million studying New Media and seems to understand its importance of its members future. The AMPTP not making a deal with the DGA means writers, directors and actors would end up all on strike together. And so, there is every realistic expectation that the Directors Guild, as reasonable people who makes deals, will tell the AMPTP corporations that a good, fair, reasonable deal must be made.

Good luck to them. May they have the greatest, most wonderful success. Godspeed.

Just be sure to lock the door so that those AMPTP people on the other side of the table can't leave...

Read more strike coverage on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.