Will Directors Share Secret Strike Knowledge With Writers?

The Writer’s Guild of America and the Director’s Guild of America jointly announced today they “will meet shortly to discuss new media, including what the DGA has developed from its research and studies.”

Normally we’d chalk this up to a non-news press release sent out in lieu of anything else to say: Two unions are meeting! But it is interesting that Gil Cates, the chief negotiator for the DGA, told the NYT this morning that his union was in better shape than the writers’ because his guys had done their homework.

Mr. Cates said he believed that the directors, who have sunk almost $2 million into research and consultants, would be coming to the table with the kind of data that would create a real baseline for negotiations — not Hollywood maths, which is as ineffable as the celebrity economy, but actual numbers.

“We have spent 18 months preparing for this, researching what the new models will be, what electronic sell-through is going to be, how long the DVD market will stay on its current plateau and when it will go away altogether,” he said. “We have put in a fortune of time and a fortune of money to prepare for this. Directors are trained to move forward.”

We find it hard to believe that the DGA’s “research and consultants”, expensive as they may be, really function as a crystal ball, or a baseline, or whatever. But if sharing this stuff with the WGA helps get the strike resolved, we’re all for it.

Meanwhile, former WGA attorney Jonathan Handel has proposed the writers, directors and actors collaborate on a “tri-guild” New Media Adjustment Committee to revise digital compensation schemes on a quarterly, even monthly basis as business models evolve.

He also suggests the WGA dump its demands on reality and animation to get the talks restarted. The studios would never accept WGA control over reality; that would mean in three years, when the next contract ends, the WGA could truly bring the entertainment business to a halt.

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