Hollywood’s labor wants a fair wage. As the WGA walks the picket lines outside the major studios, demanding the studio executives meet some kind of labor agreement that protects the livelihood of all writers in Hollywood, the Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA are entering negotiations on new contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. 

Similar to the WGA demands, the DGA and SAG-AFTRA are looking to strike a deal on streaming residuals. If you are curious about how much actors are currently making from streaming, check out our coverage on streaming residuals. With both contracts expiring on June 30th, there is a lot that creatives are going to fight for as the entire industry adjusts to the new landscape. 

While the actors’ fight is important to the industry, it is the DGA that could help resolve the writers’ strike. 

Let me explain. 

The DGA building in Los AngelesCredit: Michael Buckner for PMC

How Did the DGA Helped End the 2008 Writers’ Strike?

When the WGA went on strike 15 years ago, the DGA went into contract negotiations, leveraging the pressure on the industry-wide lockout that was in its third month. The DGA was able to find agreements that the WGA and AMPTP couldn’t agree on. The jurisdiction over the internet and a residual formula that was then known as “new media” helped end the exploitation of movies and TV shows for directors. 

The WGA used many of the same terms the DGA used in its 2008 contract, uniting and creating equality among the WGA, DGA, and SAG-AFTRA. 

However, this year’s strike is different. 

A still from 'The Hudsucker Proxy' (1994)'The Hudsucker Proxy'Credit: Warner Bros.

Could a Deal with the DGA End the Writers’ Strike? 

According to Variety, WGA members met on May 6th, 2023, and were told by union leaders that they should not expect a repeat of 2008 even if the DGA reaches an agreement. 

The reason why is simple: the WGA and DGA have very different agendas. Many of the issues the DGA is facing do not address the concerns of the WGA. This year, the DGA is focused on getting a better deal on international streaming residuals. 

“The bigger the SVOD platform domestically, the higher the residual,” the guild stated. “However, under our current formula, no matter how many millions of global subscribers a service might have, the Studios only pay you a fraction of the domestic residual to compensate you for all of the global audiences that enjoy your work. This effectively cuts you out of your fair share of the worldwide distribution and success of your work abroad.”

Variety reports that AMPTP president Carol Lombardini has already made an offer to writers on that issue, which could be a launching point for the DGA’s negotiations. 

“If I were in Carol’s shoes, I’d say ‘Let’s do DGA,'” said John McLean, former CBS labor relations executive, and a former WGA executive director. “If we can give them something in international, you go to the actors and then make a deal with them. That does put the Writers Guild in a tough spot.”

However, the DGA and SAG-AFTRA have gone out of their way to express solidarity with the writers, with the DGA’s Jon Avnet appearing on stage with WGA leaders at a unity rally on May 3rd. 

You might be wondering what would happen if the DGA went on strike, which is something we’ve been thinking a lot about, too. A DGA strike could shutter all scripted productions immediately – including film and TV – which could give writers more leverage. The likelihood of this strike happening is unlikely, with the DGA striking only once in 1987 for three hours and five minutes on the East Coast and just twelve minutes on the West Coast. 

With the DGA’s unity and solidarity with the WGA, I hope that the DGA uses its leverage in the industry to push for fair rights across the board for all creatives. The DGA should always put their guild-specific issues first, like on-set safety, diversity, and protecting directors’ creative control, but aiding other creatives who are essential pieces to creating entertainment and media should be supported at all times. 

“I think they understand that all of labor has to stand up and fight against these companies that really do want to minimize us as much as possible,” Ellen Stutzman, the WGA’s chief negotiator, told Variety while picketing outside Netflix in Hollywood on May 8. “And the fact is, they can’t make the content without any of us or all of us.”

This is the summer of strikes. Whether the DGA or SAG-AFTRA strike is up to the people who control the wealth of the industry. We creatives just want a fair slice of the pie so we can live and create work that inspires and protects the next generation of filmmakers like you.

Source: Variety