Hollywood bullish on directors' contract talks

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - With rumors flying of an imminent deal, it’s safe to say that Day 3 of the Directors Guild of America’s contract talks with the studios went well enough for another session to be scheduled for Tuesday.

Director Ron Howard walks the picket line with members of the Writers Guild of America in New York's Times Square, November 15, 2007. With rumors flying of an imminent deal, it's safe to say that Day 3 of the Directors Guild of America's contract talks with the studios went well enough for another session to be scheduled for Tuesday. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Hollywood has the collective sense that the DGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) will quickly hammer out a new contract to replace the pact set to expire June 30.

Whether the striking Writers Guild of America (WGA) embraces the terms of any such pact is quite another matter, however. Certainly, if the DGA reaches an accord on new-media compensation -- the key area of dispute for the writers -- it could pressure the WGA to follow suit. The WGA has been on strike since November 5, and there is no end in sight to the walkout.

No new negotiation sessions between the WGA and the AMPTP are envisioned until after the DGA concludes its contract talks -- and perhaps not immediately even then.

Writers walked picket lines throughout Los Angeles on Monday and set plans for another major rally in New York for Wednesday.

Details on the DGA’s negotiations -- held daily since Saturday at AMPTP headquarters in Encino -- have been scant because of a press blackout. But management and the directors have said it can be assumed that some progress is being made in the talks as long as the parties are still at the bargaining table and scheduling new sessions.

On Monday, negotiators met until about 5 p.m. That’s been the case since the DGA talks began, though smaller group discussions have progressed into the evening on occasion.

Over at the WGA, officials have been pursuing work agreements with individual companies. Spyglass Entertainment and Media Rights Capital on Monday became the latest production entities to announce interim deals with the guild, following previous pacts with David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants, Tom Cruise’s United Artists, and Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s Weinstein Co. The deals allow union writers to work on projects for these companies immediately.

Since Media Rights has a deal to distribute several films through Warner Bros. and Spyglass works with a number of studios, the gambit also could also benefit the major struck companies since it contributes to the flow of movies through their release pipelines.

Media Rights recently signed a three-picture distribution deal with Warners for Richard Kelly’s horror film “The Box,” starring Cameron Diaz; Robert Rodriguez’s family fantasy “Shorts”; and “This Side of the Truth,” starring Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner. “The Box” is in production in Boston.

For Spyglass, which co-finances many studio productions including Fox’s Friday release “27 Dresses,” the deal applies only to projects that the company generates. For example, work could not occur on the Mike Myers comedy “The Love Guru,” which originated from Paramount.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter