The union that represents thousands of movie and television directors reached a tentative agreement with the Hollywood studios on a three-year contract early Sunday morning, a deal that ensures labor peace with one major guild as the writers’ strike enters its sixth week.
The Directors Guild of America announced in a statement overnight that it had made “unprecedented gains,” including improvements in wages and streaming residuals (a type of royalty), as well as guardrails around artificial intelligence.
“We have concluded a truly historic deal,” Jon Avnet, the chair of the D.G.A.’s negotiating committee, said in the statement. “It provides significant improvements for every director, assistant director, unit production manager, associate director and stage manager in our guild.”
The deal prevents the doomsday Hollywood scenario of three major unions striking simultaneously. On Wednesday, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of the studios, will begin negotiations for a new contract with SAG-AFTRA, the guild that represents actors; their current agreement expires on June 30. SAG-AFTRA is in the process of collecting a strike authorization vote.
The entertainment industry will be looking closely at what the directors’ deal — and the actors’ negotiations — will mean for the Writers Guild of America, the union that represents the writers. More than 11,000 writers went on strike in early May, bringing many Hollywood productions to a halt.
Over the last month, the writers have enjoyed a wave of solidarity from other unions that W.G.A. leaders have said they have not seen in generations. Whether a directors’ deal — or a possible actors’ deal later this month — undercuts that solidarity is now an open question.
W.G.A. leaders had been signaling to writers late last week that a deal with the directors could be in the offing, a strategy that it said was part of the studio “playbook” to “divide and conquer.” The writers and the studios left the bargaining table on May 1 very far apart on the major issues, and have not resumed negotiations.
“They pretended they couldn’t negotiate with the W.G.A. in May because of negotiations with the D.G.A.,” the W.G.A. negotiating committee told writers in an email on Thursday. “That’s a lie. It’s a choice they made in hope of breathing life into the divide and conquer strategy. The essence of the strategy is 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.
“Our position is clear: To resolve the strike, the companies will have to negotiate with the W.G.A. on our full agenda,” the email continued.
Representatives for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers declined to comment.
The writers and the directors shared some priorities, including wages, streaming residuals and concerns about artificial intelligence. W.G.A. leaders had said that the studios had offered little more than “annual meetings to discuss” artificial intelligence, and that they refused to bargain over guardrails. The D.G.A. said Sunday that it received a “groundbreaking agreement confirming that A.I. is not a person and that generative A.I. cannot replace the duties performed by members.”
Some of the writers’ demands, however, are more complex than those of the directors. W.G.A. leaders have described the dispute in urgent terms, calling this moment “existential,” and saying that the studios “are seemingly intent on continuing their efforts to destroy the profession of writing.”
Despite the explosion of television production over the last decade, writers have said that their wages have stagnated, and their working conditions have deteriorated. In addition to improvements on compensation, the writers are seeking greater job security, as well as staffing minimums in writers’ rooms.
The W.G.A. has vowed to fight on. The writers, who last went on strike 15 years ago for 100 days, have historically been united.
“We are girded by an alliance with our sister guilds and unions,” Chris Keyser, a chair of the W.G.A. bargaining committee, said in a video message to writers last week. “They give us strength. But we are strong enough. We have always been strong enough to get the deal we need using writer power alone.”