Entertainment Industry

Category: Directors Guild

Cates' passing marks a blow to Directors Guild of America

The Directors Guild of America has lost one of its stalwarts.

The passing of Gil Cates on Tuesday hit home for the Directors Guild of America, where Cates was an instrumental figure in helping shape the powerful union and its relationship with the studios.

A member of the guild's board since 1975, Cates led the union's negotiations on four occasions, most recently as chair of the negotiating committee that secured a new film and TV contract that took effect July 1. He also led pivotal negotiations during the 2007-2008 writers' strike that helped establish the framework for payment of residuals in new media.

Cates was the union's secretary-treasurer and previously served as its president from 1983 to 1987, where he led the guild's one and only strike in 1987. He helped land the union's first pay-TV contract with HBO and created an agreement covering work in low-budget contracts.

In a recent interview with the DGA magazine, Cates talked about strength of the union: "I know a lot of my friends became involved because they had been really screwed over by a producer or a studio, and the Guild came in and saved them or gave them their cutting rights or something. But for me it was more than that. Every group has a spirit,and the DGA has a certain culture to it."


Gil Cates: Hollywood Star Walk

Geffen Playhouse main stage named for founder Gil Cates

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Gil Cates is filmed by a camera crew from the Oprah show backstage at the 77th Academy Awards in Feb. 2005, which he produced. Credit: Al Seib.


DGA gives TV producers failing grade on hiring women, minorities

Further evidence has emerged that Hollywood has made little progress in hiring women and minorities to work on prime-time television shows.

A survey conducted by the Directors Guild of America of more than 2,600 television episodes from 170 scripted TV series for the 2010-11 season found that white males directed 77% of all episodes, and white females directed 11% of all episodes. Minority males directed 11% all episodes and minority females directed just 1% of the shows, according to the survey of programs from the major broadcast and cable networks.

The directors guild, which over the years has prodded production companies to establish diversity programs and improve hiring practices, expressed disappointment with the findings, noting that the results show little change from a similar survey in the 2009-2010 television season.

The guild singled out nine shows that hired no women or minority directors for the 2010-2011 season, including HBO's "Bored to Death," Showtime's "Weeds" and FX's "Justified." Sixteen other shows hired women and minorities for fewer than 15% of episodes. Those include Fox's "House" (produced by NBC) and Lifetime's "Army Wives" (produced by ABC).

"It's not enough to just give lip service to the idea of increasing diversity behind the camera,'' said Paris Barclay, the DGA's first vice president and co-chair of its diversity task force. "These programs are so far failing to live up to their promise. So we're going to take the discussion straight to the people on each show who make hiring decisions," added Barclay, an executive producer for the FX show "Sons of Anarchy."

The DGA negotiated a new provision in its most recent contracts, which took effect July 1, that allows union officials to meet directly with executives responsible for hiring at the individual show level.

"We are encouraging shows, production companies and networks, when they weigh in, to offer opportunities to up-and-coming directors from all backgrounds,'' said Lesli Linka Glatter, co-chair of the DGA diversity task force and co-executive producer of "The Playboy Club."

The DGA's findings echo those of other recent surveys, including a recent report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. The report found during the 2010 season women composed 15% of writers for prime-time dramas, comedies and reality shows on the broadcast networks, down 29% from the 2009-2010 season. Among directors, 11% were women, compared with 16% the previous year.

A report released by the Writers Guild of America, West in May found that  the earnings gap between minorities and white writers more than doubled since 2007. The minority share of employment in feature films declined to the lowest level in a decade, falling to 5% from 6% in 2007.


Number of women working in TV falls

WGA report: Minority and women writers make few strides in Hollywood

Screen Actors Guild takes big step toward merging with AFTRA

-- Richard Verrier 

Photo: HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" starring Larry David and Jeff Garlin was among nine shows that hired no women and minority directors in the most recent TV season, according to a report by the DGA. Credit: HBO/Doug Hyun.

Taylor Hackford reelected president of the Directors Guild of America

Taylor Hackford was reelected president of the Directors Guild of America on Saturday at the union's biennial convention in Los Angeles.

Hackford was first elected president in 2009 and ran unopposed. The director of such films as "An Officer and a Gentleman," "Dolores Claiborne" and "Against All Odds" joined the DGA in 1974 and became a member of the National Board in 2002.
“It is my honor to accept once again the position of President of the Directors Guild of America in this, our 75thanniversary year,” Hackford said in a statement. “This is the greatest distinction anyone can have in this town. I am so proud to be a member of this Guild and to be part of the leadership, and I can promise you that, as I have in the last two years, I will work as hard as I possibly can to represent our members and fight for their creative and economic rights – whether that be at the bargaining table, on the set or in Washington, DC.”
Hackford was nominated for a DGA Award and an Academy Award for best director for "An Officer and a Gentleman" in 1983 and for "Ray" in 2005. He won the Academy Award for live-action short "Teenage Father" in 1979. Hackford also won a Grammy for the soundtrack to "Ray."
At the convention, 140 delegates representing the 14,500 members of the DGA elected a new slate of officers and members of the national board. Steven Soderbergh was reelected national vice president; Gilbert Cates, who formerly served two terms as DGA president, was reelected secretary-treasurer.
-Richard Verrier

Hollywood guilds to host Michelle Obama in event honoring military families

Hollywood's guilds are teaming up to support First Lady Michelle Obama's initiative to help military families.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild of America, Producers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America West plan to host Obama at an event honoring military families June 13.

The forum, to be held at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, will highlight stories and issues faced by today's military families so their experiences can be integrated into film, television and digital media, according to a statement from the guilds.

"The entertainment industry has the opportunity to help Americans learn more about the unique challenges and needs of military families and to showcase the families strength, resilience and service to our nation," the statement said. "The guilds have joined Mrs. Obama's effort to ensure America's military families have the support and recognition they have earned." 

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during a visit to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego County last year. Credit: K.C. Alfred / Reuters

Directors ready for action under new contract

Following the lead of actors for a change, Hollywood directors on Tuesday ratified a new film and TV contract.

The Directors Guild of America said its members approved a three-year contract that provides a 2% annual increase in pay and bolsters employer contributions to the union's health plan. DGA_Taylor-Hackford2_1

The contract, which was negotiated with the studios last month and takes effect July 1, was modeled on a similar agreement secured by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, whose members last week ratified their contract.

"I’m proud of what this Guild has achieved and pleased to see the strength and unity of our membership as illustrated by this vote,” DGA President Taylor Hackford said in a statement.  

The guild said the vote was "overwhelming" and represented an "extraordinarily positive response," but as is its custom, the union did not reveal what the actual vote results were or how many of the guild's 14,500 members voted. A guild spokeswoman said that was the union's longstanding practice.

— Richard Verrier

 Photo: DGA President Taylor Hackford. Credit: DGA.


Directors Guild board approves new contract with studios

Hollywood's directors stuck to the script, securing an increase in contributions to their health plan under a new three-year contract unanimously approved by the guild board Thursday.

The proposed contract, negotiated with the major studios this week, was modeled after a similar deal recently secured by Hollywood's actors' unions. It provides a 2% annual increase in pay and requires employers to contribute funds worth an additional 1.5% of DGA members' compensation into the union's health plan.

Currently, employers contribute funds worth 8.5% of employee paychecks to the health plan. The new contract would raise the level to 10% and was a main priority for the guild, which, like many other unions, wanted to shore up a health plan hit hard by rising medical costs and lower investment returns.

Additionally, employers agreed to other changes that will allow for more of the DGA's 14,500 members to qualify for health care. The proposed contract also provides a higher compensation for DGA directors working on "high budget" basic cable shows (which the union didn't define in its release).

"This substantial new agreement accomplishes our most important objectives,'' DGA President Taylor Hackford said in a statement.

The new contract, which would take effect July 1, has yet to be ratified by members.

-- Richard Verrier

Directors and studios reach deal on a new labor pact

That didn't take long, but then it rarely does with the directors. The Directors Guild of America and the major studios said Tuesday that they had concluded a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract.

Neither the DGA nor the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of the studios, would disclose terms of the agreement, which was widely anticipated. Cates

The DGA, which has 14,500 members, said it would release details of the proposed deal once it has been submitted to the guild’s national board for approval at a special meeting this Wednesday.

The tentative accord is is expected to mirror a similar contract recently negotiated by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. That agreement provided  2% annual  pay raises and higher contributions to the unions’ health and pension plans, which also had been a top priority for the DGA.

The AMPTP said in a statement that the agreement demonstrated "the benefits of an early deal for the entire entertainment industry. These early talks allowed us to bridge the gaps created by uncertain economic times and deliver increases in areas critical to DGA members."

The DGA’s announcement came three weeks after contract negotiations began. The current contract -expires on June 30.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Gilbert Cates,  who led the DGA contract talks with Executive Director Jay Roth. Credit: Al Seib /Los Angeles Times

Directors win improved pay and benefits for network news and sports workers

Everyone is talking about deflation, but not for those who work in unionized news and sports jobs at the networks.

The Directors Guild of America said Monday that it reached an agreement with the major networks providing wage and health plan increases for directors, assistant directors, production assistants and others who work in news and sports at ABC, CBS and NBC and a number of their owned TV stations.

The proposed three-year contract, which was approved by the board Saturday and awaits a final ratification vote by members, covers about 1,000 guild staff and freelance members. The tentative agreement includes a 1% increase in the amount that employers contribute to the union's health plan, annual 2% wage increases in the second and third year of the contract and guarantees that the DGA will have jurisdiction over secondary digital channels.

"It's no secret that the past few years have been extremely difficult for local stations and news operations, with severe declines in advertising and revenue,'' DGA President Taylor Hackford said in a statement. "Despite this challenging climate, the Negotiations Committee successfully achieved a number of gains, which I think is an indication of the extremely high value our members bring to news, sports and operations."

Acknowledging the tough climate for bargaining, negotiations chair William Brady said he and his colleagues were able to "fend off a series of onerous proposals and secure a solid agreement."

-- Richard Verrier 



Bloomberg, WGA West come out against, DGA for Comcast - NBC deal

Bloomberg LP has officially come out against the merger of cable conglomerate Comcast Corp. with entertainment giant NBC Universal.

In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, Bloomberg, the financial news service company, warned that a combination of Comcast, the nation's largest broadband and cable provider, with NBC Universal is bad news.

"Put simply, as the owner of both content and the means of distributing that content, Comcast will have every reason to undermine the many independent news, sports and entertainment channels that compete with the channels it owns," Bloomberg said in its letter which was also co-signed by the Communications Workers of America, National Consumers League, the Writers Guild of America, West, and several advocacy groups and media watchdogs.

Although Bloomberg is best known for its terminals that provide up-to-the-minute financial news to traders, it also has its own financial news cable channel that competes with NBC's CNBC as well as Fox Business. Bloomberg's channel has a much smaller reach than CNBC. Bloomberg Television is in about 65 million homes, compared to almost 100 million for CNBC. Fox Business Network is in over 50 million homes.

Bloomberg's biggest concern is that Comcast will give CNBC a better channel position than its competitors. Of course, on most cable systems, including Comcast, CNBC already has a better channel position than Bloomberg. That is partly due to CNBC being over 20 years old and fairly entrenched in prime real estate.

Cable networks often try to cut deals with cable operators to improve their channel position, and Bloomberg fears Comcast won't play ball if it owns CNBC. 

On its corporate website, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen wrote about some of the comments being filed that "certain competitors and programmers appear to be attempting to use the transaction review process as an opportunity to seek advantages and concessions outside of marketplace negotiations. We believe these efforts should be rejected." 

While the Writers Guild of America, West has come out in opposition to the deal and other guilds may follow their lead, the Directors Guild of America has sent a note of support to the FCC.

In a letter from executive director Jay Roth, the DGA told the FCC that Comcast will be a better owner for NBC than General Electric Co. was. Comcast, Roth wrote, has a commitment to "grow the industry, infuse new capital into the entertainment business and invest additional resources into programming," which will "represent a change from the uncertainty caused by many of the current owner’s past decisions concerning commitment to our industry, programming and jobs."

Monday is the deadline for comments to be filed with the FCC about the merger. Expected to weigh in with concerns about the deal is satellite broadcaster DirecTV. NBC's affiliate stations have indicated that they will support the deal with certain conditions.

Other big media companies including News Corp., Viacom and Time Warner have said they will not be filing comments about the deal to the FCC.

-- Joe Flint

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