DGA Members Ratify New Film & TV Contract; Deal Was Reached Just Days Before Industry’s Coronavirus Shutdown

DGA members have voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new three-year film and TV contract. The deal was reached with management’s Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on March 4, just days before the industry began shutting down.

The new agreement, which goes into effect July 1, achieved significant gains in residuals for new shows made for streaming, which DGA leaders hailed as “a major victory for our members.” The guild did not say how many members voted, or what the margin of approval was.

“I am proud to report that our membership overwhelmingly voted to ratify the new contract,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme. “In a time of enormous uncertainty as we’re all feeling the weight of this current pandemic, it is at least reassuring for our members to know that when the industry resumes production, a strong new agreement awaits them. The agreement contains important gains in key areas, including dramatic improvements in SVOD residuals and coverage; a significant increase in funding for our Pension Plan to secure our retirement promises now and into the future; healthy wage increases; and significant wins in television creative rights. This was a complex negotiation, and our thanks go to our Negotiating Committee, led by Negotiations Co-Chairs Jon Avnet and Todd Holland, our National Executive Director Russell Hollander, and our excellent professional staff.”

The pact includes a nearly 50% increase in residuals for members working on original SVOD series, bringing the three-year residual for a 60-minute series on the highest subscriber SVOD services to more than $73,000. DGA leaders said that when this is combined with the gains from the 2017 agreement, “The residual is up nearly five-fold from under $15,000 in 2016, and exceeds the average residuals earned from all markets for the most popular network series.”

Lower budget made-for-SVOD series will now also be covered under the new contract, which guild leaders say will expand the scope of coverage “to many more series and ensuring the vast majority of members working in this space benefit from DGA-negotiated terms, residuals and creative rights.”

The new contract also eliminates “grandfathering,” in which series that began production during a prior contract continued to be governed by the terms of that prior deal, even into subsequent seasons. “Under the new agreement,” the guild said, “grandfathering will be eliminated, enabling more members working on SVOD series to benefit from the newly negotiated terms.”

Other highlights of the contract, which was approved unanimously by the DGA’s national board of directors on March 7, include:

• General wage and residual base increases of 2.5% in the first year of the agreement and 3% in the second and third years of the agreement.
• Increased funding for the DGA-Producer Pension Plan. “Even though it is the best-funded in the industry, the guild sought to further secure the Plan from potential downturns in the market,” DGA leaders said.
▪ The employer contribution rate to the Pension Plan will permanently increase by 1% in the first year of the agreement – from 7% to 8%.
▪ The DGA will also have the right to allocate up to 0.5% of the negotiated increases in salary rates in the second and third years of the deal to either the pension plan or the health plan. It also increases in the caps upon which pension contributions are made.
• Gains to address the continuing and growing problem of late scripts, which the guild says “result in reduced prep time, and negatively impact a director’s ability to deliver the most compelling episode possible on time and on budget.” The creative rights negotiations also made progress in restricting electronic transmissions from set, securing additional cutting time for directors of pilots and first episodes of series without pilots, and protecting the director’s right to participate fully in the casting process.

The guild also secured commitments from the major theatrical feature film studios to designate senior creative executives to meet with the DGA twice a year on a company-by-company basis to discuss ongoing efforts to develop and expand theatrical feature film directing opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups.

It also establishes a Joint Diversity and Inclusion Action Committee to discuss strategies and best practices to increase directorial opportunities for underrepresented groups. The committee will consist of representatives from the DGA and the major theatrical studios, including senior level executives.

The new agreement also includes a number of other improvements related to SVOD features, non-dramatic programs, and safety.

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