After only five days of formal negotiations, the Directors Guild of America reached a tentative agreement yesterday with studios, raising hopes that the entertainment industry might soon be headed back to work.
"As a director, I'm thrilled. As a writer, I'm hopeful," said John Waters, who is a member of the Directors, Writers and Screen Actors guilds. "At least people are talking."
In the wake of yesterday's deal, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers invited the writers, who have been on strike since Nov. 5, back to the bargaining table for "informal discussions." (The alliance broke off formal negotiations shortly before Thanksgiving.)
But while the directors' agreement puts pressure on striking writers to end their walkout, Writers Guild of America members and analysts insisted that it would not automatically lead to the union accepting the directors' deal as a template for its bargaining.
"Any invitation from the studios to renew discussions that they abandoned is a step in the right direction," said former Sun reporter Rafael Alvarez, a writer on the NBC drama Life and a member of the union's media committee. "But the writers guild will negotiate in the best interests of its members - the 12,000 writers that it represents."
The directors' deal increases wages and residuals in each year of the contract. It establishes guild jurisdiction over programs produced for Internet distribution and sets a new residuals formula for paid downloads. It essentially doubles the rate currently paid by studios, according to the DGA. It also sets residuals for ad-supported streaming and use of clips online.
Historically, there has been tension between the two unions; the directors guild is considered a Hollywood establishment organization mainly representing affluent movie directors. Many in the WGA blame the directors guild for leading them into their last contract - one that gave the writers only a tiny slice of the fortunes now being made in DVD sales.
"The writers guild has always been the toughest," said Douglas Gomery, media economist at the University of Maryland and scholar in residence at the Library of American Broadcasting. "Writers have historically felt that they were the ones being exploited by Hollywood."
The Associated Press and the Los Angels Times contributed to this article.