Friday, January 18, 2008

DGA deal - not horrible, but not great. Thoughts

Fact Sheet
DGA Tentative Agreement — January 17, 2008

Wage Increases

* Compensation for all categories except directors of network prime time dramatic programs and daytime serials increases by 3.5%, each year of the contract.

* Compensation for directors of network prime time dramatic programs and daytime serials increases by 3%, each year of the contract.

* Outsized increase in director’s compensation on high budget basic cable dramatic programs for series in the second and subsequent seasons:

o For ½ hour programs: 12% increase in daily rate and increase in guaranteed number of days to 7 days.

This feels good.  It's a substantial raise.  If it transfers to scripts, it will mean some sort of pay increase for writers who make "salary PLUS script"

+ Results in show rate increasing from $9,009 to $11,760.

o For 1-hour programs: 12% increase in daily rate and increase in guaranteed number of days to 14 days.

+ Results in show rate increasing from $18,010 to $23,520.

Residual Increases

* Residual bases increase by 3.5%, each year of the contract, except for reruns in network prime time.

* Residuals for reruns in network prime time increase by 3%, each year of the contract.

Also not bad, if you ask me.  This actually helps non-prime time (IE basic cable WGA writers) more than prime time writers.


* Employers continue to make health care contributions at specially negotiated rate of 8.5%, secured in the 2005 Basic Agreement to address the impact of the growing cost of health care on the DGA Plan. Provisions permitting decrease in contribution rate by employers removed.

Other Provisions

* Second Assistant Directors to manage locations in New York and Chicago.

* Establishes a wrap supervision allowance of $50/day for the Second Assistant Director who supervises wrap on local and distant locations.

* Increases incidental fees and dinner allowances for Unit Production Managers and Assistant Directors.

I dont think this helps that much.

New Media

Jurisdiction over:

* All new media content that is derivative of product already covered under current contracts.

This feels important.  For example, if somebody does an animated something based on a live action something, it would be guild-covered.  That PROBABLY covers animation, or at least, it should.  I'm sure if it does, IATSE will have a cow, but perhaps it can be grandfathered in.

Moreso - this is good news for "off shoots" of TV shows.  For example, if you have a live action show on TV and then start doing web based "extended viewing content," it's covered... if I'm reading this right.

* Original content:

o All original content above $15,000/minute or $300,000/program or $500,000/series, whichever is lowest.

I'm not sure what this means.  The $15,000 per minute is insane.  NOTHING costs $15,000 per minute on the internet.  That being said, $500,000 per series is not bad.

There is a legit concern that low level projects / pilots will be created for online to see if they take, then aired on TV.  But... I can't even imagine a half hour anything being created for 299K.

o Original content below the threshold will be covered when a DGA member is employed in the production.

If this works for WGA members as well, it feels like a win.  For example, I'm a WGA member.   If I am hired for something on the web, then all of a sudden, anything I do becomes a WGA production under those auspices.  It's vague... but it could be cool.

Electronic Sell-Through (Paid Downloads)

* More than doubles the rate currently paid by the employers on television programming to .70% above 100,000 units downloaded.

In success, this is better.  But it's still kinda low.

o Below 100,000 breakpoint: rate will be paid at the current rates of .30% until worldwide gross receipts reach $1 million and .36% thereafter.

I feel like this sucks.

* Increases rate paid on feature films by 80% to .65% above 50,000 units downloaded

So if a movie sells 50K on Itunes (or anything else for that matter) the rate on movie doubles?  And what does that mean for writers of the WGA?  Not sure.

o Below 50,000 breakpoint: rate will be paid at the current rates of .30% until worldwide gross receipts reach $1 million and .36% thereafter.


Distributor’s Gross

* Payments for EST will be based on distributor’s gross instead of producer’s gross, a key point in our negotiations. Distributor’s gross is the amount received by the entity responsible for distributing the film or television program on the Internet. We would not have entered the agreement on any other basis.

This is good.  Producer's gross blows.

* Companies will be contractually obligated to give us access to their deals and data, enabling us to monitor this provision and prepare for our next negotiation. This access is new and unprecedented.

This is good.  Because buckle up - the next negotiation is less than three years away.

* If the exhibitor or retailer is part \ of the producer’s corporate family, we have improved provisions for challenging any suspect transactions.

Ad-Supported Streaming:

* 17-day window (24-day window for series in their first season).

A little weak.  The majority of streaming would happen in the first three weeks.

* Pays 3% of the residual base, approximately $600 (for network prime time 1-hour dramas), for each 26-week period following 17-day window, within first year after initial broadcast.

This is low.  WGA members made another 50% (I think) the next time a show aired.  So... on a 20K check, they made 10K more.  This is an offer of 10% of that.  Of course, in top 10 shows, it's gonna air again.

The good news for basic cable / kids is... this is the only place where they still rerun the shit out of stuff on TV too.   Weird.  The deal feels like it takes care of non-prime time people better.

* Pays 2% of distributor’s gross for streaming that occurs more than one year after initial broadcast.

Again, good for our non-prime time friends.  Imagine, if you will, a rerun of Hanna Montana.


* Provides the companies with limited windows where they can distribute clips of feature films and television programs in new media to promote a program. Provides for payment for all other uses in New Media.  

Baffling.  Thoughts?

Sunset Provision

* Allows both sides to revisit new media when the agreement expires.

Um... isn't this what happens when a contract expires anyway?

So... in conclusion:

Lets be honest about what it means to us. All of these raises are awesome, but if IATSE doesn't do something to compensate us - script and story writers - for the gains that they'll probably receive from the DGA bargaining... it doesn't mean dick to us.

If this sticks, and it doesn't stick to us, it will be incumbent upon all animation writers to fight to see a cut of the monies that their shows create. Because if you think about how much a Spongebob or Fairly oddparent streams - if you think about how much they're downloaded... we won't see ANY of that if it's not covered.

We will be forced to go deal to deal, and negotiate this stuff ourselves.  The stronger, more established, more powerful show runners will be able to fight for a piece of their successes... first timers or people with lousy reps will be forced to take what they can get, and what they will get is TAG/IATSE minimums.

In my opinion.

The floor is open.


Anonymous said...

I think the new media clause refers to new possible vehicles for live action distribution/production.

Back in the day the Internet was considered new media as was DVD etc. This clause protects existing shows and methods of production if some new technilogical dohicky comes up.

I don't think it is giving goverence to a new "medium" of an animated adaptaion of a live action property.

I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the DGA actually did some research and are satisfied that this will work for now. And if things change they can revisit it later in 3 years. That sunset provision was probably added mainly for the sake of the WGA that has been screamimg that anything decided now would stick forever.
Now the big question is will the studios want to offer this same contract to the WGA?

Anonymous said...

Hey, Anonymous, look how much luck we had "revisiting" home video after the 80s deals. The "Union Blues" faction in 1985 and '88 passed out their little pins at the meetings, along with their flyers stating authoritatively that if home video became lucrative - if TV shows, say, were ever sold in boxed sets - we could "always renegotiate" our percentage.

Of course the AMPTP will "want to offer this" to the WGA. Under any realistic appraisal of the future of the internet it impoverishes anyone creating content.

Screenwriters should worry too. DTV, "Direct To Video" was an unknown term in 1985. DTI, Direct To Internet, will not be long in coming for low-budget features.

If the AMPTP wants a 17-day "promotion-only" window, with ads, for new shows, the WGA should get the same eps to put on a heavily-promoted parallel site of its own, alongside drafts of the scripts, writers' commentary, deleted script scenes. With advertising... all profits going to the writers. But purely for promotion, of course.

Alex Weitzman said...

"Clips" seem vague. But it could be as innocuous as "trailers".

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but it seems in most negotiations both sides will walk away from the table and accept the fact that they weren't able to get everything in their favor. Isn't that what has happened to some degree with the DGA. They got a lot of good concessions, but they didn't bat a thousand and now a lot of writers are acting like the DGA were idiots because they should've gotten a 100% of what they wanted (and especially what the WGA wanted).
That's not how negotiations work in my experience. If the WGA expercts to get everything it wants before they declare the strike is over they're gonna be walking those sidewalks a long time.

Anonymous said...

If this were an "I want a 5% raise" / "No, I'm only going to give you 2%" negotiation, then yes. But this is a negotiation of how things should work in an entirely new medium. All the rules are changing and writers don't want the new system to stiff them. So the negotiation has been more like "We want it to work in a way where if you make money, we make money, and if you don't, we don't - and we don't want this new medium to be used as a way to stiff us compared to the way it's currently working" / "We want to use this new medium to stiff you". Harder to agree to meet in the middle in such a case. The AMPTP concession is not generally a real concession here, it's simply keeping the status quo moving into a new medium. The writers don't expect everything, but there are a number of things they just can't really budge on, or else they're moving backwards.