As both the WGA and DGA head into talks for contract negotiations with the AMPTP, producers at last night’s PGA Awards had a wait-and-see attitude.
Much of that has to do with the fact that the WGA hasn’t set its pattern of demands yet with talks set to begin March 20. Their contract expires May 1, while the DGA and SAG-AFTRA’s expires June 30.
As they have done in the past, studios are preparing for a potential strike but there is no real sense of urgency, at least not for now.
“We’re getting in as many scripts as we can in time and we’re not rushing anything, and we have our productions planned for what’s going next in the summer and the fall, and we feel pretty optimistic about what we have in front of us creatively,” said Warner Bros co-chairman Pamela Abdy, who was co-honored with the PGA Milestone Award last night alongside her fellow co-chairman Michael De Luca.
“I’m always in a rush to stockpile projects, I’m a producer! That’s what we do,” said PGA president Donald De Line when asked about how a strike would impact producers. “I know with the possible deadline of a strike it makes more pressure on us.”
The Ready Player One producer then added, “We want to educate our members on what the issues are, how they can be prepared, but they should be looking to the future of how to prepare for themselves.”
Producer Jonathan Wang, whose Everything Everywhere All at Once took Best Picture last night at the PGAs, and saw its directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert win the top DGA feature award last weekend, noted that as much as he’d like to see one of the directors/scribes’ three projects at Universal move forward, “we also are supportive of people getting a living wage, and people working and being able to strike.”
“That’s why unions are there,” he added. “As a producer, I want to be fair, but also want us to go to work.”
While the Daniels are focused on big-screen fare, and Universal “is really committed to the theatrical experience,” Wang stressed, “of course, streaming is important because of the downstream consequences of what that does to the viewers.”
Glass Onion: A Knives Out producer Ram Bergman sounded hopeful in the face of a potential work stoppage.
“I believe even if there is a strike, it’s not going be a long strike,” he said. “At least that’s what I’m hoping for. We’re not rushing to shoot something because of the strike.”
Bergman’s creative partner, director Rian Johnson, is currently focusing on writing the third installment in the Netflix Knives Out franchise with no immediate plans to shoot this year.
The longest strike in WGA history was 1988 at 153 days, while the 2007-08 strike lasted 100 days. A Thursday WGA membership meeting on both the West and East coasts drew a combined near 3,000 in attendance.
Last weekend at the DGA awards, guild president Lesli Linka Glatter vowed to “flight like hell” to win a fair film and TV contract. It’s already been reported that the DGA won’t be the first at the bargaining table like previous contract talks over the last three cycles. Typically the union sitting down first with studios, sets the table for key issues which other guilds emulate.
Other directors attending the DGA Awards were quite pointed with Deadline about their needs, citing the need for greater residuals in the streaming era, and filmmakers like Judd Apatow calling on a reformation of “creative rights issues”, specifically “how much time directors who work in television get to edit their episodes.” For others at the DGA, structural changes supporting women and filmmakers of color were essential in addition to safety issues.
Director Darren Aronofsky, whose film The Whale has three Oscar nominations, told Deadline last night, “It’s an extremely complicated time, the world has changed so much”
“I believe that the DGA has always been thinking deep and hard on fair ways, staying up with the new technologies and the new business,” he added. “I have faith that the guild will get somewhere good.”
Nellie Andreeva contributed to this report.