Directors Picket Day Before Strike Deadline
HOLLYWOOD (AP) _ Movie and television directors staged informational picketing at a studio Thursday, drawing Academy Award-winning directors and actors Jamie Farr and Ricardo Montalban the day before a strike deadline.
About 1,000 members of the Directors Guild of America and their supporters marched for an hour outside The Burbank Studios, many carrying signs that read: ″Coming soon? On Strike. Directors Guild.″
Also Thursday, negotiators for the Directors Guild of America and the Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance met briefly and announced the producers had withdrawn one disputed contract proposal.
The demonstration, which included Oscar-winning directors Franklin Schaffner and James Brooks and actor-directors Farr and Montalban, was called to bolster the directors’ position in stalled contract talks with the Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance.
″When you’ve done battle with the likes of L.B. Mayer and Harry Cohn and survived, Coca-Cola is just another soft drink company,″ directors union President Gilbert Cates told the crowd.
Cates was referring to long-deceased movie moguls Mayer and Cohn, who ran the MGM and Columbia studios. Coca-Cola is the parent company of Columbia.
Alliance spokeswoman Carol Akiyama called the demonstration ″a continuation of the guild’s saber-rattling that they’ve been doing all during the week.″
The directors union has set a strike deadline of 6 p.m. Friday. During a seven-minute formal afternoon meeting between the two sides, producers withdrew a disputed offer on pensions that directors had characterized as a freeze, Ms. Akiyama said.
Informal negotiations continued on the directors’ latest offer, characterized as a novel approach to residual payments.
A producers’ proposal to roll back those payments, given as compensation for reruns, is the main issue in dispute.
The picket line outside the sprawling studio complex that is home to both Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. included many well-known faces.
″In the old days, behind that negotiating table, there were men who passionately loved this business,″ Montalban said. ″Now I have a feeling that the people behind the table are people who passionately love business, period.″
Farr, who receives residual payments as both actor and director from the ″M.A.S.H.″ television series, reiterated the guild’s stance that such payments are part of their basic minimum compensation.
″They make us work against ourselves,″ Farr said of the producers. ″These studios sell the (reruns) around and then they come back to us when we are looking for something new and say, ’Oh, you’re overexposed.″
Earlier Thursday, directors spokesman Chuck Warn announced an independent settlement with the maker of the ″Rambo″ movies, Carolco Productions. But that agreement didn’t affect the contract talks with the producers alliance.
The union has been signing independent contracts with small production companies over the past few months and now has more than 250 such agreements.
Ms. Akiyama said Carolco isn’t one of the alliance’s 200 production companies and studios and the independent contract does not affect negotiations.
A strike by the 8,420-member Directors Guild would halt filming and taping of movies and affect TV programs, including daytime serials, game shows, prime-time shows and live news and sports.
Producers have sought to roll back residual fees, the money paid for rebroadcast of movies and television shows, arguing that the costs of making, marketing and distributing entertainment have risen sharply. Film producers claim a $1.3 billion shortfall between domestic box office receipts and their production costs last year, and producers of prime-time TV shows claim they face an overall deficit from $154 million to $182 million.
Directors, however, dispute the losses and cite recent profits reported by Paramount and Disney, among other studios.
Producers are stepping up production in anticipation of a strike.
For television, where daily live morning shows and soap operas are likely to be the first entities affected by a strike, the three networks have been quietly arranging substitute directors to keep the shows afloat.