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Writer's Guild Shifts Negotiations' Focus from DVD Residuals to Health Care

12 Oct, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) appears to have thrown in the towel on DVD residuals for the near future, opting instead to focus on health-care support in its stalled contract negotiations.

The guild suspended negotiations with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) in June, in the hope the Directors Guild of America (DGA) would win concessions and pave the way for the other guilds.

The DGA negotiated its new contract with substantial gains in support for health benefits, but chose not to fight for changes to DVD residuals. A letter from DGA president Michael Apted noted that video has generated so much more revenue overall in the past few years that directors are making more money than ever before even without a larger percentage of residuals.

The writers went back to the table Monday on the heels of a letter from WGAW president Daniel Petrie outlining the negotiating landscape.

“While the Directors Guild made some proposals in the area of DVD residuals, they did not make the issue a priority, and did not achieve any change in the DVD residual formula. This is disappointing to all those who believe, as I do, that artists deserve a greater share in the DVD bonanza,” said Petrie's letter. “The DGA decided, however, that given the companies' determination to not give in on this issue, a change in the formula would not be possible without a lengthy strike — and perhaps not possible with a lengthy strike. Whether or not you agree with their analysis, it's certainly true that throughout our own negotiations in March, April, May and June, we met with absolute, unyielding rejection of our own proposal for a DVD increase. One studio executive spoke of ‘burning the town down' before he'd change the DVD formula in our favor.”

WGA negotiators were reportedly back at the table Monday, but there was no guarantee it would resolve the stalemate.

“Our exploratory talks with the AMPTP may or may not turn into actual talks,” Petrie's letter cautioned.

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