DGA Members Explain Why They’re Voting Yes on New Contract: ‘I’d Like to Get Back to Work’

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Members of the Directors Guild of America have until Friday to vote on their new contract, and those contacted this week by Variety were overwhelmingly voting yes.

In interviews, members noted the contract includes significant gains in residuals, creative rights, safety provisions and working hours.

But several also indicated that they have no interest in compounding Hollywood’s labor strife. Most directors and below-the-line DGA members have been out of work since the Writers Guild of America strike began on May 2.

“I’ve been around long enough that is a pretty good deal, and I’d like to get back to work,” said Matt Rebenkoff, who has worked as a first assistant director on “Don’t Look Up,” and “Jumanji: The Next Level.”

The sentiments expressed in interviews run counter to the prevailing mood on Twitter, where members have been urging a “no” vote. Opponents of the deal include prominent writer-directors such as Warren Leight, Larry Charles and Lilly Wachowski.

Some dissenters have argued that the contract does not deliver sufficient protection against artificial intelligence, while others say the DGA should not ratify its deal until the WGA gets an agreement, in a show of solidarity.

But the supporters have argued that the contract serves the needs of DGA members, and that ratifying it does not undermine the guild’s support for the writers.

“I think it’s a great contract,” said director Jen McGowan. “There are lots of good gains, and I think voting no is not going to get us a better contract.”

The agreement includes a 76% increase in overseas streaming residuals, plus an extra day of shooting on TV dramas and a “second cut” for TV directors. TV directors currently get to make the first cut of an episode, but after that they are often excluded from the process. Under the new DGA contract, they will now get extra time to prepare a second cut after incorporating notes from the producers.

“That’s huge — that’s monumental,” said Michael Goi, a director and cinematographer who served on the DGA negotiating committee. “That gives the director more reach into preserving the aesthetic they were trying to achieve with that episode.”

For assistant directors, the contract also imposes overtime penalties one hour earlier, which will result either in shorter workdays or higher penalty payments. For some, those penalties will kick in after 13 hours, instead of 14, while others will see them at 15 hours instead of 16.

“We need more sane hours in this business,” said Caroline Stephenson, who works as a first A.D.

First A.D.’s are currently in charge of set safety. The contract will provide for a limited pilot program to employ safety supervisors, who will take on some of those responsibilities.

“It does allow a first A.D. to focus on the director’s vision and working with the crew,” said Shawn Pipkin-West, who works as as first A.D.

Feature directors will also get paid for “soft prep” — the period before pre-production — with that payment to come out of the director’s total compensation.

The DGA negotiators did not get everything they asked for. In particular, they sought DGA coverage over projects produced abroad for distribution in the U.S. and Canada, Goi said. The guild fears that could become a growing trend, given the rapid development of overseas production capacity.

A source said that the guild negotiators came back several times with different variations on the proposal, but that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers rejected it each time.

Some members also have misgivings about the AI provision. The 78-page memorandum of agreement includes four paragraphs on generative AI. The agreement states that GAI is “not a person,” and that DGA member duties must be assigned to a person. But the deal does not forbid the use of AI in the creative process, and requires only “consultation” with DGA members on how it is used.

It also provides no restriction on use of DGA members’ material to train AI systems, saying only that employers will meet regularly to discuss “appropriate remuneration, if any” for AI training.

“I don’t see any instance where we would not be due compensation for using our materials for training AI,” said Heath Cullens, a TV director who voted no out of concern over the issue. He said the “if any” provision is “ludicrous.”

McGowan said she, too, was concerned about that language, though not enough to vote against ratification.

Goi argued it’s better for DGA members to be part of the AI conversation rather than trying to ban it outright.

“AI is not going to go away,” he said. “You want to be part of guiding it toward the future of where it should go, and the way it should get there… Just banging on the door and screaming at the wind doesn’t make the change. You have to be on the inside.”

Some have also noted that the annual increases in minimums — 5% in the first year, followed by raises of 4% and 3.5% — do not keep pace with steep inflation.

Cullens also argued that the DGA should have gotten a better deal, given the historic leverage created by the writers strike.

“I wish we had held stronger and not let that leverage go as seemingly easily as we did,” he said.

But many other members see the deal as delivering significant gains. They argue negotiators can return to the areas of concern in the next round of bargaining in 2026.

“I voted yes,” said Daniel Hank, a unit production manager and producer. “I don’t understand why you wouldn’t. It’s the single greatest contract we’ve had in my 29 years of membership.”

Several members also said they hoped the contract would help the WGA and SAG-AFTRA get similar terms in the areas where the three agreements overlap.

“We’re all facing the same issues of protecting our creative contribution to this industry,” said director Valerie Weiss, who has worked on “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” and “Outer Banks.” “It’s really great that the Writers Guild has taken a strong stand. Pretty much nobody is working, and nobody will work until this is resolved. If that’s not solidarity, I don’t know what is.”

Many members also expressed strong support for DGA leadership, and appreciation for the pay and benefits provided by belonging to the guild.

“I get paid well to do my job. I’m happy we got a little more,” said Xochi Blymyer, a veteran first A.D. “I can show up to work in a T-shirt and jeans, and have a few snacks, and there’s a little stress here and there, but we’re making entertainment. Let’s keep doing it.”

DGA Members Explain Why They’re Voting Yes on New Contract: ‘I’d Like to Get Back to Work’

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