Hollywood is a union town, DGA president Thomas Schlamme declared at tonight’s DGA Awards, vowing that the guild is “seriously ready to fight” to protect its members’ economic and creative rights in its upcoming negotiations for a new film and TV contract.
“Amid a nation where unions are so tragically under assault and declining, it’s remarkable that we have collectively helped shape Hollywood into a town that so eﬀectively runs on unionized labor,” he said during the guild’s 72nd annual DGA Awards at the Ritz Carlton in downtown Los Angeles. The DGA’s current contract expires July 1.
Enumerating the rights of DGA members in the workplace, he said that “When we start a new project, we can be free to approach it with our full creative force and energy, knowing that we needn’t worry about: the right to be appropriately compensated for our work; the right to be recognized and properly credited; the right to residual payments making us a partner in the success of our projects; the right to a pension for retirement – and by the way, for those dubious of democratic socialism, look no further than the DGA Pension Plan, which beneﬁts each and every one of us. And the list goes on: The right to quality healthcare for us and our families; the right to be safe on set and protected from harassment; and the right to be free from discrimination by the gatekeepers who hire, so that we can be seen and judged as we should be: for talent, in all its shapes and forms.”
“What we have on our side to navigate this is the solidarity of our membership, the deep well of experience in our leadership and Negotiating Committee led by Jon Avnet and Todd Holland, and a research-driven process led by our fearless National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Russ Hollander and his fantastic professional staﬀ. Together we are leaving no stone unturned to negotiate for your rightful due. We are clear-eyed about the challenges that lie ahead. But we are seriously ready to fight.”
“Steering this massive ship of change is taking more time than it should,” he said, “but through the commitment of our leadership, our own programs, and continued push in our talks with studios and producers, I remain hopeful about what the future holds. And that goes for all of our issues related to our creative and economic rights. In aggregate, these weren’t just achieved over 80 years ago when we were founded. They were fought for through the years in numerous negotiations to protect our future as times changed, technologies evolved and business models were disrupted. And today, with the freight train that is the streaming revolution, and the new and consolidated studio owners that have come with it, our business is again transforming in one of the more radical shifts we’ve witnessed in our history.”
Hailing the guild’s efforts to make the industry more inclusive, Schlamme noted that “Last season, for the ﬁrst time, half of all TV episodes, 50%, were directed by women or people of color. That’s a radical shift from 21% just ﬁve years ago. In theatrical features, it’s true we still have a lot of work to do, but there too, there is progress, with more diverse voices telling stories that have never been told, and that need to be heard. Which is why I’m extremely proud of our ﬁrst-time feature director Award, now in its ﬁfth year, shining a big bright light on the future of ﬁlmmaking.”
“I love this evening and I love recognizing all of the talent here tonight,” he said, but cautioned against using awards “as the only barometer of progress … it’s just one measure. Doing so overlooks the hard work by so many, netting real change. This is a ﬁght we’ve led for many years, and we are ﬁnally seeing the tides turning and our industry heading in the right direction. A direction we must never retreat from.”
“We are directors and ADs, UPMs, Associate Directors, Stage Managers and Production Associates banding together,” he said, “over 80 years strong, and over 18,000 members deep. And at a time when institutions all around us are being systemically dismantled, we are able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder to fight for our rights, drawing strength and bargaining muscle from our unique talents.”
“We’re not always perfect,” he said. “Far from it. But we will always analyze, re-assess, and recalibrate in this ever-changing landscape, and in the process bring in new voices with an eye on tomorrow. Those techniques, which actually demonstrate how a healthy democracy can work, have netted incredible results through the decades.”
The guild, he reiterated, is “ready to fight, to once again give you the privilege, as well as the responsibility, to suspend our reality and let your imaginations run wild. And in these divisive and chaotic times … Let’s face it, these fucked up times — we need your imaginations more than ever.”
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