Cates to lead DGA negotiators

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Veteran TV director-producer Gil Cates as been appointed chairman of the still-unnamed DGA negotiating committee that will be charged with hammering out a new film and TV contract with the studios.

The current pact expires in June 2008, so the naming of a negotiating committee chair could signal the DGA's intent to engage with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers much earlier than that.

In the same announcement, the DGA said its fourth vp, William M. Brady, will chair a New York-based negotiating committee charged with securing a separate, simultaneous agreement covering network news personnel.

Appointments to both committees are expected in the spring. The appointments to Cates and Brady were made Sunday and announced Thursday.

Gates, oft producer of the Academy Awards telecast and secretary-treasurer and former president of the DGA, noted the guild usually appoints negotiating committee chairs well before contract expirations.

"One of the strengths of the DGA is that we want to get as much information about as much and as many issues as possible," Cates said. "There's just never any time in the negotiations themselves to do this background work."

He acknowledged that the issue of new-media compensation is sure to be an area of discussion for the film and TV committee and added, "New media can be a gray area and a formative area for decades."

Gates also chaired the DGA's film and TV negotiating committee in the past two rounds of talks with the AMPTP, and Brady chaired the last networks staff committee.

The appointments announcement followed by two days the announcing of appointments to a committee to negotiate the WGA's next contract with the AMPTP. The WGA's current film and TV contract expires in October, and the WGA has refused to engage with the AMPTP earlier than July.

Meanwhile, the directors have often enjoyed warmer relations with the AMPTP than with other talent guilds. So there has been broad speculation the DGA might start early talks on its next pact to set the tone and broad terms for agreements with others.

DGA president Michael Apted acknowledged that the appointments indicate at least the need for early scene-setting.

"(The) board felt that it was important to begin preparing for negotiations on the complex issues confronting our industry," Apted said. "We need our most skilled colleagues in this difficult time, and we are extremely fortunate to have Gil again leading the charge for our AMPTP negotiations on the West Coast. Bill's experience will be critical to addressing our network issues in New York."

Apted and DGA national executive director Jay Roth will serve on the film and TV negotiating panel as ex-officio members. Roth will serve as lead negotiator for the guild, and veteran studio rep Nick Counter will head talks for the AMPTP.
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