Directors Guild Expedites Payout of $9M in Foreign Levies to Members

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The union said it paid over 5,000 directors in the past week as production remains at a near-standstill.

In another union effort to bring financial relief to the entertainment community amid COVID-19, the Directors Guild of America announced on Friday that it had expedited the payout of $9 million in foreign levies to directors.

The DGA said it paid over 5,000 directors in the past week as a result of these efforts.

“This present situation sheds light on why we fight so hard to advance our members’ rights, and the difference it can make,"  said national executive director Russell Hollander. "Similar to our efforts with residuals, the DGA has been working around the clock to expedite distribution of this biannual run of foreign levies when it’s most needed.” 

Levies, which are separate from residuals and originate from foreign taxes on, largely, the recirculation of entertainment to benefit rights holders, are split between studios and above-the-line unions. The DGA, SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America all distribute a portion of collected fees to directors, actors and writers, both members and non-members.

The guilds' handling of these levies has historically been controversial: In the mid-2000s, several lawsuits alleged that SAG, the WGA and the DGA pocketed such funds but did not redistribute them to writers and directors in a timely manner and/or did not have the authority to collect these royalties for members. All were settled. The DGA notes that levies represent income to members as well as non-member directors that was made possible by the guild’s successful efforts over three decades ago to negotiate agreements with foreign collecting societies, and challenge the studios’ claims to these monies.

The DGA says that it has paid out over $242 million to directors since it began overseeing foreign levy payments, while its foreign levies department has also donated $3.5 million to the Motion Picture & Television Fund. 

Jonathan Handel contributed reporting.