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DGA, AICP Spot Pact in Helmers' Court

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The Directors Guild of America and the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) have reached a tentative agreement for a new national commercial contract.

The new pact, which includes a groundbreaking new provision covering Internet advertising, culminates negotiations that ran from July to October. The existing commercial agreement expired on Oct. 31.

According to DGA President Jack Shea, the pact has been unanimously endorsed by the guild's negotiating committee and contains important new protections and benefits. Besides Internet coverage, highlights include new health and safety protections, improved wage rates and directors' creative rights.

The DGA national board met in New York last Saturday to review the agreement and determine whether to send it to the membership for ratification. However, the guild had not announced by press time the board's decision.

A ratification vote would be completed in late January, with the current agreement extended until then.

"The guild's negotiating committee was intent on expanding the rights and protections in the agreement beyond TV commercials into spots for many other venues, including the Internet," said Eastern Executive Director Christina Lomolino in a DGA story on the guild website. "The agreement covers commercials regardless of the technology used to capture the image and regardless of where it is shown. Internet commercials produced in ways that are typical of TV ads are covered by the full commercial contract. At the same time, the negotiators on both sides of the table were aware that the signatory companies needed to be competitive in the production of internet spots that may be highly experimental in nature, so that is taken into account as well."

"That was one of the biggest hurdles and most satisfying of issues to resolve," said DGA member and Clio Award-winning director Neil Tardio. "It took a lot of discussion and at first we had a difficult time making the DGA's position understood. It's helpful to both sides to try to understand this new medium, where it will go and to be sure that DGA people in the future will be covered in the Internet and all its possibilities."

John Lowe, an AD member who resides on the East Coast, is especially pleased with one detail of the new agreement. "It's a small thing, but I think the fact that East Coast directors and ADs now received unworked holiday pay—a small extra four percentage of their check—will mean something." In addition, the agreement provides a 24% increase to scale wages over the life of the agreement.

"I was very pleased because commercials are virtually the only arena in which a director has absolutely no creative rights," said director Stu Hagmann. "Thirty years ago when production companies released commercials on 16mm film, it afforded the director involvement in the cutting. Now the trend is to eliminate the director from this process entirely. Directors should have a statement saying that they have a right to display what they would do with a first cut."

"The DGA and the AICP will form a joint committee to expand the creative rights of commercial directors," Lomolino added. "Both sides of the table are to be applauded for these advances. And in a truly exemplary move, the producers have agreed to provide either an overnight hotel stay or a car service to the member's home, following extended workdays."

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