The Directors Guild of America, or the DGA, is a guild that operates to protect the legal rights of directors and their directorial team. Directorial teams may consist of assistant and associate directors, production, location and stage managers, and production associates. The DGA has steadily grown alongside the entertainment industry and currently has over sixteen thousand members permeating all facets of the motion picture industry. The DGA is involved in areas such as episodic television, documentaries, movies for television, commercials, daytime serials (i.e. soap operas), musical variety, news, sports, children’s programming, reality television, and, more recently, new media.
The DGA is divided into eleven departments to provide its members and affiliated producers efficient service and resources. These eleven departments are: Communications; Credits; Legal; Operations; Residuals; Special Projects; Contracts; Governmental and International Affairs; Membership; Reports Compliance; and Signatories. This division is advantageous because it allows members and producers to communicate directly with one department pertinent to their needs. Producers will likely encounter several of these departments including the residuals, credits, legal, reports compliance, and signatories departments. It is imperative for producers to be educated on the processes of becoming a signatory in order to work with members of the DGA.
Since directors are generally hired early in pre-production the signatories department is particularly important for producers planning to work with a DGA member. The signatories department of the DGA ensures that members of the guild work exclusively with producers who have become signatories. Guild members are prohibited from providing their professional services to producers or production companies without current DGA signatory status. The signatory status indicates that the producer meets the qualifications set by the DGA to protect its members. The penalties for DGA members who work with nonunion productions include fines and the possibility of expulsion from the DGA.
Assuming you have begun your project and plan to hire a director who is a member of the DGA, you must become a signatory. The DGA offers varying packages for producers and production companies that are project and budget-specific. The packages include applications, memos, packets, and agreements that must be reviewed by the producer. The packages are broken into categories: Film, Television, Commercials, and Documentaries. Film is divided into two categories based on the film’s budget. Films with a budget of less than eleven million dollars ($11,000,000) are considered “Low Budget Theatrical Film,” while films with a budget greater than eleven million dollars ($11,000,000) are categorized as “Theatrical film.” Television is broken down into “Episodic Television,” “Television Movie or Mini-Series,” and “Live & Tape Television.” The documentary package consists of “Theatrical Release,” “Low Budget Theatrical Release,” and Made-for-Television Release.” Recently, the DGA has begun including New Media and Experimental Films as packages.
After the producer selects the package applicable to the project, they must then complete the necessary forms and agreements and return them to the DGA for review. Some of the agreements included are the director’s rights to residuals upon distribution. Residuals are the payments made to the director for subsequent showings of the project. For instance, if the project was a television series then the director may be owed residuals for reruns of the episodes the director worked on. Once the DGA is satisfied that all the necessary documents have been provided and/or executed, they will grant signatory status to the producer prior to the commencement of principal photography. Keep in mind that you may also need to contact the Reports Compliance and Residual departments to ensure you are following the DGA’s guidelines.
Remember, a production company may only hire a DGA member once it completes these steps. Producers should always visit the DGA’s website for information regarding hiring a DGA member and make a checklist to ensure compliance with the DGA.
Written by Mark Buckland