On September 12, the Independent Directors Committee (IDC) East and more than 40 non-Guild independent filmmakers gathered at the Guild's New York headquarters for a reception and panel.
The event was designed to introduce non-DGA directors to the innumerable advantages of DGA membership, and it was a resounding success. The reason: both DGA and non-DGA filmmakers were eager to share common experiences, and the panelists proved their case: that DGA membership is essential to an independent filmmaker as it allows them to function professionally and creatively, while being guaranteed essential rights.
DGA Assistant Executive Director Fern Wakneen spoke to the filmmakers about the benefits of membership and the DGA's Low Budget Agreements, then turned the microphone over to IDC member Gary Winick (Tadpole) who moderated a discussion with fellow IDC members Dan Algrant (Naked in New York), Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol), and Nancy Savoca (True Love).
Using example after example, the directors told how membership in the Guild gave them many benefits they did not have before — residuals, creative rights protections as well as the assurance that they had a powerful organization to back them up whenever a producer might want to infringe upon what they were entitled to receive.
Referring to DGA's Creative Rights Handbook Harron said, "Producers don't like it because they count on naiveté or hunger of the director."
Echoing those sentiments, Savoca said an independent filmmaker is often branded as one who works for little money, and, indeed, expects little in return.
That need not be the case. All of the panelists recalled films they made before joining the Guild that continue to make money for the producers in markets such as television, video and DVD, but which they receive no income from whatsoever. Winick said he "wised up" years ago after his film Sweet Nothing was bought by Warner Bros. The studio began paying ongoing dividends to his investors but not to him. In addition, once he became a member and worked with DGA Assistant Directors, he realized that a non-Guild directing team simply could not compare to a DGA team.