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Directors Guild bans DVD screeners

'Maintaining a level playing field' is reason given for outlawing the awards-time items.

August 25, 2007|Robert W. Welkos | Times Staff Writer

The Directors Guild of America has announced that it won't allow studios or independent distributors to mail DVD screeners to its 13,400 members during the upcoming awards season, contending that the mailings might have an unfair advantage over films that are not able to be distributed due to limited marketing budgets.

"Maintaining a level playing field for all feature directors and their films in contention is of paramount importance to the guild," the DGA said in a prepared statement on Thursday.

The move comes after the DGA last December first agreed to a request from DreamWorks-Paramount to allow screeners of the big-budget musical "Dreamgirls" to be sent to guild members, then almost immediately rescinded the request when other studios squawked.

The "Dreamgirls" request came during the height of the 2006-07 awards season and the DGA felt that it would be unfair to send out the mass mailings on such short notice. The guild rescinded its decision, but noted that it would allow screeners for the 2007-08 awards season. Upon further reflection, however, the guild leadership decided to institute a screener ban.

The decision was made by DGA President Michael Apted in consultation with the guild's leadership and leading feature film directors, a DGA spokesman said.

While DVD screeners remain popular among Hollywood's awards voters, there has been a backlash against them because of a feeling that they may give an unfair advantage to Oscar marketing campaigns with big bucks. Early criticism centered on "Crash," which won the 2006 Oscar for best picture. Some believe that the film's chances received a big boost after Lionsgate mailed 130,000 screeners to would-be awards voters, including 100,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild.

This year's Oscar for best picture went to "The Departed," which also was mailed en masse to SAG members, as were such smaller films as "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Venus."

The DGA has long maintained that its members should judge films the way they were intended to be seen -- on the big screen -- and not on TV screens.

Other major Hollywood guilds and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hosts the Oscars, have no policies banning DVD screeners.

An academy spokeswoman said Friday: "We don't in any way facilitate the distribution of screeners -- that is transactionally between the studios and our members and is based on mailing lists the studios develop on their own. . . . We also do as much as we can to encourage our members to see films in theatrical settings."

While the DGA is banning screeners, that doesn't mean some members won't be receiving them since a number also are members of such guilds as the Writers Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America.

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robert.welkos@latimes.com

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