As several studios were preparing to send screeners for the first time to the members of the DGA, the guild reversed itself Wednesday and announced that it would not allow studios to send screeners to its 13,400 members this year.
Issuing a statement, the guild said: "The DGA has determined that DVD screeners will not be mailed to members this year. We recognize that there has been confusion among studios and distributors regarding the guild's policies and wish to avoid any unfairness in the awards process. We regret any inconvenience this has caused."
While a number of Hollywood awards consultants contended that the DGA had a long-standing policy prohibiting sending screeners to its membership, Paramount Pictures received permission Friday to send screeners this year for the DreamWorks musical "Dreamgirls" (HR 12/20).
The DGA, which insisted it has never had a policy banning screeners, also sent a letter to the studios Friday, informing them that they were free to send them this year, even though the DGA nominations balloting process, which ends Jan. 8, had already begun on Dec. 4.
While Miramax received the notice by fax and immediately began readying a possible mailing of screeners of "The Queen," several studios did not receive the notice until Monday or Tuesday, and their reps complained loudly that they had not been given enough notice about the policy to take advantage of it this year.
Confronted by an uproar in the competitive circle of Oscar consultants -- and also faced with a situation in which prestigious directors could find their films at a disadvantage -- the DGA suddenly closed the door on any screeners this year but said it "will allow the mailing of DVD screeners to the entire membership next year for the guild's 60th annual DGA Awards."
Paramount and Miramax executives declined comment -- neither company had begun to mail screeners. Tony Angellotti, an Oscar consultant for Universal Pictures, said, "I'm glad to see the playing field has been leveled again, and we'll be able to assess next year's crop of contenders in a more timely fashion."
In the meantime, the guild recommended that its members catch up with the season's awards contenders the old-fashioned way -- by attending guild screenings in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington.