DGA Awards To Honor Former President Michael Apted at 75th Ceremony By Renaming First-Time Feature Award
The Directors Guild of America celebrates its 75th year, the org will rename an award for one of its own.
The first-time feature award is getting a new name. “I am very excited because we are doing something that we haven’t done before, a special presentation and renaming one of our awards in honor of former DGA president Michael Apted,” says DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter.
At the February ceremony, the DGA will formally change the name. The director of “Coal Min- er’s Daughter” and “Gorillas in the Mist” had a long history with the guild. In 1998, he led the formation of the Independent Directors Committee to foster the careers and rights of indie filmmakers. He served as DGA president from 2003-09, and created the first-time feature award that will now bear his name.
“I think Michael would be so happy about this because it was so dear to him. He really championed excellence and new vision,” says Glatter.
The prize, first awarded in 2015, is a way to lift up diverse voices and emerging artists. “This is a way to be authentically inclusive because it gives opportunities to highlight and celebrate all independent filmmakers, but particularly women and directors of color who are creating their first features.”
In total, 14 women have been nominated, including four this year. In terms of inclusion, more than half of all nominees in this category have been members of underrepresented groups.
The Directors Guild of America returns Feb. 18 to the Beverly Hilton for the 75th DGA Awards. Judd Apatow will host the ceremony for the fourth time, in an evening that will highlight directors across the scope of film and television. Guild president Lesli Linka Glatter tells Variety, “In this team sport of ours, we want to celebrate our UPMs [unit production managers], our first assistant directors, our associate directors, stage managers. Everyone who is part of creating the story.”
This year, the DGA will present its lifetime achievement award to Robert Fishman, a legendary director of live sporting events. Fishman will be the fifth television director to receive this recognition. In his 50 years at CBS, has directed 39 NCAA Final Four broadcasts, 27 US Open Tennis Championships, 21 Daytona 500s, and three Olympic Winter Games.
“When people think about getting the lifetime achievement award in television, it has been in drama or comedy or Lee Daniels. The specific goals commercials,” Glatter says. “We represent news and sports at the DGA. We want to represent all categories.”
To continue the theme of celebrating all levels of directing, assistant director Mark Hansson will receive this year’s Frank Capra Achievement Award, and Valdez Flagg will receive the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award. These specially designated awards recognize assistant directors, stage managers, and associate producers for their career achievements both to the industry and the guild.
Empowering and fostering creative talent are important points to Glatter, who has served as DGA president since 2021. Through programs such as the Directors Development Initiative, first launched in 2016, today’s Directors Guild looks much different than it did when she started out in the 1980s.
“When I started directing, there were so few [women]. The prevailing feeling back then in the dark ages was that there was only room for one of us, and it better be me.” But that attitude didn’t work for Glatter. “I don’t believe it’s true.”
Today, the DGA works tirelessly to strengthen the voices and support for all members. The guild has seven committees dedicated to diversity, each with its own unique focus. These committees help meet the needs of women, as well as African American, Latino, and Asian American members.
After receiving unanimous support from the board last year, the DGA formed the new LGBTQ+ committee. The newly elected board includes notable industry voices Paris Barclay, Kimberly Peirce, Cheryl Dunye, Jamie Babbit, and Lee Daniels. The specific goals of the committee are still to be set, but Glatter explains their overall charge.
“This is a committee dedicated to advancing and empowering the professional interests of the LGBTQ+ members and promoting and working for employment equity throughout the entertainment business.”
Moving in 2023 and beyond, the DGA faces new opportunities and challenges. Soon they will begin the process of negotiating a new contract. While it is too soon to specify details, Glatter does share, “What we’re committed to is fighting for our entertainment industry. We want fair, safe, equitable, sustainable, things that are accessible for all.”
Some of the issues important to the guild include wages, streaming residuals, creative rights, funding for health and pension plans, and safety on the set. There is no timeline for when contract negotiations begin. “We need to make a great deal for our members,” says Glatter. “We will only begin bargaining when we believe we have the most leverage to win the best possible deal for DGA directors and their teams.”
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