Helmer succeeds Michael Apted as guild topper

Taylor Hackford has been named to a two-year term as president of the Directors Guild of America, succeeding Michael Apted.

The DGA’s 135 delegates selected Hackford, who’s been 3rd VP of the guild since 2005, on Saturday at DGA headquarters in Hollywood. DGA National VP Steven Soderbergh, who’d been mentioned along with Hackford as a possible successor to Apted, nominated Hackford for the presidency.

“This Guild has worked for nearly three quarters of a century to advance the economic and creative rights of its members, always addressing new challenges with a firm and steady hand,” Hackford said in a statement. “I’m extraordinarily proud of what the DGA has accomplished, and I hope to continue that great legacy of leadership at the Guild.”

Apted, who had been president since 2003, had decided earlier this year not to seek a fourth term because he said it was important to get “new blood” into the top leadership slot.

Hackford’s directing resume includes “Ray,” “An Officer and a Gentleman,” “Against All Odds,” “White Knights,” “The Idolmaker” and “Everybody’s All American.” He’s the 21st president of the DGA since its founding in 1936.

The key issue facing the DGA, which has about 14,000 members, will be the next round of contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

The DGA has tended to be the first of the major Hollywood unions to reach a deal on its master contract with the congloms during each negotiating cycle. It played that role early last year during the latter stages of the bitter WGA strike, when it closed an agreement spelling out two key areas — specifics of jurisdiction over new media productions and reuse, and guaranteed access to the new-media deals and data.

The new-media provisions in the DGA pact — based partly on DGA-funded research on the economics of digital platforms — subsequently became the template for the WGA, SAG and AFTRA deals.

The DGA’s current feature-primetime contract expires on July 1, 2011, along with SAG and AFTRA while the WGA’s concludes on May 1, 2011. SAG’s contract specifies that it must start six weeks of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on Oct. 1, 2010.

“Economic news remains grim, Internet piracy threatens our ability to earn a living and the next cycle of negotiations will be upon us before we know it,” Apted said in a farewell letter. “We are now deep into a digital age that has begun to fundamentally alter the relationship between creators and the audience. At this moment, the industry is struggling to create an order to the economics of New Media and we, the DGA, have led the way in carving out a template for jurisdiction and residual compensation not only for our members, but for the whole industry.”

Hackford joined the DGA in 1974 and became a member of the national board in 2002. He’s chair of the DGA Political Action Committee and co-chairs the DGA Task Force on Social Responsibility; he was honored two years ago with the Robert B. Aldrich Achievement Award for service to the DGA and its membership.

Hackford also said Saturday the DGA’s top legislative priority will be protecting the work of its members in this new digital age.

“We have to be aware of the challenges we’re facing in protecting our work on the Internet.,” he said. “What’s euphemistically called ‘Internet Piracy,’ I choose to call by its true name, ‘Internet Theft.’ It threatens the future of our economic lives: our employment, residuals and pension and health plans. Solutions won’t come easy, but they must be found, if we are going to survive as professional filmmakers.”

In other moves Saturday, Soderbergh was re-elected as National VP and former DGA president Gilbert Cates was re-elected secretary-treasurer.

Also elected were First VP Paris Barclay; Second VP William M. Brady; Third VP Betty Thomas; Fourth VP Gary Donatelli; Fifth VP Thomas Schlamme; Sixth VP Vincent Misiano; and Assistant Secretary-Treasurer Scott Berger.

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