DGA’s Hackford looks ahead

Guild prexy faces talks ahead of contract's end next year

“I love my guild,” DGA prexy Taylor Hackford says proudly about heading the 14,000-member helmers’ union. “You would think that an organization that’s comprised of directors would be total anarchy, but we’re very pragmatic and results-oriented.”

Hackford, best known for directing and producing “Ray,” succeeded Michael Apted last summer in the top slot at the DGA. Apted oversaw the guild’s negotiations with the companies in 2004 and 2007-08, then declared it was time to hand the reins over to someone else.

With a contract expiration coming on June 30, 2011, the DGA’s already prepping — while keeping details close to the vest as usual.

“I am not changing the spots on the leopard,” Hackford asserts. “We are very methodical about what we do. We spent a lot of time and money on research — with results that are as good as any studio’s. We created our new-media study in the previous negotiation, which is a considerable allocation of resources, but we have to know what we’re talking about.”

That study showed new-media platforms would not start generating significant revenues until 2013 at the earliest.

“We’ve continued to update our study, and our new-media projections have turned out to be quite accurate,” Hackford says. “But we are also fascinated by old media and what’s going to replace it if it becomes archaic.”

For now, though, Hackford is focusing on digital piracy, noting that the issue was declared the DGA’s top priority last year.

“We really are facing a new crisis which could spell the end of professional filmmaking,” he notes. “This is not like making widgets. We go through long negotiations for each job because our work is mostly freelance. And we righteously participate in residuals, so if piracy rips out the heart of the industry, how do we make a living?”

Hackford believes that since DGA members are results-oriented, the guild’s leadership is obligated to pursue solutions aggressively, such as alliances with many organizations worldwide.

It’s not unfamiliar turf for Hackford, who previously spent seven years as leader of the DGA’s political action committee.

“Washington, D.C., has become much more involved in industry issues, so the DGA has to become more involved, too,” he observes.

At the same time, Hackford is keenly aware of the tradition of DGA leaders being working directors, having recently completed post-production on indie drama “Love Ranch.” He’s also spent three months in China on local production “May You Get Rich,” set in 1870 and focused on the opium trade.

Tip Sheet

What: DGA Awards for feature films, docs, TV, commercials

When: Saturday

Where: Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel

Web: dga.org

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