In just nine years, the DGA Honors in New York have come to represent more than just another vehicle for the industry to pat itself on the back. The Directors Guild of America has always been one of the industry’s more successful organizations at flexing its political muscle, which extends to such issues as artists rights and hiring inequities.
Celebrating not only filmmakers but also individuals in business, government, labor and higher education, the biannual awards ceremony boasts a reputation of bringing together Gotham’s elite. Recognition is given for accomplishment in various areas, including film preservation, entrepreneurial initiative and archival efforts, which, as DGA president Michael Apted points out, are what “separate our own and other people’s award shows.”
In this regard, filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Mike Nichols have been honored alongside television pioneers Jeff Bewkes and Lorne Michaels as well as politicians like Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Even Sony Pictures Classics co-prexy Michael Barker was impressed by the guest list when he and his colleagues Tom Bernard and Marcie Bloom were honored in 2002.
“I remember Francis Ford Coppola was at our table and Spike Lee was at the next one and then you had all these people from the television community like Don Hewitt and all the ’60 Minutes’ reporters sitting at the next table,” Barker says.
Barker says he was happy the organization decided in 1999 to host a New York-based awards show, because “it seemed like all of the high-profile events were in L.A.”
And unlike most L.A. kudofests, this ceremony is devoid of competition and camera crews, allowing recipients to drop their guard, relax and take advantage of the open bar.
“It doesn’t have an intense feeling because you know who is going to win,” Barker says.
It’s also a celebration that has undergone a few alterations. Originally an annual dinner ceremony, the event became biannual in 2006 while also changing venues from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, its home of four years, to the DGA Theater.
The location and calendar changes were not an effort to cut costs but, according to the org, to make the kudofest feel more like what was originally intended — a movie premiere.
What: DGA Honors
When: Thursday at 7 p.m.
Where: DGA Theater, N.Y.
Wattage: Jane Alexander, Jeff Goldblum, Helen Mirren, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, others