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DGA Awards have film-TV imbalance

DGA Awards 2012

Though the 64th annual Directors Guild of America Awards will be presented Saturday amid awards-season hoopla for 2011’s fave movies, most of the directors accepting kudos will be recognized for work that appears on TV.

Seven of the DGA’s 10 categories are for shows on the smallscreen, including comedy series, dramatic series, musical variety and daytime serials, far outnumbering the two bigscreen categories: documentary (which dates to 1977) and feature film, the org’s longest-running prize, created in 1948. The remaining award is for commercials.

“It does seem like they’re sort of shortchanging the film directors,” says Tampa Bay Times critic Steve Purcell, who would like to see more DGA categories for filmmaking.

Rewarding directors of animated features would be a good place to start, he adds, given the different skill set required to create them and the popularity of the genre.

Steven Rea, with the Philadelphia Inquirer, also would encourage an animation award.

“Adding animation would expand the reach of the guild in a good way,” he says. “It would show that it’s more inclusive and open to the artistry of animated film directors.”

While animation is the only award Rea would add to the DGA film roster, Purcell believes there’s merit in splitting the current feature kudo along drama and comedy or musical lines — as the Golden Globes does with its film awards — and he also would like to see annual recognition of up-and-coming filmmakers.

“Directors of the independents in a lot of cases have to take much more of the fundraising on their shoulders compared with the directors of more highly budgeted studio productions,” Purcell says. “That should be honored and regarded in some way. It would inspire more folks who are out there in film schools, and in doing so you bring in the next fold, the next generation of filmmakers.”

There’s already a history of the guild honoring a range of film genres, according to DGA media relations director Sahar Moridani.

“The DGA Award has recognized blockbusters, dramas, comedies, musicals, independents and foreign films. We are very proud of our tradition of honoring outstanding directorial achievement in feature film with one award.”

Indeed, nominees and winners from the past decade have included works from the likes of James Cameron (“Avatar”), Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”), William Condon (“Dreamgirls”) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”).

Should the DGA add any more awards to its lineup, Spencer Parsons, an assistant radio/TV/film professor at Northwestern U., foresees an honors hierarchy developing. As it is, the DGA’s prize for feature director is not only coveted — last year’s winner, Tom Hooper, called it “the highest honor of my life” — it also is widely considered one of the most reliable indicators of the eventual Oscar winner for director. How would any new genre-based awards compare?

“They would still leave dramatic filmmaking as the most coveted award, the one treated as the top dog over awards for the other genres,” says Parsons, who’s wrapping his second feature, “Saturday Morning Massacre,” for the festival circuit. “Yes, you’re awarding more films, you’re creating more opportunity, but you’re also in a way giving a new prize that is somewhat less.”

Purcell doubts any second-class concerns if the DGA adds an animation category. “You’ll have to ask Disney/Pixar whether they’ve had any regrets about winning all of those Oscars for best animated feature and not for best film.”

Post-party obsession | DGA Awards have film-TV imbalance | Inner circle

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