When it comes to the Directors Guild of America, Taylor Hackford is a traditionalist — declaring that with his second two-year term coming to a close, it’s time to hand the reins over to someone else to be the 22nd DGA president during May’s convention.
“I believe in tradition, and DGA presidents usually serve two terms,” he says. “Our strength has always been that we have a working leadership.”
For Hackford, that’s meant directing the Jennifer Lopez-Jason Statham crime thriller “Parker” during the past year, along with preparing for a round of negotiations with companies on a successor deal. Those talks will probably start before the end of 2013, if past practices are any guide.
Having succeeded Michael Apted in 2009, Hackford’s inaugural term was marked by a low-key negotiations season for Hollywood labor. The DGA’s three-year successor pact — negotiated at the end of 2010 and expiring in June 2014 — contains a 2% annual wage hike and a boost to 15.5% from 14% in pension and health contributions.
“The last negotiation was very focused on pension and health, and we felt it was very successful in addressing that issue,” he says.
For the upcoming talks, the key issues are not yet clear. Gil Cates, who passed away in late 2011, had headed the last four negotiating committees, but Hackford stresses that the DGA has a wide variety of leaders who have been focused on the negotiations.
“We’ve already given this a lot of talk,” Hackford says. “We have to find out what the economic and creative issues are before we approach the companies.”
For DGA leaders, that means coming into talks with research already performed — not only by its own research staff of four but also through consultants such as former Wall Street analyst Tom Wolzien — and playing their cards close to the vest.
Hackford insists that prepping for those negotiations is absolutely the top priority for the 15,000 members. The DGA has continued to spend its funds on Wolzien for more than haft a dozen years to generate data and projections — data that’s often more accurate than what’s generated by the individual companies because of the broader scope of the guild’s sources.
“We take our research very seriously,” Hackford adds. “It’s incumbent that we come into negotiations more prepared than the people across the table.”
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 came into the spotlight five years ago in that role during the latter stages of the bitter Writers Guild of America strike.
With the town’s nerves on edge as the strike careened into a third month, the DGA 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.
“Everyone thought the change in revenues from new media would happen faster than it has, but there’s no question that it must be part of the upcoming negotiations,” Hackford says.
Other highlights of his tenure include the DGA’s successful efforts to organize hundreds of reality shows, the yearlong celebration of the DGA’s 75th anniversary in 2011 and the significant increase in the guild’s international membership with 750 total members — 350 in London.
“Hollywood is making more and more films outside the United States, so the are going to have better product if they have the top directors in the driver’s seat,” Hackford says.
As for disappointments, Hackford stressed that a solution for digital piracy remains elusive. “There remains a great demand for our work, and having it stolen is a loss for the culture,” he says.
And Hackford remains frustrated over the companies not doing more to hire women and minorities.
“Employers are not doing as good a job as they should, and it’s not because there are not talented women and talented minorities.”
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Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Tom Hooper, “Les Miserables”
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Malik Bendjelloul, “Searching for Sugar Man”
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David France, “How to Survive a Plague”
Lauren Greenfield, “The Queen of Versailles”
Alison Klayman, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”
Greg Berlanti, “Political Animals”
Philip Kaufman, “Hemingway & Gellhorn”Kevin Reynolds, “Hatfields & McCoys”
Jay Roach, “Game Change”
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Michael Cuesta, “Homeland”
Jennifer Getzinger, “Mad Men”
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Rian Johnson, “Breaking Bad”
Greg Mottola, “The Newsroom”
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Mark Cendrowski, “The Big Bang Theory”
Bryan Cranston, “Modern Family”
Lena Dunham, “Girls”
Beth McCarthy-Miller, “30 Rock”
Michael Dempsey, “12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief”
Don Roy King, “Saturday Night Live”
Don Mischer, “84th Annual Academy Awards”
Chuck O’Neil, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”
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Albert Alarr, “Days of Our Lives”
Larry Carpetner, “General Hospital”
William Ludel, “General Hospital”
Scott McKinsey, “General Hospital”
Jill Mitwell, “One Life to Live”
Stuart Gillard, “Girl vs. Monster”
Paul Hoen, “Let It Shine”
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Steve Ayson (MJZ/The Sweet Shop)
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