×

Paris Barclay, president of the Directors Guild of America, promises that the 69th iteration of the DGA Awards on Feb. 4 will be anything but stodgy.

“The program is about the future, and the future is now,” the 60-year-old Barclay says.

Indeed, all five competitors for the top DGA feature film award have been nominated for the first time: Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”), Garth Davis (“Lion”), Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”), Kenneth Lonergan (“Manchester by the Sea”), and Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”). Additionally, all five films have been receiving praise for offering non-traditional takes: on song-and-dance in “La La Land”; using Google map technology to locate family a continent away in “Lion”; crack addiction and gay relationships in “Moonlight”; unexpected guardianship in “Manchester by the Sea”; and negotiating with aliens in “Arrival.”

In choosing these first-time feature nominees, the guild passed over industry stalwarts Martin Scorsese (“Silence”), Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”), and Denzel Washington (directing himself in “Fences”).

The DGA also nominated Davis for its first-time director award along with Tim Miller for “Deadpool,” Kelly Fremon Craig for “Edge of Seventeen,” Nate Parker for “The Birth of a Nation,” and Dan Trachtenberg for “10 Cloverfield Lane.” It will be the second time the guild has presented the award.

Major changes are looming for the DGA’s 16,000 members, via a successor deal for the DGA master contract. The deal goes into effect on June 30 with a major hike in streaming residuals — building on the provisions first hammered out in 2008 — and boosts employer contributions the pension and health plans.

“The response from members has been enormously positive,” Barclay notes. “The new contract really is about the future and where the puck is going. I’ve been around for five negotiations and this one is the most creative and forward thinking.”

The DGA is also transitioning on the leadership front: Jay D. Roth, the national executive director since 1995, announced this month that he would step down in the late spring and segue into a special adviser post. The DGA national board is expected to announce transition plans shortly.

“Jay has been instrumental and will be impossible to replace so we’re very fortunate to have gotten him to stay on,” Barclay notes. “The special adviser position is anything but symbolic. He’s negotiated the last eight contracts for us.”

Barclay, one of TV’s most prolific directors, is also winding up the final months of his presidency. The outgoing leader, the first African-American and openly gay DGA president, wants to follow guild tradition and serve only two two-year terms.

“I think two terms is enough,” he says. “I don’t think I’m so incredibly special that I need to do a third, and I’ve been missing my sons, who are 12 and 13.”

Barclay, a strong advocate for producers to increase hiring of women and minority directors, says he’s very optimistic about diversity.

“We’ve been banging our drum for years and I think that people are starting to get the message so I’m anticipating that the numbers will improve in the next few years,” he says.

Barclay points to the year-old Director Development Initiative, a diversity program that includes a speaker series, career workshop, and mentorship program.

The new contract includes a provision seeking to curb the practice of giving limited first-time directing opportunities to individuals who are not serious about a career in directing. To address this concern, the DGA requires all first-time dramatic TV directors who have not completed or enrolled in a studio-sponsored Television Director Development Program to attend a DGA orientation program.

Barclay’s recent credits include directing episodes of “Empire” and “Pitch”; he previously exec-produced “Sons of Anarchy” for six seasons. He asserts that it’s key for DGA leaders to be out there working to let members know they are dealing with day-to-day concerns.

“I think members are very happy with the leadership, which includes working directors like Steven Spielberg, Michael Apted, Tommy Schlamme, Jon Favreau, and Lisa Cholodenko,” he notes. “So there has not been a lot of storming the castle.”