DGA Honors

DGA Honors

DGA Honors 2000

The Second Annual Directors Guild of America Honors was bigger and more epic in scope than last year. More than 750 people representing a spectrum of American intellectual, creative, political and social life packed the reception and ballroom at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan on December 10, 2000, for the black-tie dinner.

President Jack Shea introduced the awards by paying tribute to National Vice President Edwin Sherin, the inspiration for the Honors. Shea attributed the success of the Honors “to the dynamic leadership that he has brought to our Guild as National Vice President.”

In the program for the evening, Sherin wrote that “The DGA Honors was created to help remedy the historic lack of proper recognition to the increasingly important role being played by New York and the eastern region of the United States. This year we recognize the key contributions of six leaders from diverse parts of American culture who have played a significant role in the success of the entertainment industry. They’ve given this country a mighty export that has provided the world with images and stories that contribute to the connection between people everywhere on our planet.”

The honorees were Frank Capra, Jr., President, EUE Screen Gems Studios, Wilmington, NC; Jeff Bewkes, Chairman and CEO of HBO; director Mike Nichols; Sen. Edward M. Kennedy; Thomas C. Short, International President IATSE and director Sydney Pollack.

Host Ellen DeGeneres set the light note for the evening, making personal jokes about herself. A moving moment was the award to Frank Capra, Jr. because it brought home the fact that the movie industry is an extended family with resounding connections. Shirley MacLaine, who introduced Capra called him, “my friend, my mentor, my nurturer” because he produced her directorial effort Bruno at his EUE/Screen Gems Studios, Ltd. In Wilmington, North Carolina, and saw her through a hurricane during production.

Capra, who pioneered film production in Wilmington in the early 1980s survived the hazards of regional film production and now operates the largest motion picture studio (more than 250,000 square feet of production space) east of Hollywood.

He announced the acquisition of First Look Pictures and Overseas Film Group, which will lead to more films in the Wilmington area. “On behalf of myself, Screen Gems Studios, and the entire community in Wilmington, I want to thank the Guild for this wonderful honor. As you know, my father [legendary director and former Guild President] loved this Guild so much.”

David Chase, producer/director of The Sopranos, introduced Jeff Bewkes, Chairman and CEO of Home Box Office (HBO), praising him for revolutionizing the TV industry with such adult and provocative series as Sex and the City, Oz and The Sopranos as well as Emmy and DGA-winning movies for television. “The environment created by Jeff and his fellow executives makes people want to do their best work.” Chase recalled that The Sopranos didn’t test that positively in cities across the nation, but HBO stood behind the series and promoted it heavily.

Accepting the award, Bewkes joked, “I meet with directors every day. They come to tell me about their vision for this project or that project. I ask questions or make some comments. But sometimes I sense that they don’t regard me as ‘creative.’ Those days are over. I see this awards as so much more than a ceremonial knick-knack. To me it feels more like a license, a creative license to impart my guidance and wisdom.

“Admittedly I came to this industry with only an MBA in corporate finance with a concentration in capital asset pricing, but being an executive to me is only a stepping stone to what I really want. My dream is to direct directors. So I’m especially delighted to find myself here tonight, in a room full of movie directors whose work I respect and admire, for the most part.”

He then talked about how he was introduced to The Sopranos one Sunday morning when he went out to pick up his morning newspaper. Chase, whom he’d never me, stepped out of a late-model sedan and approached him. “He told me he had an idea for a show and it would be in my personal best interests to listen. He was thinking about me, a guy he’d never met. He cared enough to find out what was important to me. He knew the names of all my kids and where they want to school I was taken aback by his sensitivity.” On a serious note, he stated, “I know, and all of us at HBO know, that it’s the work of the talented artists, writers, directors and actors who come to work at HBO who are being honored tonight. We are very proud to have a part in that.”

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), presented the DGA Honor to Thomas C. Short. After thanking his fellow honorees, Short emphasized the need of the guilds and unions to focus on real issues of the entertainment industry.

“We can achieve goals through thoughtful and careful consideration and focusing on the real issues of our industry,” he said, “and through getting the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and SAG to the bargaining table well in advance in order to negotiate in a timely fashion and without running the risk of putting several thousands of people out of work. Negotiations must take place at the bargaining table and not in the trade press. Just as automobiles can be made anywhere in the world, so too can motion pictures and television. We must protect our memberships and our industry and we must be careful that we don’t find ourselves to be the steelworker of the new millennium and turn the studios and networks into museums.”

DGA Secretary-Treasurer Gil Cates presented the DGA Honors Film School Grant of $15,000 to Dean Bruce W. Ferguson of Columbia University School of the Arts for excellence in its film education program. “Columbia was very well represented among the recent winners of the DGA Annual Student Filmmaker Awards this year,” Cates said. “We thank you for your efforts in creating a superior program that encourages students to be true to their vision, to experiment with the medium, and to release their creativity.”

Dean Ferguson paid tribute to Milos Forman, Chairman Emeritus of the film division, who “changed the course of our teaching methods by emphasizing narrative and by encouraging students to be true to their own voices above all else.”

Ron Howard accepted the Honor for Mike Nichols. Nichols was unable to attend but prepared a humorous video, which poked fun at his longtime friend Sydney Pollack who was being awarded the John Huston Award by the Artists Rights Foundation. Nichols also extended congratulations to committed new filmmakers today. “These are strange times, I don’t need to tell you,” he said. “I’ve been very impressed with the young directors who are making excellent pictures, who don’t think first about the opening weekend, and who think first about their pictures.”

Gwyneth Paltrow presented the DGA Honor to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) for his staunch support of First Amendment Rights. She notes that in his four decades in office, he “has championed civil rights, educational opportunity for all children, health care and a living wage for all American.” His support of the arts and DGA principles make him “a national treasure.”

Sen. Kennedy spoke of his “two very special friends” Ed Sherin and Jane Alexander. “I had the great honor of working with Jane Alexander when she was battling against the most extraordinary forces that [threatened] the National Endowment for the Arts and she was an absolutely brilliant leader. I commend all the members of the Guild for all of their good work and making sure that our country continues to support those efforts in support of the First Amendment.” He praised the entertainment community for its efforts in addressing the depiction of violence in the media, and stressed that “we shouldn’t make the entertainment industry the scapegoat for the problems that we are facing in our society.”

Elliot Silverstein, President of the Artists Rights Foundation, introduced the previous John Huston Award winner Tom Cruise, who presented this year’s award to Sydney Pollack. Cruise praised Pollack as a “great teacher.”

Pollack humbly said, “On behalf of all the recipients of this awards, and on behalf of all those who will get this, I accept this award. We have a long way to go [in protecting an artist’s rights]. We’ve taken a few baby steps, so here’s to the good fight.”

Jack Shea said, “I think tonight’s show topped last year’s. We had such a wonderful group of people.” He praised all the honorees for accepting the awards with simplicity. Sen. Kennedy’s speech about the vast scope and importance of the First Amendment was superb, he believes. “We have to keep hearing [that],” he emphasized. “I think this event is a wonderful thing for New York because I think it gives great dignity and importance to the film industry in the East.”


2000 Honorees

Mike Nichols, Director

Legendary filmmaker Mike Nichols, who has directed Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate (for which he won both the DGA and Academy Awards for Best Director), Carnal Knowledge, Working Girl, Silkwood and The Birdcage, among dozens of others, will be receiving the Filmmaker Award. Mr. Nichols has had an outstanding career in film, television and theatre, winning six Tony Awards and a Grammy.

Sydney Pollack, Director

Sydney Pollack has directed and/or produced more than 30 films and won two Academy Awards for Out of Africa (Best Director and Best Picture). He will receive the Artists Rights Foundation's “John Huston Award” for outstanding commitment to artist’s rights. Mr. Pollack has been a champion for the protection of the creative work of film directors and he has testified before a Subcommittee of the Unites States Senate on the subject of film colorization. The “John Huston Award” has become one of the film community’s most prestigious awards. Barbra Streisand, who co-starred in Pollack’s The Way We Were, said “I can think of no one more deserving to carry on the legacy and tradition of the ‘John Huston’ Award than him.”

Jeff Bewkes, Chairman and CEO, Home Box Office

Jeff Bewkes is Chairman and CEO of Home Box Office, the world's largest cable television company, which operates multiple premium networks in the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

The DGA is honoring Bewkes for his role in bringing HBO to the forefront of New York’s renaissance in episodic television production. Through the company’s dynamic efforts in support of cutting-edge series, such as The Sopranos, Sex and the City and OZ, Bewkes and HBO have helped renew New York's position as the "Entertainment Capital of the World."

Prior to becoming CEO in 1995, Bewkes had been president and Chief Operating Officer of Home Box Office since 1991. For the preceding five years, he had been Chief Financial Officer of the company. He joined HBO in June, 1979. Bewkes serves on the boards of Comedy Central network, The Creative Coalition, the American Museum of the Moving Image and St. Vincent's Services. He is a Trustee of the Walter Kaitz Foundation, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the Advisory Councils of the American Museum of Natural History and Stanford Graduate School of Business. Bewkes has a BA degree from Yale University and an MBA degree from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Frank Capra Jr., President, EUE, Screen Gems, Wilmington, NC

Frank Capra Jr. has been active in the film industry for over four decades. Currently President of EUE Screen Gems Studios, Wilmington, NC, he has produced dozens of films, among them, Play It Again Sam, Death Before Dishonor, Marie, Tom Sawyer, Firestarter, Escape from New York, Time Bandits and three Planet of the Apes films. Early in his career, he worked as an assistant director on such favorite series as Gunsmoke, Hazel, and Dennis The Menace.

Capra is receiving a DGA award in recognition of his instrumental role in transforming Wilmington into a regional production center for both television and film, as well as for his significant contributions as a creator of original programming.

He is a member of numerous professional associations, including the Executive Branch Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the North Carolina Governor’s Film Council and the North Carolina Southeast Film Advisory Board. He is also Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Mr. Capra graduated from Pomona College, and received a Doctor of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

Honarable Edward M. Kennedy, United States Senator (D-MA)

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who throughout his nearly 40 year career in the United States Congress has been a staunch supporter of the National Endowment for the Arts and First Amendment issues, will receive the National Honoree Award, the DGA’s highest recognition extended to persons outside the filmmaking community. Senator Kennedy is the ranking Democrat on the United States Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee and has fought for issues ranging from the minimum wage to quality health care, education reform, civil rights and environmental protection.

Thomas C. Short, President, IATSE

Prominent entertainment labor leader, Thomas C. Short, International President of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) will receive the Union Leadership Award. For more than 30 years since joining the Stagehands Local No.27 in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Short has been an outspoken advocate for those who work in specialized crafts within the entertainment industry.

Columbia School of Film