DGA Honors

DGA Honors

DGA Honors 2004

On Wednesday night, September 29th, New York's landmark Waldorf-Astoria hotel played host to many key members of the city's film community for the Fifth Annual DGA Honors. As in previous years, it was a time for colleagues and DGA members to gather in honor of those who have contributed so much to the American film industry. Hosted by funnyman Dave Chappelle, presenters Julie Delpy, Swoosie Kurtz, Jude Law, Mike Nichols, Martin Scorsese, Oprah Winfrey and Richard Belzer were on hand to give awards to Bertrand Tavernier, Congressmen Howard Berman and David Dreier, Sherry Lansing, Lorne Michaels, Robert De Niro, Jonathan Demme, and the Dean of Florida State University Film School, Frank Patterson.

Before the ceremony, past collaborators such as Mike Nichols and Steve Martin, Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese could be seen making their way through the gauntlet of photographers and hopping tables, chatting over drinks and dinner.

When the lights came down and Chappelle took the stage, the tone was set for an informal evening among friends. DGA President Michael Apted, defined the mission for the evening — "honoring men and women of vision who have performed above and beyond the call of duty" — and saluted the youthful sense of courage and adventure the honorees had shown.

To kick off his remarks, Apted announced both the successful resolution of recent negotiations with the AMPTP, and a freshly-minted deal with the television networks — which had been finalized at 3:45 AM that very morning in New York.

DGA National Vice President, Ed Sherin followed, outlining the broad scope of the DGA: "We are East Coast, West Coast, below the line, above the line, TV news and sports, afternoon drama, UPMs, and SMs," he said. "We are a motley crew, with different jobs and different needs. We disagree often, but with collegiality and civility. In the midst of the most rancorous political environment in my memory, divisive fighting unfortunately within our sister guilds, the DGA proves what can be accomplished when diverse and contradictory opinions are shared in a thoughtful and reasoned way. That's what a union of states, or a union of workers, is meant to do."

The first presenter was French actress Julie Delpy, who left the teleprompter to speak from the heart about her observations of director Bertrand Tavernier and his tireless work on behalf of artist’s rights. Tavernier spoke passionately about the need to protect the work of directors, and addressed his work in the fight against colorization of black and white films. "Do you colorize a black and white drawing by Rembrandt or Durer?" Tavernier demanded. "Do we colorize photography by Henri Bresson? We have to respect the film that the director wanted."

Comedian Richard Belzer, a two-time host of DGA Honors, presented the DGA Honor to Frank Patterson, Dean of the Florida State University Film School, who accepted on the University's behalf.

Introducing California's Congressmen Howard Berman and David Dreier, Swoosie Kurtz said, to great applause, "I'm very glad to be here because I've been to Toronto one too many times to film." The congressmen were recognized for their responsiveness toward, and past five years working with the DGA and the industry on the problem of runaway production, and Kurtz praised them for their understanding that the film industry is more than just "red carpets and People magazine."

The issue of runaway production loomed large in the comments of many of those on stage that night, and evoked consistent response from the audience. Ed Sherin expressed hopes that the the Runaway Production Alliance, spear-headed by the DGA, will result in "all scripts set in the United States (being) shot in the United States." Robert De Niro, in accepting his award for his great contributions to the New York film community, asked: "To be honored for doing what I love to do, in the city that I love, what could be better? But how can we keep more productions here in the U.S., let alone New York City? Something has to be done!"

The words resonated particularly deeply coming from De Niro, who has worn the hats of actor, director and producer, and who, with partner Jane Rosenthal, created the Tribeca Film Center and Tribeca Film Festival, both of which have done so much to grow the New York film community.

Jude Law, in introducing honoree Sherry Lansing, noted that it was "her confidence in me, and her enthusiasm, that made the choice so easy" for him to take on his role as Alfie, and he spoke to how her enthusiasm and confidence have had a similar effect on all those with whom she has worked. In accepting the award, Lansing noted that "receiving this award from the DGA has special significance for me because I am in awe of, and I respect, directors."

Producer Lorne Michaels, seated with Steve Martin, Ben Affleck and his current Saturday Night Live cast, joined presenter Mike Nichols onstage to receive the DGA Honor. The collegiality between Nichols and Michaels was evident as Michaels spoke about how special and how invigorating it has been for him to work in New York City and to have had the opportunities to work with so many talented comedians over the years.

Oprah Winfrey spoke with passion and spirit about the effect director Jonathan Demme has had on both her life and the lives of others. "From the moment that I met Jonathan Demme, my life was altered -- because of your extreme joy, Jonathan. And your enthusiasm for living. And your passion for doing what is the good, and great, thing. Being around you makes me feel everything more deeply." In his remarks, Demme summed up his feelings about being a member of the Guild. "For me, the DGA is very much about an endless fight for creative integrity in movies; it's for safety and integrity in the workplace; it's for a bigger share of the pie. And I'm also proud of the fact that I think the DGA, more than any other Guild involved in the motion picture industry, is very, very much at the forefront of the push for evermore diversity."

In introducing De Niro, Martin Scorsese spoke of how the Film Center helped develop the surrounding neighborhood into a thriving community, but particularly of the great gift of the Tribeca Film Festival, "coming when we needed it most," responding so quickly to the events of September 11th when lower Manhattan was in dire need of economic development. "The Tribeca Film Festival became a symbol of rebirth for a neighborhood and for a city," Scorsese said. It seemed fitting that the evening should close by acknowledging this great creative and economic contribution, made by one of the industry's finest artists.


2004 Honorees

Jonathan Demme, Director

Director and producer Jonathan Demme's credits include this year's The Manchurian Candidate, in addition to The Agronomist, The Truth About Charlie, Beloved, The Silence of the Lambs, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director, Philadelphia, Married to the Mob, Something Wild, Swimming to Cambodia and Melvin and Howard. Demme was twice named Best Director by the New York Film Critics (for Melvin and Howard and The Silence of the Lambs) and his films have been nominated for a total of 20 Academy Awards. In 1991, The Silence of the Lambs received five Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay Adaptation) and a DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film. Demme also directed the documentary Cousin Bobby and produced the Academy Award-nominated biography Mandela. Since 1988, he has worked with his company Clinica Estetico to produce or direct a number of documentaries as well as feature film projects, many of which have focused on the country of Haiti. His creative interests have also lured Demme into the musical domain; he directed the Robyn Hitchcock performance film Storefront Hitchcock, the Award-winning Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, Artists United Against Apartheid's Sun City, Neil Young's The Complex Sessions, and music videos for Bruce Springsteen, The Neville Brothers and Les Frères Parent, among others.

Robert De Niro, Director

Robert De Niro launched his acting career in Brian De Palma's The Wedding Party in 1969 and by 1973 he had twice won the New York Film Critics' Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performances in Bang the Drum Slowly and Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets. In 1974 he received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Part II. He won his second Oscar in 1980, as Best Actor, for his portrayal of Jake La Motta in Raging Bull. De Niro has earned Academy Award nominations in four additional films: as Travis Bickle in Scorsese's Taxi Driver, as Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, as Leonard Lowe in Penny Marshall's Awakenings, and in 1992 as Max Cady, in Scorsese's remake of the 1962 classic Cape Fear. He is currently working on Jay Roach's Meet the Fockers.

Through his company Tribeca Productions and the Tribeca Film Center, founded in 1988 with Jane Rosenthal, De Niro develops projects on which he serves in many capacities, including director, producer and actor. Tribeca's A Bronx Tale marked De Niro's directorial debut. Other Tribeca features include Thunderheart, Cape Fear, Night and the City, Marvin's Room, Wag the Dog, Analyze This, Meet the Parents, Analyze That and Meet the Fockers. In 1992, Tribeca TV was launched with the critically acclaimed series "Tribeca" on which De Niro served as executive producer. Tribeca Productions is headquartered at De Niro's Tribeca Film Center, in the Tribeca district of New York. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, De Niro co-founded the Tribeca Film Festival to celebrate New York City as a major filmmaking capital and to contribute to the long-term recovery of lower Manhattan.

Sherry Lansing, Producer

As Chairman of the Motion Picture Group of Paramount Pictures since 1992, Sherry Lansing is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the company's motion picture operations. Under her chairmanship, three of Paramount's films won the Academy Award for Best Picture during a four year period - Forrest Gump (1994), Braveheart (1995) and the highest grossing motion picture of all time, Titanic (1997). Prior to becoming studio head, Lansing headed her own production company, Lansing Productions, which produced Paramount Pictures' Indecent Proposal. During her partnership with Stanley Jaffe, formed in 1983, Jaffe/Lansing Productions produced a variety of films for Paramount, among them The Accused, Fatal Attraction, Racing With the Moon and School Ties. From 1980 to 1983, Lansing served as President of Production at 20th Century Fox; she was the first woman to hold that position in the motion picture industry. Prior to joining Fox Lansing served as Senior Vice President at Columbia Pictures.

Lorne Michaels, Producer

Lorne Michaels is the creator and executive producer of "Saturday Night Live," the longest-running and highest-rated weekly late night television program in history. Over the last 29 years, "SNL" has won countless Emmy Awards and was honored with the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award. Most recently, Michaels and the show were honored with a 2002 Emmy for Best Writing in a Variety/Comedy Series. Michaels has personally won ten Emmys as a writer and producer in television. He is also executive producer of NBC's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." Past television credits include specials with Lily Tomlin, Steve Martin, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Randy Newman, Neil Young and Simon and Garfunkel in Central Park. On Broadway, he produced and directed "Gilda Radner Live from New York" and produced the subsequent motion picture Gilda Live. Michaels' film credits include Three Amigos, which he produced and co-wrote with Steve Martin and Randy Newman, Wayne's World, Tommy Boy, A Night at the Roxbury, Superstar, and the WWII drama Enigma, directed by Michael Apted, which he produced with Mick Jagger. Most recently he produced the hit comedy Mean Girls starring Lindsay Lohan and Tina Fey. In 1979, Michaels founded the New York based production company Broadway Video Inc.

Bertrand Tavernier, Director

Versatile and prolific French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier has impressed international audiences for many years with his work in a number of genres. Tavernier began his career as a film critic for the influential publications "Positif" and "Cahiers du Cinéma," writing extensively on American movies. His first feature film, L'Horloger de Saint-Paul (1974), based on a Georges Simenon novel, won international prizes and established him as a major talent. It also marked the beginning of a long collaboration with actor Philippe Noiret. Tavernier followed his directorial debut with Que La Fête Commence..., Le Juge et l'Assassin, Des Enfants Gâtés, La Mort En Direct, starring American actors Harvey Keitel and Harry Dean Stanton, Une Semaine de Vacances and Coup de Torchon. In 1983 he made the documentary, Mississippi Blues, about the American South, and the following year he earned international acclaim, including the Director's Prize at Cannes and a Best Screenplay César, for his film Un Dimanche à la Campagne. Two years later he adapted the true story of a French fan's attempt to watch over doomed jazz pianist Bud Powell in 'Round Midnight, followed by the medieval saga La Passion Béatrice. Recent films include La Vie et Rien d'Autre, Daddy Nostalgie, Capitaine Conan and Ça Commence Aujourd'hui.

Howard Berman (D-CA) and David Dreier (R-CA), United States Congressmen

Congressmen Howard Berman (D-CA) and David Dreier (R-CA) are receiving a DGA Honor for their longstanding and unwavering support of the Guild's most important legislative priority - the fight against runaway film and television production. In 2001, Congressmen Berman and Dreier initiated House legislation to fight runaway production, and were original sponsors (along with Charles Rangel, D-NY) of HR 3131: "The United States Independent Film and Television Production Incentive Act of 2001." In 2003, the Congressmen jointly re-introduced similar legislation in HR 715: "The United States Independent Film and Television Production Incentive Act of 2003." Both bills offered federal income tax credits designed to encourage film and television/cable production in the United States and employment of U.S. small business workers on such productions. In addition, the Congressmen have individually proven to be strong supporters of the Guild and its legislative efforts in many arenas - continuing to protect both the creative rights of directors and the economic health of the entertainment industry.

Florida State University

The Florida State Legislature created Florida State University's School of Motion Picture, Television and Recording Arts (a.k.a. the Film School) in 1989 with the mission to prepare men and women for successful careers in the film and television industries. Operating on the main campus of The Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, the Film School offers programs in undergraduate and graduate film production. A conservatory setting with limited access and small enrollments, FSU Film School admits only 30 students to each program annually - significantly fewer students than any other major film school in America - allowing faculty to maintain the caliber of education necessary for graduates to succeed in an extremely competitive industry. It is the only film school in America that pays for the production costs of its students' films, thereby creating a level playing field so that students will focus on art, craft and imagination, instead of on fundraising. Tuition costs are lower than the other top programs, alumni are actively involved in transitioning graduates into the film industry, and virtually 100% of FSU Film School graduates find work in the film and television industry within 12 months of graduation.