DGA Announces Special Award Winners for 76th Annual DGA Awards

UPM Janet Knutsen and Stage Manager Gary Natoli

December 15, 2023

Los Angeles – Directors Guild of America President Lesli Linka Glatter today announced the recipients of two exceptional DGA Awards recognizing extraordinary contributions to the industry and profound service to the Guild over exemplary careers. The awards will be presented at the 76th Annual DGA Awards on February 10, 2024. Unit Production Manager Janet Knutsen has been named the Frank Capra Achievement Award honoree in recognition of her prolific industry success and dedication to the DGA as an Assistant Director and Unit Production Manager over an acclaimed career, while Stage Manager Gary Natoli will receive the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award, celebrating his distinguished creative achievements and steadfast Guild service as an Associate Director and Stage Manager.

“I couldn’t be more delighted to announce that our prestigious Frank Capra and Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Awards will be presented to remarkable Guild trailblazers Janet Knutsen and Gary Natoli. Their stellar creative outputs have been matched only by their incredible efforts to help guide newcomers to the industry. With open arms, they’ve shepherded new talent, been trusted advisors, and built a close-knit community. They help to make the Guild a more welcoming and supportive place for everyone. Through exceptional dedication and leadership, they are an inspiration to all. The DGA is honored to bestow these awards for exemplary Guild service and for continuing their commitment to uplifting current and future generations of directing teams.”

2024 Frank Capra Achievement Award: Unit Production Manager Janet Knutsen

Janet Knutsen joined the DGA as a 2nd AD in 1981 after completing the prestigious DGA-Producers Assistant Directors Training Program. Since that time, she has amassed Assistant Directing credits on features such as Bob Clark’s Rhinestone, Ron Howard’s Gung Ho and Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky IV as well as nearly 100 television episodes on series such as Sisters, Tracey Takes On… and The Practice before moving into the arena that would become her calling, Production Management. As a UPM her credits include features such as Sam Taylor-Johnson’s A Million Little Pieces and Trish Sie’s Sitting in Bars with Cake; movies for television such as Joey Soloway’s Transparent Musicale Finale; and hundreds of episodes of series including Boston Legal and Rizzoli & Isles. She even had the opportunity to direct a few episodes of Sisters early in her career, granting her full appreciation of all parts of the process.

Knutsen’s dedication to Guild service began only a few years after she graduated from the Assistant Directors Training Program when she was elected as a member of the Western AD/UPM Council in 1985. She would go on to serve 15 terms on the Council as a member or an alternate and served as Secretary/Treasurer from 2020-2022. Her Council appointments also include the Administrative Committee where she served as Chair from 2020 to present; membership on the Constitution & By-Laws Review Sub-Committee in 1986 and being selected as a delegate to eight DGA Biennial Conventions from 2009-2023. She was also recently appointed to the DGA’s new Sustainable Future Committee and has served as a Commissioner on the California Film Commission since 2008.

But it is Knutsen’s work with the DGA Training Plan that is one of her most cherished accomplishments. A Trustee since 2009, she was the DGPTP Secretary in 2011, and has served on the Screening & Admissions Committee and the Curriculum & Progress Committee for the past decade; and more recently on the Finance Committee since 2019.

2024 Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award: Stage Manager Gary Natoli

Natoli joined the DGA in 1987 as a Stage Manager on the 8th Annual Ace Awards. Since then, his career has been truly impressive with credits on hundreds of live and taped productions including Super Bowl Halftime Shows, Primetime Emmy Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, The Critics’ Choice Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards, and episodes of Big Brother.

Known as one of the most prolific Stage Managers in the industry, he has been a Stage Manager on seven DGA Variety/Talk/News/Sports and Musical/Variety Award-winning productions: Paul Dugdale’s Adele: One Night Only (2021), Glenn Weiss’s 89th Annual Academy Awards (2017), Bruce Gowers’s Genius: A Night for Ray Charles (2004), Joel Gallen & Beth McCarthy-Miller’s America: A Tribute to Heroes (2001), Paul Miller’s The 52nd Annual Tony Awards (1998), Don Mischer’s Great Performances “Centennial Olympic Games: Opening Ceremonies” (1996) and Walter C. Miller’s The 45th Annual Tony Awards (1991).

Natoli’s burgeoning career has not prevented him from giving back via service to the Guild. Prior to shifting his gears to Associate Directing and Stage Managing, Natoli was first elected as an alternate to the Eastern Directors Council in 2000 and as a member in 2002. He would continue his Guild service with 15 terms on the Western AD/SM/PA Council, serving as a member or alternate and being elected Secretary/Treasurer, Second Vice Chair, First Vice Chair and, finally Chair where he has presided since assuming post in 2021.

Natoli also participated in other Council Committees including four BA/FLTTA Negotiating Committees, the most recent of which achieved significant gains for his fellow members working in non-dramatic SVOD. Under his leadership, the Council has also sought to elevate the AD/SM/PA categories with events to highlight their work such as Toybox: Tools Used for Multi-Camera Television, When Sh!t Happens: How the Director’s Team Deals with Unexpected Events in Live Variety Television and The More You Know: A FLTTA Contracts Master Class; and actively reached out to other Councils to develop stronger relationships and support.

76th Annual DGA Awards Key Dates
  • Tuesday, January 9, 2024: Television, Commercial and Documentary Nominees Announced.
  • Wednesday, January 10, 2024: Theatrical Feature Film and First-Time Feature Film Nominees Announced.

DGA Communications Department (310) 289-5333