11 Questions for Paris Barclay

The director talks about the industry, his leadership role and how the Guild has progressed during his presidency

1. We're living in the era of Peak TV, centering on a medium in which you've excelled for roughly 25 years. What are your thoughts on the surge of creative opportunities for directors?

It's the best of times, and the best of times. With twice as many episodes than just a few years ago, directors are seizing the day and making their marks more than any time since live television reigned. TV isn't "TV" anymore, it's all filmmaking—and many of our directors (who are also more and more the creators of their own series) are not letting us down.

2. In this regard, how have directors set themselves apart in today's landscape?

I don't like to name names (there'd be too many anyway), but it's hard to imagine what Game of Thrones, The Leftovers, Stranger Things, even The Get Down and House of Cards would be like without their transcendent directors. And on network TV: This Is Us, Black-ish, Jane the Virgin, The Flash and The Amazing Race all show the hands (and eyes, and hearts) of their directors in every episode.

3. Why should a working member, especially somebody as busy as you are, take on the challenge of being president?

Well, I don't advise it without a strong ability to multitask and a great tolerance for "input." But since I became a member—and the Guild stood up for me numerous times when my rights were getting trampled (and/or I wasn't getting paid)—I realized how important this organization is for all members, but particularly for those who aren't superstars. So I've wanted to give back, and help keep the focus on the people who most need the Guild's help.

4. What was the best part of being president, and the worst?

The best part was knowing I was asked to do a job that had been done by so many people I've long admired—Capra, Wise, Cates, Apted, Hackford, among them. It's such an honor to be part of that long train of fighters. And the opportunity to work with hundreds of outstanding members volunteering their time on our National Board, Councils and Committees— in addition to working closely with our extraordinary DGA Executive staff team, led by Jay Roth and now, Russ Hollander. The worst part? Honestly, the time. My two young sons have not enjoyed this stretch as much as I have. I suppose I could have done less and delegated more, but it's not my strength. Once I'm in, I'm all in.

5. Who were your Guild mentors as you rose through the ranks?

Along with the above, I was also heavily influenced by John Frankenheimer, who was quite active in the Guild when I started coming around. John Rich and Sheldon Leonard showed me that humor could play an important role in these proceedings. But mostly I modeled my "presidential style" on Steven Soderbergh's approach to the Eastern Directors Council and Michael Apted's approach to the Board. It takes a light touch to move directors. They are known to have opinions.

(Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for DGA)

6. In addition to serving two terms as president of the Guild, you've been chair of the Political Action Committee (PAC). How important is it for members to get involved politically in the Guild?

It's critical. As crazy as D.C. is these days, we have a lot of issues that come before them, that they will be deciding, and it won't always go our way. The PAC allowed us to reach legislators, bring them into the Guild, tell them we're not all multi-millionaires. In large part, because of our action, we have incentives and both California and New York that are bringing a lot of work back. The PAC is necessary, and effective.

7. What is your proudest moment as a director and, conversely, what would you change about your career if given a second chance?

The day I directed the final scenes of "Hearts and Souls," an episode of NYPD Blue that went on to win the Emmy. It was Jimmy Smits' character's death, and it took everything I had to keep my own emotions and the emotions of the cast focused on the story we were telling. The result was extraordinary. What I would change? I probably would have tried to do more small, cool movies that mattered before they became almost impossible to get done.

8. Do you think the entertainment industry is getting better at telling stories that reflect all stratas of society?

Yes, and no. Filmmakers are getting better at it—our major studios have completely abandoned it. And no, having lots of colorful people battling monsters or driving recklessly for two hours is not a major advance. But the films we nominated for the DGA Award last year, reflected the kind of panoply of society I'd like to see more of: Moonlight, Lion, La La Land, Arrival and Manchester by the Sea. That's like standing on a mountain and seeing a lot of America—and a couple other countries as well.

9. What accomplishments during your tenure are you most proud of?

Hands down, getting this new contract that finally starts dealing with proper residuals for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streamers. The fight for inclusion—I feel the tide is turning there. New recognition in our awards for first-time directors and Lifetime Achievement Awards in Television. Continuing diversification of the Board—not only by gender, but bringing on major filmmakers as well as strong new voices. Clearer (and funnier) communications of the state of the Guild at our Annual Meeting. And don't forget this Quarterly itself—masterfully redone by our new editor and our DGA staff.

10. In the 25 years that you've been a member of the Guild, what are the biggest changes, or gains, you've witnessed?

The confluence of film and television into "content," for better or for worse, is the biggest change. And the corollary—I never expected I'd be comfortable watching "TV" or "a film" on my iPad or iPhone, but here I am, traveling about, doing just that. And I like it. For us in particular, economically, we've done an extraordinary job leaping ahead to make sure we're compensated fairly not just for what is, but for what will be. I call it "skating to where the puck is going," and we've got that down.

11. And what is the biggest challenge going forward?

Not losing sight of the puck as it speeds farther and farther away. And zig-zags. We've got to keep it in sight as time speeds by. Case in point: it seems like yesterday I was elected. Now, BAM!, four years later, I'm done. Things move faster than you know. But as James Taylor once told me: "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time."

(Photo: Jeffrey Mosier)

10 Questions

Question and answer sessions with prominent figures outside the Guild about current creative and business issues.

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Check out the latest DGA Quarterly, featuring our cover story on directors' thoughts on the state of TV comedy, as well as interviews with Michelle MacLaren, Christopher Nolan, Edgar Wright, Reed Morano, Thomas Schlamme and the Duffer brothers weighing in on their work -- past and present -- and much, much more.