I’ve been a proud DGA member since 1974. My path to filmmaking, like that of so many independent directors, was not a direct one. In college at USC, I was a pre-law major, focusing on international relations and economics and was pretty sure my goal was to address social change through law. But as a senior I started hanging out with some of the film students and became interested in the power of film as political tool. I entered the Peace Corps, landing in Bolivia where I started to experiment with Super 8 film. After my assignment ended, I managed to go to law school for two weeks, but I realized that filmmaking was my true passion and just got up and left to pursue it.
With no clear prospects and no film training, I applied for a job at the public television station in LA, KCET. Luckily, they gave me a job in the mail room from which I was able to begin my career. KCET became my film school – allowing me to begin by shooting news reports and creating music shows on tight budgets. Before long I was pioneering presentations of uninterrupted rock n’ roll performances on U.S. television and was fortunate to have the opportunity to create several award-winning documentaries for the station’s cultural department. In 1979, my short film, Teenage Father, won the Academy Award for best live-action short film. This led to the opportunity to direct features opening a window for me to see first-hand the importance the DGA places on the creative and economic rights of directors.
To the filmmakers who gave birth to our Guild in 1936, the issue was clear: being a director meant that you were ultimately responsible for everything that happened on your film, and therefore should be entitled to certain rights. It mattered not whether your project was large or small, genre picture or blockbuster. If you were a director willing to take on all of the challenges of bringing your vision to the screen, you became a member of a very special community — a community that the DGA was established to protect and promote.
For over 70 years the DGA has stood behind those ideals and built a reputation for fighting on behalf of all our members. Today this includes our independent film director members for whom the DGA pioneered contracts designed specifically for low-budget pictures. These contracts are continually being revised to meet new needs as they emerge. So, it is possible for every director to make his or her film a DGA film, regardless of the budget. The Guild draws strength from this arrangement as well. The fresh perspectives, energy and talent of new members are indispensable to the vitality and growth of our organization.
We support our members working in this arena by protecting their rights, as well as providing them with the flexibility to do projects they are passionate about. The Guild’s Independent Directors Committees are a concrete embodiment of this commitment. These Committees — one based in New York and the other based in Los Angeles — host regular gatherings for independent and low-budget directors who are Guild members, as well as outreach activities for those who have not yet joined. The Committees have also established the successful Director’s Finder Screening Series which regularly showcases unreleased independent films directed by DGA members. All films that are shown as part of this screening series are submitted to the DGA by their directors and selected by lottery. I’m proud to say a growing number of the films that we have screened have found distribution that otherwise may not have.
In addition, the Guild has ongoing partnerships with independent film organizations and is a sponsor and active participant in many festivals and events, including the Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Producers Conference and Directors Labs, Slamdance Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Outfest, SXSW Film Festival, Film Independent, Los Angeles Film Festival, Pan-African Film Festival, LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, Urbanworld, IFP, the American Film Market, International Documentary Association and others.
I hope the information on this website will give you some insight into why becoming a DGA member is the right move for you. In addition to the tangible creative and economic advantages DGA membership provides, it is important to remember that the Directors Guild has been, and continues to be, the home for all filmmakers.
Directors Guild of America