A Tribute to Director Kathryn Bigelow

March 8, 2011 A WSC/DGA 75th Anniversary Event

On March 8, 2011, the DGA Women’s Steering Committee (WSC) hosted a special evening in honor of Director Kathryn Bigelow. The event gathered notable Industry veterans to pay homage to Bigelow, whose innovative artistry and barrier-breaking achievements make her, in every sense, a game-changer. In 2010 with her film The Hurt Locker, Bigelow became the first woman to win the DGA Feature Film Award and the Academy Award for Best Director.

 The festivities commenced with DGA President Taylor Hackford warmly welcoming the full house to the Guild’s Los Angeles theater. “Clearly there is much more to be done to encourage diversity in filmmaking,” said Hackford. “But there is also much to celebrate.” 75th Anniversary Chair Michael Apted introduced the DGA’s first woman president, Martha Coolidge, who served as mistress of ceremonies for the evening. “Kathryn Bigelow followed her bliss into a profession formerly dominated by men,” said Coolidge. “She has won the recognition she deserves and like so many pioneers, almost unintentionally, changed history for the rest of us.”

WSC event producer Kari Skogland spoke briefly about the Committee’s mission to help level the playing field so more women in the industry can follow in Bigelow’s footsteps. “All of us at the WSC and the DGA congratulate you on your achievements,” said Skogland, “and we look forward to your next film... and your next.” Coolidge then introduced a WSC-produced retrospective reel that illustrated the scope and depth of Bigelow’s work.

Tributes followed from acclaimed producers and directors such as Walter Hill (Broken Trail) and Tony Mark (The Hurt Locker). Producer Steven-Charles Jaffe (Strange Days) shared a congratulatory letter to Bigelow from U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, and The Hurt Locker producer/writer Mark Boal’s praise of Bigelow’s “graceful calm under fire” was a sentiment shared by all speakers. Actor Bill Paxton regaled the audience with colorful anecdotes of their work together on Near Dark, and actor Jenny Wright (Near Dark) thanked Bigelow for her support. Actor Lori Petty (Point Break) spoke about the empowerment Bigelow’s work has given to a new generation of women.

Colleagues unable to attend in person conveyed their congratulations via video vignettes from actors Willem Dafoe (The Loveless), Vincent D’Onofio and Ralph Fiennes (Strange Days), and Liam Neeson (K-19: The Widowmaker). Director James Cameron (Avatar) rounded out the video tributes saying, “I can’t think of anyone who deserves tonight’s tribute more than you.” Actor Angela Bassett (Strange Days) delivered a poetic and elegant thank you to the woman she called “a warrior of tireless endurance” and a “testament to what it means to be an artist.”

The guest of honor joined WSC Co-chair Donna Parish onstage for a presentation of a gift chosen by the Committee to express their appreciation for Bigelow’s work. The visibly touched Bigelow closed the evening with a sincere ‘thank you’ to her colleagues and the DGA for creating a “profound home and galvanizing force for all of us artists out there and to the extraordinary people who have spoken tonight. If ever the words ‘thank you’ meant anything, it’s tonight and now.”

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