Making It Happen: Accountability and Opportunity

March 21, 2018 A DGA Director Development Initiative interactive lab in Los Angeles

DGA members seeking ways to better prepare for their next episodic directing assignment gathered at the Guild’s Los Angeles headquarters on March 21 for the DGA Director Development Initiative’s (DDI) first interactive lab of 2018,Making It Happen: Accountability and Opportunity. The event broke down the fundamental qualities of personal leadership and how they translate to empowerment and ultimately success.

Following a welcome by DGA Executive in Charge of Diversity Programs and Committees Frank Bennett Gonzalez, the lab kicked off with a panel discussion with members who participated in the highly successful inaugural DDI Mentorship Program, which paired members who aspired to expand their television directing careers (protégés) with veteran directors (mentors) who served as their professional guides to the working world of episodic television throughout the 2017-18 season.

In a conversation moderated by DGA Diversity Task Force Co-Chair Bethany Rooney (The Originals), Directors Daniella Eisman (The Mindy Project), Gail Mancuso (Modern Family), Kim Nguyen (SantaLand) and Marcus Stokes (Criminal Minds), discussed the attributes of successful directors and the related tools and resources that are key to career empowerment.

Following the panel discussion, the lab’s attendees had the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions where they practiced their personal brand statements­­ — aka “elevator pitches” — with panelists Mancuso and Rooney and veteran Directors Mary Lou Belli (NCIS New Orleans), Tom Verica (For the People), Ken Whittingham (black-ish), Andy Wolk (Girlfriends Guide to Divorce), Greg Yaitanes (Manhunt: Unabomber), and Craig Zisk (The Looming Tower).

You can watch video highlights from the discussion in the gallery below.
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Bethany RooneyDirector Bethany Rooney (moderator)
Rooney has directed more than two hundred episodes of primetime network television over the past thirty years, including series such as Desperate Housewives, Ally McBeal, Brothers & Sisters, NCIS and Criminal Minds, and more recently NCIS, MacGyver, Scorpion, Bull, Criminal Minds, and The Blacklist. She also co-executive produced the CW series, The Originals. A DGA member since 1985, Rooney was elected as a 1st Alternate to the National Board and previously served as a Co-Chair of the Women’s Steering Committee. She currently serves as the Co-Chair of the DGA Diversity Task Force (alongside Director Todd Holland) and was a mentor in the inaugural DDI Mentorship Program.

Daniella EismanDaniella Eisman
A graduate of the inaugural DDI Mentorship Program, Eisman has directed multiple episodes of The Mindy Project and recently directed an episode of Superstore. Her other directing credits include multiple episodes of MTV-turned-Facebook comedy, Loosely Exactly Nicole and the short film, Mr. Maple Leaf. A DGA member since 2005, she also has extensive on-set experience as a 1stt AD on various shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Medium, Mistresses, Growing Up Fisher, Getting On, Hawthorne and Powerless.

Gail MancusoGail Mancuso
A DGA member since 1988, Mancuso has directed over 300 television episodes including Modern Family, 30 Rock, Friends, Gilmore Girls and Roseanne. She earned three DGA Award nominations for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series for her Modern Family episodes “White Christmas” (2015), “Vegas” (2014) and “My Hero” (2013)." Mancuso also won Emmys for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for her Modern Family episodes “Vegas” and “Arrested” (2013), and was nominated for the episode, “Slow Down Your Neighbors” (2011). A mentor in the inaugural DDI Mentorship Program, she has also served as a Television Academy Governor for the Directors Peer Group.

Kim NguyenKim Nguyen
A graduate of the inaugural DDI Mentorship Program, Nguyen has directed award-winning commercials for clients such as Google, Target, and Samsung and worked with actors and comedians including Kevin Hart, Amy Schumer, Channing Tatum and Emma Stone. Her documentary, SantaLand, was shortlisted for Full Frame’s Documentary Film Festival Best Filmmaker Award. Nguyen joined the DGA in 2012.

Marcus StokesMarcus Stokes
A graduate of the inaugural DDI Mentorship Program, Stokes began his directorial career as a commercial director for clients including GMC, Nissan and Walt Disney Pictures before transitioning into narrative filmmaking. His episodic directing credits include Criminal Minds, Life in Pieces and Blindspot. His other credits include the short films, The Catalyst and The Signal. Stokes joined the DGA in 2002.


Mary Lou Belli
A two-time Emmy Award-winning director with over twenty years of experience, Belli’s credits include Station 19, NCIS: New Orleans, Pitch, Monk, Famous In Love, Devious Maids, The Quad, American Woman, Hart of Dixie, Wizards of Waverly Place, Sister, Sister, Girlfriends, and The Game. She Co-Chairs the Women’s Steering Committee, serves on the PAC Leadership Council and is an Alternate on the Western Directors Council. Belli has been a DGA member since 1987.

Tom Verica
A member of the DGA Diversity Task Force, Verica has directed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, The Mentalist, Harry’s Law, Boston Legal, Ugly Betty, American Dreams, Body of Proof, No Ordinary Family, The Cleaner, Army Wives and Dirty Sexy Money. He has directed episodes of For the People and serves as executive producer on the show, roles he previously held on Scandal. Verica joined the DGA in 2004.

Ken Whittingham
A DGA member since 1987, Whittingham has directed for series such as Grace and Frankie, Superstore, Speechless, black-ish, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Life in Pieces, Survivor’s Remorse, The Mindy Project, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 2 Broke Girls, 30 Rock, The Middle, The Office, Entourage, Community, Scrubs and The Bernie Mac Show. He won NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for the Parks and Recreation episode “How a Bill Becomes a Law,” 30 Rock episode “The Funcooker” and for The Office episodes, “Phyllis’s Wedding” and “Michael’s Birthday.”

Andy Wolk
Wolk earned two DGA Award nominations for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs for Lincoln Heights. His directing credits include The Sopranos, Damages, The Practice, Seal Team, Girlfriends Guide to Divorce, Ugly Betty, Unforgettable, Rizzoli and Isles, Criminal Minds and Gossip Girl. He also directed the pilot, Arliss. He wrote and directed TV movies: Criminal Justice, Deliberate Intent, The Defenders: Payback, The Defenders: Choice of Evils and The Defenders: Taking the First and directed When Angels Come to Town, Finding John Christmas, The Christmas Shoes and A Town Without Christmas. Wolk joined the DGA in 1990.

Greg Yaitanes
An Emmy Award-winning director who has directed and produced over 200 hours of television, Yaitanes served as showrunner and sole director of Manhunt: Unabomber. He was the showrunner, executive producer and director of Quarry as well as Banshee. His extensive credits include Lost, Castle Rock, Genius, Ray Donavan and House, M.D., which earned him an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for the episode, “House’s Head.” Yaitanes joined the DGA in 1996.

Craig Zisk
Among Zisk’s directing credits on more than eighty series are The Looming Tower, Veep, This Is Us, Fear the Walking Dead, Preacher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks and Recreation, American Horror Story, Weeds, Agent Carter, The Good Wife, The Big C, Nurse Jackie, United States of Tara, Entourage and The Office. He earned Emmy nominations for his work on Brooklyn Bridge, The Larry Sanders Show and Weeds. Zisk joined the DGA in 1992.

About the Director Development Initiative:

The Director Development Initiative is designed to provide current information on the Director’s craft in order to further the Guild’s mission to increase the diversity of the industry.

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