News May 2021

Behind the Scenes at the 73rd Annual DGA Awards

April 12, 2021

The winners of the DGA’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement Awards for 2020 were announced on Saturday, April 10, during the 73rd Annual DGA Awards ceremony in a private virtual event for DGA members and invited guests. In a year that has been unlike any other in the history of the Guild, it was only fitting that the Awards would adapt and adopt a ceremony fitting for the times.

In his traditional Awards welcome to the membership, DGA President Thomas Schlamme addressed the situation head on. “The 73rd Annual DGA Awards — as you can already tell, will be like none of the 72 that came before,” said Schlamme. “Tonight as we celebrate our craft, I so wish we could all be together breathing the same air. But instead you’re tuning in from the comfort of your own homes as we join you from the comfort of our collective home at your Guild, both in Los Angeles and in New York. This may be new and different, but what remains the same is the spirit of this special evening — a family united through the awe-inspiring power of the cinematic arts.”

In order to accomplish this, the Guild called on DGA Board Member Don Mischer to take up the mantle for the third time as the Chair of the Awards Committee tasked with bringing this vision to life.

“What felt like an easygoing, graceful event was actually a highly complex, technically diverse undertaking; primarily because of the 55 live connections to nominees in eleven different categories,” said Mischer. “The most gratifying thing to me was how our Guild came across as a family — that we care for each other, look out for one another, and respect one another. That’s tough to accomplish virtually.”

Like all great projects, this one started with prep. Once the vision was set, packages for the presentations were pre-recorded during the week prior to the awards show in various locations at the Guild’s offices in Los Angeles directed by Schlamme and Jim Tanker, in New York directed by Chris Misiano, and in a revered theater in London for the Theatrical Feature Film Award where 2019 winner Sam Mendes directed himself. And DGA members stepped up to volunteer for the jobs of capturing it all. While the task seemed daunting, no one was better equipped to accomplish a DGA show than a DGA team.

Rita Cossette, the Stage Manager for all the pre-recorded presentations in Los Angeles recalled, “It was great to see how Tommy and Jim made such creative use of our DGA headquarters for these sessions and give members around the world a chance to visit our facilities even if only virtually.”

At the end, they were left with 350 various playbacks. As the segments were all being assembled, Associate Director Leslie Vincent and Associate Director/Editor Mike Polito began the work of building the puzzle out of the pieces.

“I basically edited the show so that it would feel as live as possible,” said Polito. “I’ve worked on the Oscars and the Emmys and all the other shows and I’ve been in that room for the DGA Awards show and this was just a whole different environment. But it was what we had to do to make it safe for everyone. We were extremely proud when it was over because we had no technical difficulties.”

“Once we learned about Tommy’s vision for a seamless show, Mike and I had to then figure out how to reverse-engineer the show so it could be executed cleanly from the control room,” said Vincent. “That is often the biggest challenge in our live variety world. We’re very proud to have accomplished something this entertaining for the viewers at home that was different than many other award shows that we’ve done with live zoom elements.”

But prepared as they were, on Awards night, it was still up to Director Jim Tanker and his team to make sure it all came together without a hitch.

“If it wasn’t for Leslie and her meticulous notes, our playbacks would have been a lot more chaotic,” said Associate Director Julie Gelfand who sat at Tanker’s side during the show. “She had everything organized and we had versions with every combination of winners. Then, at the last minute, we knew who they were and were able to roll the right ones but we had to be prepared for every possible scenario.”

Tanker credits the leadership of Schlamme and Mischer for making his job so much easier.

“It was very exciting to work under Tommy and Don’s leadership and to envision a program that’s like no other,” said Tanker. “This was not a ballroom program, but it had to be completed with dignity and cinematic excellence. And I think we showed off the Guild both in New York and Los Angeles buildings very well and demonstrated what’s possible when we have a really cohesive crew. It was just a herculean effort, and everybody was really on board. I think they saw Tommy’s passion for this, and everybody was inspired. And Don was very formulative in solving problems of the live show. I think when you work with really strong individuals, it just makes everybody feel confident.”

The end result was an amazing webcast and after expressing congratulations to the winners and nominees, and his thanks to all involved in putting on the show, Schlamme summed it all up.

“Tonight reminds us that our Guild allows all of us to be the storytellers we aspire to be. So to all of you in the Guild family, have a great night. And the best part is you don’t have to drive home.”

DGA Awards Production Team
  • Awards Show Chair: Don Mischer
  • Awards Executive: Marcel Giacusa
  • Awards Show Directed by: Jim Tanker
  • NY Segments Directed by: Chris Misiano
  • DGA Awards Show Material Written by: Jon Macks
  • Associate Directors: Julie Gelfand, Leslie Vincent, Mike Polito
  • Stage Managers: Rita Cossette, Ron Paul, Lauren Class Schneider

Shane Karns (Los Angeles) and Marcie Revens (New York)

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