Don Mischer - DGA Lifetime Achievement in Television Award

71st DGA Awards

December 19, 2018

Mischer will become the fourth recipient of the DGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Television Direction, which will be presented at the Saturday, February 2, 2019 at the Hollywood & Highland Center’s Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood. The Award honors Mischer’s legendary career as a live television director.

In announcing the award on November 27, DGA President Thomas Schlamme said, “Don’s mastery of directing live events is a sight to behold: a fast-paced symphony of meticulous planning and on-the-spot decision-making that brings our nation’s greatest cultural events into our living rooms. And he does it all with grace and confidence. For decades, Don has captivated generations of audiences with our shared moments – from the Oscars and Super Bowl half time shows to the Olympics and President Obama’s historic inauguration. His skill as a director captures a range of human experiences which transcend the present, creating lifelong memories for audiences around the world. Along the way, he’s picked up a record 10 DGA Awards, countless industry awards and nominations for his outstanding work, and the admiration of his peers and colleagues. But that still wasn’t enough for us. We couldn’t be more proud to present Don with our Guild’s highest honor in television for his enduring contributions.”

Mischer’s diverse body of directing experience includes some of the most widely viewed live television events, ranging from political ceremonies — We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial; musical specials — Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever; and sporting events — Super Bowl halftime shows and the opening ceremonies of the 1996 and 2002 Olympic Games.

While earning his Master of Arts degree at the University of Texas, Austin, he got his first experiences in live television while working at their public broadcasting channel. He later met Charles Guggenheim while working at PBS where the two made political films in the 1960s. While covering the John F. Kennedy assassination, Mischer met Al Perlmutter who invited him to direct several episodes of The Great American Dream Machine, which marked the beginning of his career directing for musical and variety television.

From that start Mischer went on to become an internationally acclaimed director and producer of television and live events. He has served as executive producer for the Primetime Emmy Awards seven times and has directed the 83rd, 84th and 85th Academy Awards ceremonies. He has been honored with 15 Emmy Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, a Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, the 2012 Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television from the Producers Guild of America, and he has been recognized by the DGA with 18 DGA Award nominations and taken home a record 10 Awards for Outstanding Directorial Achievement.

“Every time you go to direct something you’re shooting for the moon and want to ‘ring the bell’” Mischer said about his past DGA Awards. “You’re lucky if you can ring the bell half the time. It takes good teams to do these things and one weak link somewhere and you can all go south. But in the genre of television that I do, it’s the team that counts — I’m talking about the DGA team, the ADs and the Stage Managers. Those of us who do what we do and have been fortunate enough to get this kind of recognition, we’re really standing on the shoulders of all those people who supported us. Every day I work in this business, I appreciate that more.”

Recent Mischer stories that did ‘ring the bell’ include producing and/or directing The Oscars, the 9/11 Memorial Museum Dedication, and The Breakthrough Prize: Scientists Changing the World. He also produced Taking the Stage: African American Music and Stories That Changed America for ABC, which celebrated through music, dance and the spoken word, the September 2016 historic opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Performers with whom Mischer has worked include: Beyoncé, Bono, Prince, Barbra Streisand, Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Taylor Swift, Stevie Wonder, Adele, Mary J. Blige, Willie Nelson, Justin Timberlake, Tom Hanks, Justin Bieber, Jon Bon Jovi, and Carrie Underwood, among others.

A DGA member since 1971, Mischer has served two terms on the Guild’s National Board, two terms on the Board of Governors of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, received the Governors Award from the National Association of Choreographers, and is a member of the Event Industry Hall of Fame and the Producers Guild of America. And, for the second year in a row, he will also serve as Awards Chair for the annual DGA Awards ceremony.

When it comes to his Guild, Mischer’s own DGA visual history interview on www.dga.org offers his advice to anyone who wants to follow in his footsteps:

“I would say if you want to be a Director, you want to be a creator, you should join the DGA. Good luck. It is not that easy any longer. And you’re not going to regret it.”

Even though he has contributed so much to his Guild and the industry, Mischer was still incredulous when he was informed he was receiving this award. “It was so unexpected. When Tommy called and sprung this on me. I didn’t think I heard him correctly. Television came to my home town of San Antonio, TX in 1949 and at one point during that time I dreamed about being a camera operator and framing a shot on my camera that would be seen by everybody in the country. So to receive a DGA Lifetime Achievement award... I was lucky enough to serve two terms on the Board and I loved going to the board meetings and sitting with people who are creative giants. So to have the past presidents do this is a true honor and I really appreciate it.”

portrait courtesy of Don Mischer Productions


The DGA Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Television Direction was created by the Board of Directors in 2015, joining the Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Motion Picture Direction as the two highest honors bestowed by the DGA. Winners are nominated by a blue ribbon committee of prominent television directors and approved by the present and past presidents of the Guild. Television directing icons James Burrows and Robert Butler received the inaugural honor. Commercial directing icon Joe Pytka received the honor in 2016.