Duncan S. Henderson: 2020 Frank Capra Achievement Award

Duncan S. Henderson

December 19, 2019

UPM Duncan S. Henderson will become the 34th recipient of the Frank Capra Achievement Award, which will be presented at the DGA Awards ceremony on January 25, 2020. The Capra Award is given to an Assistant Director or Unit Production Manager in recognition of their career and service to the industry and the DGA.

See video of Duncan Henderson's speech below.

A DGA member for nearly four decades, Henderson first joined the Guild in 1980 after graduating from the DGA-Producer Assistant Directors Training Program. He has served ten terms on the Western AD/UPM Council since 2002, including being elected as the current Council Chair. He was also a DGA National Board Associate Member, having been first elected in 2005 and served seven consecutive terms.

Asked about his choice to get so deeply involved in the operations of the Guild, Henderson answered, “I was like all of my compatriots in the DGA—busy.  At some point I realized that other members who were just as busy as me where making time to contribute to Guild with their service.  I decided to follow their lead and join the AD/UPM Council.  It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  It expanded the entire scope of my motion picture career.  I must say that former Western AD/UPM Council Chair Kim Kurumada played a large role in inviting me and encouraging me to be a more active member.”

When Henderson references how busy he was at the time of that decision, it is no exaggeration.  From his start as a Trainee in the DGA-Producer Assistant Directors Training Program, he found himself working on productions including Paul Schrader’s American Gigolo and Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate. Prior to becoming a UPM, he worked as an Assistant Director on features ranging from Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky IV to John Cassavetes’ Big Trouble. But it was in his move to the role of Unit Production Manager that he seemed to find his sweet spot. In that capacity he has had a prolific career working on features such as Peter Weir’s DGA Award-nominated Dead Poets Society; Wolfgang Petersen’s The Perfect Storm and Outbreak; Chris Columbus’ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Home Alone 2; Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion and Malcolm D. Lee’s upcoming Space Jam 2. Of them all, he says that it is his work on Weir’s DGA Award-nominated Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World that represents some of his most fulfilling achievements in the profession. 

“I am very proud of my work on Master and Commander.  I had always wanted to work on an epic picture in the David Lean milieu and this was my chance. I was able to work with Peter Weir for the third time and on top of the DGA Awards recognition, Master and Commander was nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.

Despite his busy career, Henderson has found himself equally busy in both his service to the Guild, and to the next generation of DGA members coming up. Giving back to the organization that helped to launch his career, he has served as a Trustee of the DGA-Producer Assistant Directors Training Program since 2004. On top of his longtime dedication to the AD/UPM Council and the DGA National Board, he has been a delegate to the DGA Biennial Conventions and also served on the DGA Negotiations Committee for the 2005, 2008, 2014, 2017 and 2020 negotiations cycles and was the co-chair of the Western AD/UPM Council’s Proposals Committee for the last two cycles. Helping his Guild achieve the best possible deal for his fellow members he notes as some of the work of which he’s most proud.

“I feel that my service on the Guild’s negotiating committees has been my most important work. I don’t think the average member has any idea of the time and effort that is put in by the Guild’s negotiating team every three years.  I’m very proud to be part of that team and awed by the work of the other members.”

All that Guild service still hasn’t slowed his career progression in the industry where Henderson is also a very well respected Producer and Executive Producer. IMDB lists more than twenty productions where he has filled the producer’s role. In that capacity, he also seeks to further the Guild’s mission by hiring his fellow members. 

“It’s really a no-brainer when it comes to hiring DGA members,” says Henderson. “The better your DGA team the better your production.  We try to make sure we are fully staffed with 2nd ADs so the production can run smoothly even under the most trying conditions.  Also, we try to hire another UPM or Assistant UPMs from the ranks of our DGA Assistant Directors. They are a great asset to any production.”

With all the work that Henderson has done for both his Guild and his profession, it is no wonder that his peers have chosen to recognize him with one of the highest tributes the DGA can bestow on a member of his category.

“It’s a wonderful honor,” says Henderson about that recognition.  “The Frank Capra Award has been given to a small and distinguished group of DGA members and to be considered part of that group makes one feel very lucky.”

portrait by Elisa Haber

Henderson accepts Frank Capra Achievement Award

Past recipients of the Frank Capra Achievement Award:
  • Kathleen McGill (2019)
  • Dwight Williams (2018)
  • Marie Cantin (2017)
  • Mary Rae Thewlis (2016)
  • Phillip Goldfarb (2015)
  • Lee Blaine (2014)
  • Susan Zwerman (2013)
  • Katy E. Garretson (2012)
  • Cleve Landsberg (2010)
  • Kim Kurumada (2009)
  • Liz Ryan (2008)
  • Jerry H. Ziesmer (2006)
  • Herb Adelman (2005)
  • Stephen Glanzrock (2004)
  • Yudi Bennett (2003)
  • Burt Bluestein (2002)
  • Cheryl R. Downey (2000)
  • Tom Joyner (1999)
  • Bob Jeffords (1998)
  • Peter A. Runfolo (1994)
  • Willard H. Sheldon (1993)
  • Howard W. Koch (1991)
  • Stanley Ackerman (1990)
  • Alex Hapsas (1988)
  • Henry E. “Bud” Brill (1987)
  • Jane Schimel (1985)
  • Abby Singer (1985)
  • William Beaudine Jr. (1983)
  • William C. Gerrity (1983)
  • Wallace Worsley (1982)
  • David Golden (1982)
  • Francisco “Chico” Day (1981)
  • Emmett Emerson (1980)