DGA Statements on the Passing of Past President Michael Apted

DGA Awards 2013

January 8, 2021

Los Angeles – The Directors Guild of America made the following statements upon learning that Michael Apted passed away last night:

President Thomas Schlamme

“Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the passing of esteemed director, longtime DGA leader and my friend Michael Apted. His legacy will be forever woven into the fabric of cinema and our Guild. A fearless visionary as a director and unparalleled Guild leader, Michael saw the trajectory of things when others didn’t, and we were all the beneficiaries of his wisdom and lifelong dedication.

"Whether having the foresight as a young man to conceptualize the revolutionary documentary series 7 UP or helming large-scale features, whether negotiating directors’ rights throughout our industry’s digital revolution, or advocating for independent filmmakers and inclusion, Michael’s search for the truth and what’s right was evident in all that he endeavored. With his steady hand, acerbic wit, and keen eye to the future, he has steered our Guild through times of great change, setting the path for our industry and benefiting thousands and thousands of us. He always generously extended a hand to those behind him and understood the importance of activating leadership in the next generation. What I thought was an innocent lunch with him twenty years ago turned into my lifelong commitment to this Guild, all thanks to his passion and belief in me. I, like so many others, will be forever grateful for his mentorship. Words can’t express how much he will be missed. Our hearts go out to his wife Paige, and his children Jim, John, and Lily.”

Jay D. Roth, former longtime DGA National Executive Director who worked closely with Michael Apted throughout his over 20 years as a Guild leader:

“Michael led with strength, tremendous sensitivity and heart. He became passionate about the Guild after his creative rights fight around the deletion of 30 minutes from his carefully researched film, Thunderheart, about Native Americans. He would go on to help create our Independent Directors Committee, bringing new blood into the Guild, and quickly became involved in governance and leadership. And while independent film, creative rights and documentaries were his passion, it was not long before he became President of the DGA.

“Michael helped define our Guild for the past two decades, and through it all he was my friend, my confidante and my comrade. As his ‘squire,’ we traveled the world, shared books and stories, enjoyed good wine and food and stood tougher in the toughest of times. He enriched all of our lives.”

Steven Soderbergh, former DGA National Vice-President and Creative Rights Committee Co-Chair who served alongside Apted in both roles throughout Apted's presidency; and co-founded the Guild’s Independent Directors Committee with Apted:

“I spent countless hours literally two feet from Michael and loved every minute of it. Apart from his own remarkable body of work, what he gave to the DGA can't be measured; he put his entire BEING into the Guild, and inspired us all to follow his example. We were lucky to have him and to know him.”

Paris Barclay, DGA Past-President, whom Apted served alongside as Secretary-Treasurer:

“Michael had a deep and profound impact on the Guild, and on me. His shrewdness in negotiations, how he energized the Guild’s efforts towards inclusion, and how he led the Guild with rapier wit and elegance inspired me and so many others to participate in leadership. He was my teacher, my mentor, my advisor, and my friend. We owe him so much – losing him leaves a hole in the Guild’s heart.”

Taylor Hackford, DGA Past-President, who succeeded Apted as Guild President, and whom Apted served alongside as Secretary-Treasurer:

“Michael Apted was the definition of ‘mensch’ – like the wonderful director he was, you could always count on him to deliver a clear and well thought out point-of-view, usually leavened with a dollop of dry wit.  He was my trusted colleague at the DGA for over 30 years, and I was privileged to follow him as President of our great organization – his were huge shoes to fill.  I will miss him dearly.”

DGA Service, Career and Awards:

Apted served as DGA President for three terms from 2003-2009, the longest consecutive presidential service since George Sidney in the 1960s. Negotiations during his tenure as president included the 2004 round that successfully protected health benefits, and the 2007 round that established jurisdiction and compensation formulas in new media. As audiences migrated online in the years that followed, Guild members were positioned for growing success. Following his presidency, Apted served as co-chair of the DGA Negotiating Committee, together with current DGA President Thomas Schlamme, in the 2014 and 2017 cycles – most recently achieving unprecedented gains in subscription video on demand residuals which set the pattern for the industry. He also continued to serve on the National Board as Secretary-Treasurer through 2019.

Apted joined the DGA in 1978 and became active in Guild service in 1997, when he was first elected to the Western Directors Council. In 2001, he was elected to the National Board and became fifth vice president the following year. He also founded (together with Steven Soderbergh) the Guild’s Independent Directors Committee in 1998, and served as chair until he was elected President of the Guild. In the years following his presidency, he furthered key Guild efforts in Washington as co-chair of the Political Action Committee Leadership Council and in educating the world about the Guild’s rich history as chair of the 75th Anniversary Advisory Committee.

In 2018, Apted was the recipient of the DGA Honorary Life Member Award in recognition of leadership in the industry, contribution to the Guild and the profession of directing, and outstanding career achievement. In 2013, he received the DGA’s Robert B. Aldrich Award for extraordinary service to the Guild and its membership.

Since the 1960s, Apted has helmed an extensive list of feature films and documentaries. His feature films include Unlocked, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Amazing Grace, Gorillas in the Mist, Coalminer’s Daughter (for which he received a DGA Feature Film Award nomination), The World is Not Enough, Gorky Park, Thunderheart, Nell, Enigma, and Enough. Apted’s documentary credits include Incident at Oglala, Bring on the Night, Moving the Mountain, Me and Isaac Newton and Power of the Game. His most widely recognized documentary directorial achievements are his internationally acclaimed, multi-award winning sequels based on the original 7 UP documentary: 7 Plus 7, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49 UP, 56 UP and 63 UP, which have followed the lives of 14 Britons since the age of seven in seven year increments. In addition to his documentary and feature work, he has worked extensively in television, most recently directing episodes of Showtime’s Masters of Sex and Ray Donovan and HBO’s Rome for which he won the DGA Award in the Dramatic Series category. Apted was also nominated for the DGA Award in the Dramatic Series Night category for The Collection-Harold Pinter (PBS Special) in 1978. Other awards and nominations for his body of work include a Grammy, a British Academy Award, and the International Documentary Association's highest honor, the IDA Career Achievement Award. By the order of Queen Elizabeth II, he was made a Companion of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George for his work in the film and television industries.

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