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DGA Awards: Damien Chazelle Dances to Best Directing Honors with La La Land


Damien Chazelle, Paris Barclay and Alejandro Iñárritu
Damien Chazelle, Paris Barclay and Alejandro Iñárritu

At the 69th Annual Directors Guild of American Awards held Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, La La Land director Damien Chazelle took the top prize. The best feature-film directing award was presented by Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman, The Revenant), recipient of the honor during the past two years. After victories at the Golden Globes and the Producers Guild Awards, the bitter-sweet musical continues its winning streak on the way to the Academy Awards, with the DGA’s nod a major indicator for a best director Oscar.

“This was a movie that was truly a team effort,” commented Chazelle after receiving his award. His purpose in making the film was because he “wanted to celebrate the art of dreaming that transcends borders.”

All best feature-film direction nominees  Lion‘s Garth Davis, Moonlight‘s Barry Jenkins, Manchester by the Sea‘s Kenneth Lonergan, and Arrival‘s Denis Villeneuve – were recognized with medallions. All five were first-time DGA Award nominees for feature directing. Villeneuve, who had always viewed Arrival as a story about a mother and her daughter, during the course of post-production realized that the messages of tolerance and communication in the film resonated with the zeitgeist of current times. 

Davis, also nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director, took home the award from that category. Presented by John Singelton, the Boyz n the Hood director recounted his struggles as a first time director straight out of USC Film School, reminding the directors in the crowd, “We have all been there.” 

Stars of the mini series The People vs. O.J. Simpson: America Crime Story, Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr., presented the best documentary-directing prize to Ezra Edelman for O.J.: Made in America.

Ryan Gosling and Damien Chazelle in La La Land (2016)
Ryan Gosling and Damien Chazelle in La La Land (2016)

Top TV honors went to Miguel Sapochnik, who garnered best dramatic TV series direction for the colossal “The Battle of the Bastards” episode of Game of Thrones. In the comedy series category, Becky Martin took the medallion for the “Inauguration” episode of Veep. In the movies for TV/miniseries category, writer-director Steven Zaillian received best director for The Night Of.

In opening the evening’s ceremonies, DGA president, Paris Barclay, did not stay away from current affairs. In talking about the international reach of both the guild, and the movies made by its members, he stated, “Drawing together humanity is kind of what we do. Transcending borders is kind of what we live for. Showing our culture to other cultures and sharing it, is what we are about… Our members are international. Our audiences are international. And our work, your work, touches lives across the globe.”

From the contributions of immigrants, to the importance of diversity to art and society, and the significance of labor in improving wages and working conditions, political references were a common thread in the evening’s presentations and acceptance speeches.

Rooney Mara and Dev Patel in Lion(2016)
Rooney Mara and Dev Patel in Lion(2016)

Several Lifetime Achievement awards were handed out. Christopher Nolan, Billy Crudup and Michael Fassbender sang the praises of veteran director Ridley Scott, honored with the DGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Feature Film. Sharing that “ This DGA award is the greatest of all awards to me,” Scott also thanked the “teams of talented people who helped him over the years,” noting cinematographers, editors, composers and others too numerous to name.

Four previous DGA presidents – Taylor Hackford, Michael Apted, Martha Coolidge and Gene Reynolds – joined Barclay in presenting Jay D. Roth, the guild’s national executive director for the past 22 years, with the Presidents Award, an honor only given out on three previous occasions.

Honored with the DGA’s Robert B. Aldrich Service Award, presented to him by his wife, actress Christine Lahti, Thomas Schlamme poignantly addressed the current immigration issue by sharing the experience of his parents, “I’m the son of two immigrant parents who as teenagers fled Nazi Germany.” He continued on to reveal, “their patriotism was the greatest gift they gave to their children.”

Gale Anne Hurd presented the Frank Capra Achievement Award to Marie Cantin who accepted her award on behalf of the assistant directors and unit production managers “who never walk down the red carpet.” She encouraged members of the guild to “pay-it-forward by opening up opportunities for more women.

As might be expected at an event honoring directors, the evening brought together a star-studded group of presenters including Amy Adams, Casey Affleck, Anna Chlumsky, Laverne Cox, America Ferrera, Ryan Gosling, Tony Hale, Alex Hibbert, Nicole Kidman, Helen Mirren, Mandy Moore, Kevin Nealon, Sunny Pawar, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Emma Stone, Mio Ventimiglia and Kerry Washington. Jane Lynch served as “unofficial” host.

Complete List of Awards and DGA Crew:

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film

DAMIEN CHAZELLE, La La Land (Lionsgate)

Mr. Chazelle’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Michael Beugg
  • Assistant Unit Production Manager: Bart Lipton
  • First Assistant Director: Peter Kohn
  • Second Assistant Director: Paula Case
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Brett Robinson
  • Additional Second Assistant Director: Dodi Rubenstein

Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director for 2016

GARTH DAVIS, Lion (The Weinstein Company)

Mr. Davis’s Directorial Team:

  • Production Managers: Rajeev Mehra, Rakesh Singh (India Unit)
  • First Assistant Director: Chris Webb
  • First Assistant Director: Ananya Rane (India Unit)
  • Second Assistant Directors: Mark Ingram (Australia Unit), Sunny Tiku (India Unit), KP Singh (India Unit), Shaunak Kapur (India Unit)

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary for 2016

EZRA EDELMAN, O.J.: Made in America (ESPN Films)

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series for 2016

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Mini-Series for 2016

  • Associate Directors: Ken Diego, Robin Abrams, Ricky Kirshner
  • Stage Managers: Garry Hood, Peter Epstein, Joey Despenzero, Phyllis Digilio-Kent, Andrew Feigin, Doug Fogel, Jeffry Gitter, Arthur Lewis, Jeffrey M. Markowitz, Cyndi Owgang, Jeff Pearl, Alfonso Pena, Annette Powlis, Elise Reaves, Lauren Class Schneider, Jim Semmelman

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Reality Programs for 2016

J. RUPERT THOMPSON, American Grit, “The Finale Over the Falls” (FOX)

Mr. Thompson’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Director: David Charles
  • Stage Managers: Daniel Curran, Kevin Fletcher

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs for 2016:

TINA MABRY, An American Girl Story Melody 1963: Love Has to Win (Amazon)

Ms. Mabry’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Richard G. King
  • First Assistant Director: Otto Penzato
  • Second Assistant Director: David Berke
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Christopher H. Cook
  • Additional Second Assistant Directors: Candice Lee, Matthew W. Ros

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials for 2016


Chase, Nike Golf – Wieden + Kennedy Portland

  • First Assistant Director: Rick Lange
  • Second Assistant Director: Ethan Ross, Craig Sackett, Cue Chatley
  • Second Second Assistant Directors: Greg Moutran, Stephen Killebrew

Doubts, Powerade – Wieden + Kennedy Portland

  • First Assistant Director: Mariela Comitini
  • Second Assistant Director: Brad Robinson

Manifesto, Squarespace – Anomaly

  • First Assistant Director: David Backus
  • Second Assistant Director: Josh Voegelin
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