DGA President Paris Barclay on 'Selma's' Snub and Hollywood's Race and Gender Problems

Prashant Gupta

"Look harder," says the prolific director to the studios and networks as numbers of minority and women directors continue to lag.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Elected president of the DGA in 2013, Paris Barclay, 58, has made promoting diversity a signature issue. During a drive from Cardiff, Wales -- where he's about to begin filming Kurt Sutter's new pilot, The Bastard Executioner -- to London, Barclay spoke with THR about how this awards season has pushed the diversity debate to the forefront.

The DGA nominated five men for best film director…

There's been a lot of focus on our film nominees being a group of largely white men, but you have to look in depth at all the nominees in all the other categories. It counteracts the thought that somehow the DGA membership prefers male directors to female directors. I think it just happens to be the films they like best and the films that they saw because their screeners were sent to the DGA membership. Some of the films that weren't nominated, like Selma, were films that weren't sent.

 

 

The DGA was just about the last major group to allow screeners.

I have always been pro-screener. It's certainly better to see some films in a theater. I saw Interstellar in Imax, and I loved that experience, but when I watch other movies on my 62-inch screen, I am very content.

But what does it say about the industry that your film nominees are male, while there are a lot of women among the TV nominees?

It turns out 50 percent of the nominees in the TV comedy and drama categories are women. A lot of them are people who established their careers in feature film like Lisa Cholodenko and now have found a really happy place in the world of high-quality television. As far as opportunities go, though, I'm not sure you can say there are more opportunities for women.

 

 

The DGA released a report in January that found over the past five years, minorities were only 13 percent, and women just 18 percent, of first-time episodic TV directors.

I was shocked by the results, that when it comes to hiring first-time directors, the studios and networks are not doing better. That should be an opportunity to provide opportunities for more people, give them a try. We put a highlight on it to say to the studios and networks, "Look harder."

How did you yourself break in?

I was primarily a music video director, working with LL Cool J and Bob Dylan. John Wells saw a reel of music videos I had done and hired me to do a show called Angel Street, which is how I got into the Directors Guild. There's a perfect example of someone taking a chance on a director that many people would have said was unproven because he actually looked at my work and took the time to meet with me.

What was it like directing the final episode of Sons of Anarchy, which you also executive produced?

Kurt [Sutter] had directed several days of the episode when he was felled by an appendicitis attack at 4:30 in the morning. It was two hours until call time, and with the DGA's dispensation, I came in. But I shot just two days for him, and, after surgery, he was back. In those two days, I shot his plan. But it was oddly fun because I had to go even deeper into his psyche than I normally do.

The DGA, which began presenting Lifetime Achievement Awards in Film in 1953, will present Lifetime Achievement Awards in Television for the first time this year.

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