Backlot: 5 Questions for Taylor Hackford

Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/Contour by Getty Images

As members of the Directors Guild of America gather for the 63rd annual DGA Awards Dinner on Jan. 29, guild president Taylor Hackford — whose credits range from White Knights to Ray — spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about this current moment in DGA history.

Did you achieve what you wanted in the new contract?

We were very pleased to reach a deal with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture & TV Producers). You’re never negotiating in a vacuum — the current economic situation, the environment of the industry all came to bear. Do you leave things on the table? Of course, but the area of health care was so important to us in this national environment of escalating health care costs. In the long run, we are very pleased by the outcome.

How are your relations with the WGA, the one guild that hasn’t struck a deal with producers yet?

We try to maintain as fraternal relations as possible. I speak with [WGA president] John Wells. We’re very cordial. Quite frankly, they have priorities specific to their members, and so do we. I’m just hoping that they can come out of it as successfully as we did.

The DGA plans to spend a lot of time this year marking its 75th anniversary. Why is that important to you?

As a guild, our personality is tied into learning from the past. We don’t forget history. We were founded by a group of directors who really risked their jobs to get creative rights, and I want to stress the creative side. So this year we want to celebrate our heritage, to take the entire year to mark our anniversary. It’s something we’re very proud of.

The nominated directors all made movies that outperformed box-office expectations, while more formulaic studio fare hasn’t done as well. Do studios get that?

I think studios will always react, and the way they react is to look at films that are making money. I would hope that when they look at the various nominees this year, they see a group of films that really spoke to audiences. I’m really proud of the films our members nominated.

You’ve made the fight against piracy a main priority. Any progress?

I think it’s very hopeful for the future. There’s no question the industry is at a crisis point and has to deal with digital theft if we want to survive. We believe in copyright, and we believe in intellectual property — you have to if you want a future for professional filmmakers so that it’s just not all amateurs on YouTube. It’s our No. 1 public policy issue. But it’s by no means a losing battle.           

DGA Awards
Saturday, Jan. 29
Hollywood & Highland