Dialogue: ADG executive director Scott Roth


ADG looks to the future

As executive director of the Art Directors Guild, Scott Roth is responsible for negotiating and enforcing the guild's contracts, as well as for administering all of its business affairs. Appointed to the position 10 years ago, the former labor lawyer has overseen a period of tremendous growth for the guild -- with one of the biggest changes being an increased reliance on digital tools in the craft of art direction. Scott recently sat down with Jean Oppenheimer for The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the emergence of digital technology and other issues facing the guild today.

The Hollywood Reporter: Has the job description or duties of an art director changed due to new technology?
Scott Roth: No. Sets still need to be built and backgrounds still need to be figured out. The tools available to do these things may have changed, but the functions and end results remain the same.

THR: How has the guild responded to this move into digital?
Roth: We have made a much greater commitment to training our members and to keeping them up to date on new technologies. For several years now, we have had an in-house instructor who primarily offers computer software training. This is what our members need if they are going to remain competitive.

THR: Has the advent of digital tools created tensions either within the guild or between the guild and other unions, in terms of work overlapping and jurisdictional considerations?
Roth: That's something we want to be very careful about. (Our primary responsibility) always has been to police our jurisdictions and to protect our members' interests. Along with many other locals, we have become increasingly active on the political and legislative fronts. One major area is our effort to pass meaningful runaway production legislation, both on the state and federal levels. IATSE is very much involved in anything we do in these areas.

In 2003, the ADG merged with the Scenic, Title and Graphic Artists. What was the advantage of doing that?
Roth: Both groups felt it was in their mutual best self-interest to do it, that we could accomplish greater things together than separately. (Since I started in 1997), we've seen our membership rolls increase from 500 to nearly 1,600.

THR: What sorts of services does the guild offer its members?
Roth: We put on seminars; we have awards ceremonies. Currently we are exploring the creation of an apprenticeship program to give aspiring art directors practical experience. Two years ago, we purchased the building that houses our headquarters. We have established three regional offices: in Wilmington, N.C.; New York and Chicago. About eight years ago, we added a film society that showcases classic films by classic production designers, many of whom appear and talk about their work.

THR: Getting back to the issue of digital technology, what has been the reaction of members to the new trend?
Roth: In the main, pretty good. There are always people who will be more comfortable with pencil and pad, but I think there's an understanding that we have to adapt or die. This is the way the world has changed, and we need to keep up with the new technologies.