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The Directors and Producers Guild of America Change Their Award Rules

All the awards groups are changing their eligibility requirements to reflect theater closures during the pandemic.

Brad Pitt and Sam Mendes31st Annual Producers Guild Awards, Arrivals, Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, USA - 18 Jan 2020

Brad Pitt and Sam Mendes
31st Annual Producers Guild Awards, Arrivals, Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, USA – 18 Jan 2020

Rob Latour/Shutterstock

Following other award groups such as the Golden Globes and the Oscars, the Directors and Producers Guilds are adopting revised eligibility rules for their 2021 Awards, set to take place on February 6 and January 23, respectively. In response to the nationwide closing of movie theatres due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DGA and the PGA are temporarily adjusting their theatrical distribution requirements.

For the DGA, the change will impact the Theatrical Feature Film, First-Time Feature Film, and Documentary categories, while the PGA is changing requirements for the Darryl F. Zanuck Award category for the 2020-2021 season.

In order to accommodate films that are forced to have initial non-theatrical public exhibition or distribution, the DGA and PGA will permit films that are first released via commercial streaming or VOD platforms to qualify for awards eligibility.

The temporary rule exception was passed by a unanimous vote of the DGA National Board at its April meeting. Usually, a seven-day theatrical run in Los Angeles or New York is required for filmmakers to be eligible for consideration in the Theatrical Feature Film, First-Time Feature Film, and Documentary DGA Awards categories. For the Theatrical Feature Film category, that run must be prior to any other exhibition such as day-and-date streaming or on-demand. The limited exception for the 2021 DGA Awards will apply to theatrical motion pictures that establish they had a scheduled or planned a theatrical release with a commercial motion picture theater distribution chain in Los Angeles or New York after March 13, 2020 when the theaters closed, forcing them to distribute via video on demand (pay-per-view or streaming) on a national platform for at least seven consecutive days.

“Every aspect of our world and our lives has been affected by this pandemic – and that includes our culture,” said DGA President Thomas Schlamme. “Numerous directors who’ve spent years bringing their visions to life are grappling with the reality that their theatrical releases are canceled. And while the unfortunate circumstances of this present situation prevent those plans from coming to fruition as their films are now being distributed on other platforms, we want to ensure that our members are being recognized by their peers for their work as intended. It is in this spirit that we are allowing a rule exception for the 2021 DGA Awards.”

“The current realities mandate that we make the necessary adjustments,” stated PGA presidents Gail Berman and Lucy Fisher, “so that every deserving producer has the opportunity for their hard work and excellence to be recognized.”

All other PGA eligibility requirements will remain in effect, but both guilds reserve the right to amend these rules at any time, including when theaters reopen in accordance with federal, state and local specified guidelines.

Hollywood is waiting to hear what the next changes are in store for just how the Golden Globes and Oscars will proceed with their shows. Will they keep the dates as planned? When I spoke to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and president David Rubin, they were keeping their options open as to whether they might move the date for the planned February 28 Oscar show on ABC.

Last week, the Academy posted changes for the documentary rules for the upcoming Oscars. “Until further notice and for the 93rd Awards year only,” documentary features will qualify for Oscar contention without having completed the usual mandate of “both a seven-day theatrical release in Los Angeles County and a seven-day theatrical release in the City of New York during the eligibility period,” the rules stated.

The Screen Actors Guild is also expected in June to announce revised guidelines for the 27th annual SAG Awards (January 24, 2021), following its annual spring meeting on April 7 for some 120 film executives and awards consultants to make plans for the coming season. “We are still revising our film release criteria but will be following the Academy’s rule change to allow titles with a planned theatrical release to be eligible if streamed or released on VOD first,” SAG stated. “Full language will be announced in June along with the rest of our rules.”

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