DGA national executive director Jay Roth is retiring after leading the directors’ guild for more than two decades. Roth said he’ll be stepping down later this spring. A succession plan will be announced in February following the next DGA national board meeting, and he will transition to a senior adviser role.
“The DGA has been, and continues to be, a tremendous part of my life,” he said. “I joined not only because it is a top-notch organization with proud traditions and solid governance, but also because its membership and staff had an established culture of rowing the boat the same way, and an understanding of who leads and makes policy – and who advises and executes. I’m proud of what we’ve all accomplished together to build the guild and advance our mission of protecting the creative and economic rights of our members – every single new contract, compensation increase, residual, creative right and expansion of jurisdiction that has allowed our members the freedom and security to create the best motion pictures in the world.
“I’d especially like to recognize the presidents whom I’ve worked alongside, and our national board, because none of this would be possible without great leadership and an engaged membership. I’m also proud of the next generation staff we’ve built from the ground up. With a strong foundation in place, they’re well-positioned to meet the challenges of tomorrow on behalf of our members. I look forward to the next chapter of my work with the guild – and to the new milestones that will be achieved by the DGA and its members.”
Roth, who recently headed up negotiations for a new three-year film and TV contract that’s been unanimously approved by the guild’s board of directors, has served as DGA national executive director since 1995. In the decade prior, he was the DGA’s long-serving outside general counsel, representing the guild in labor, copyright and international matters.
“Jay’s entire professional career has been dedicated to representing people and helping to make their lives better – early on as a civil rights and labor lawyer, and for more than three decades, as an essential part of the DGA’s life as its greatest adviser, defender and coach,” said DGA president Paris Barclay. “Over a year ago, Jay began a conversation with the Guild about a plan to retire from his role as national executive director. At the request of our National Board, he agreed to continue in his position through the negotiations of our recently announced contract – a decision for which we honor Jay, and which reflects his genuine, unwavering dedication and loyalty to the DGA and its members. With negotiations now behind us, Jay will move forward with his planned retirement from his role as national executive director later this spring. But we couldn’t let him go completely. To our great fortune, at that time, he will transition to a role with us as senior adviser.”
“Jay is one of those rare individuals who sees the forest and the trees – in 3D – recognizing how to bring every puzzle piece together in service of a greater vision,” added DGA secretary-treasurer and past president Michael Apted. “And his tremendous impact transcended our own walls as he bolstered the standing of directors and the reputation of our guild. Whether protecting members’ livelihoods by corralling the industry to rally against runaway production and piracy, or coordinating intense negotiations to strengthen pension and health plans for members and their families, or expanding global jurisdiction and cultural exchanges, his three decades of leadership are well recognized by the industry at large as being a vital element in shaping the future of the motion picture business. On behalf of all of us who have benefited from his tireless work, thank you Jay.”
As national executive director, Roth led eight successful rounds of negotiations addressing the industry’s changing production, distribution and exhibition models fueled by the digital age. From the blending of outdated, disparate contracts that paid members differently for the same work, to a revitalized health and pension plan with record levels of funding, to establishing jurisdiction and agreements that cover new media and residuals in subscription video on demand – members and the industry were set on a course for future success.
Roth also spearheaded service-oriented efforts to implement the national board’s direction to reflect organizationally the guild’s mission, and support the work of DGA directors and their teams. Under his leadership, the DGA’s operations, professional staff and resources were centered around member service and the management of the guild’s core functions including: collective bargaining, contract enforcement, organizing and jurisdiction.
As membership grew 65% during Roth’s tenure at the guild, key on-the-ground support for members outpaced that growth – the number of field representatives tripled, and the contracts department grew nearly five times in size. Annual residuals payments to DGA members increased 300% to nearly $400 million. The DGA’s infrastructure was modernized to address growing member needs. The guild’s global presence was also expanded – including staff assigned to international affairs and the development of a new Coordinating Committee in London – to reflect the changing dynamics of the industry. In recognition of his work in helping to create and promote the Franco American Cultural Fund, for which he was a founding board member, President Sarkozy of France named Roth a recipient of the French Legion of Honor in 2009.
To provide industry-leading retirement and medical security for members – Roth has served as the chairman of the DGA-Producer Pension and Health Plans and, for nearly 20 years, as co-chair of its Finance Committee, which, jointly with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) and other industry producers, administers a $3 billion pension and health fund for DGA members and their families.
At the DGA Awards on February 4, Roth will be the recipient of the DGA Presidents Award for his leadership and extraordinary efforts in enhancing the welfare and image of the guild and the industry. The award is bestowed only by a unanimous vote of the sitting and former DGA presidents.
In 2008, the DGA recognized him with the DGA Honorary Life Member Award.