Veteran UPM Brian E. Frankish and longtime CBS operations’ associate director Joyce Thomas will receive special awards for their service to the guild and the industry. The awards show will be held on April 10, but the DGA isn’t saying yet whether it will be virtual or not.
All three recipients have long histories of service to the guild. Betty Thomas serves as the DGA’s secretary-treasurer – the guild’s second-highest elected officer.
“Betty means so much to our guild,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme. “No matter how busy she’s been throughout her remarkable, ceiling-shattering directing career, she’s always placed service to her fellow members among her highest priorities, fighting for their creative and economic rights. And from the very beginning, she has been a tireless champion for equal opportunity. As anyone who’s been in a meeting with her can attest, Betty’s acumen, wisdom and compassion have been a gift to us all. Most recently, in her role as secretary-treasurer and my closest advisor, she’s been instrumental in keeping our guild financially strong throughout these difficult times.”
Frankish will receive the Frank Capra Achievement Award, which is given to an assistant director or unit production manager in recognition of career achievement in the industry and service to the guild.
Joyce Thomas will receive the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award, which is given to an associate director or stage manager in recognition of service to the industry and to the guild.
“The Capra and Schaffner committees have made incredibly wise and prudent choices this year,” Schlamme said. “Brian Frankish and Joyce Thomas embody the qualities that strengthen and sustain the guild every day. They are leaders in their fields, dedicated to their fellow members and devoted to promoting the economic and creative rights of DGA members through their active engagement in service to the guild.”
Betty Thomas has been active guild service for decades, first on the Western Directors Council and then on the National Board of Directors. Prior to being elected secretary-treasurer in 2019, she served as 5th, 3rd and 1st vice president. She is a founding member and former co-chair of the Diversity Task Force, a member of the Feature Creative Rights Committee, and part of the feature director committee that led the renovation of the DGA Theater. She has served on the Board of Trustees of the DGA-Producer Pension and Health Plans, as well as its Finance Committee, for the past decade.
The DGA notes that she is also “one of the most commercially successful women directors in the world.” Following an award-winning acting career, Thomas transitioned to directing television, winning an Emmy Award and a DGA Award nomination for an episode of Dream On, and a DGA Award and Emmy nomination for her TV movie The Late Shift. She soon began directing feature films, including The Brady Bunch Movie, Private Parts, Doctor Dolittle, 28 Days, I Spy, and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. She has also directed numerous television pilots and produced films, including Charlie’s Angels and its sequel.
The Aldrich Award is named after the famed director of The Dirty Dozen and The Longest Yard and a two-term DGA president who director Walter Hill described him as “one of our strongest and most important.”
Frankish, who produced the technologically innovative 1980s ABC series Max Headroom, also was an executive producer of Field of Dreams and Flight of the Intruder. A DGA member for 45 years, he became active in the Western AD/UPM Council in 1999 as part of its Visual Effects Committee. Since then, he’s served two terms as an alternate on the Council, being first elected in 2011 and again in 2017.
His extensive guild service includes serving for more than 20 years as co-chair – along with chair Susan Zwerman – of the Council’s Visual Effects & Digital Technology Committee, and as a member of the UPM Committee since 2005. He’s served on the Education Committee since 2015 – through which he co-developed and implemented UPM training seminar workshops. He’s also served on the Information Committee, the Big Picture On-line Sub-Committee, and the DGA Special Projects Committee’s Digital Day Sub-Committee.
Since breaking into the industry as a set production assistant on films that included Woody Allen’s Play it Again Sam, Frankish has had a prolific career as a UPM. His first DGA UPM job was in 1976 on John Guillerman’s King Kong. His many other UPM credits include Field Righteous Kill, Stuart Little, American Me and Irwin Winkler’s The Net, Home of the Brave and Life as a House. He has also worked as a 1st assistant director on The Last Starfighter, Brainstorm and telefilm Roswell.
Joyce Thomas is a DGA associate national board member who was first elected to the Board as a second alternate in 2011. She co-chairs the Focus on Women Committee and is on her fourth term as a co-chair of the Eastern Diversity Steering Committee. She has worked at CBS for more than 30 years, joining the guild in 1996 as an associate director/technical director in the network’s Broadcast Operations Department. She currently works at the network’s Media Distribution Center in New York.
Her other guild service includes three tours of duty on Network Agreement Negotiating Committees. She’s been elected to the Eastern AD/SM/PA Council nine times, serving three terms as Council chair, and has served as 1st and 2nd vice chairperson and co-chair of the AD/SM/PA 75th Anniversary Sesame Street event.
The DGA’s nominations for theatrical feature film and first-time feature film will be announced on March 9. Television, and commercial and documentary nominees will be announced March 8.