Chloé Zhao Wins Top DGA Award for ‘Nomadland’

Adam B. Vary
·12 min read

Director Chloé Zhao won the top prize at the 73rd annual Directors Guild of America Awards for “Nomadland,” certifying the elegiac exploration of the lives of itinerant workers in the American West as the film to beat at the Academy Awards.

Zhao is only the second woman, and the first woman of color, to earn the top DGA Award, after Kathryn Bigelow won for 2009’s “The Hurt Locker.”

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Accepting, like all the winners, over Zoom, Zhao used her entire speech to pay heartfelt tribute to each of her fellow nominees. To “Promising Young Woman” director Emerald Fennell, Zhao said, “You’re in such control of your craft, and with such unique voice. I can’t wait to see what thought provoking journey you’re gonna take us on next.” She told “Minari” director Lee Isaac Chung that his film “touched me on such a personal level.” After calling “The Trial of the Chicago 7” director Aaron Sorkin “a poet,” Zhao said, “I can feel my heart beating with yours when I watch your film.” And Zhao said that all of the movies from “Mank” director David Fincher are a “master class,” but her biggest discovery about him was more personal: “You are also super funny, I just found out!”

With his win for first-time feature film, “Sound of Metal” director Darius Marder continued the Amazon Studios film’s ascendant awards season run. Marder thanked his fellow nominees, expressing his hope that once the pandemic is over, he can actually meet them in person. “It’s incredible to be in your company,” he said. “I raise a plastic hotel cup to you guys.”

Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw won the documentary award for the Sony Pictures Classics film “The Truffle Hunters.”

“We made this film because we stumbled on a world that felt like a fairy tale, and we wanted to translate that into cinematic form,” Kershaw said. “We wanted to celebrate the joy and beauty that still exists in this world.”

Susanna Fogel won the first award of the night, for TV comedy for directing the premiere episode of HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant.” “We talk a lot about healthy versus unhealthy dynamics in our industry and that is one of the most important things really is possible to be nice and still make great things,” she said. “Which is my third favorite thing about being a director after the business class tickets and dental insurance. We can create a family where everyone feels supported and excited to come to work every day.”

Lesli Linka Glatter won the TV drama award for the final season of Showtime’s “Homeland,” which she accepted surrounded by her “fully vaccinated” directing team. Scott Frank won the TV movie and limited series award for directing every episode of the Netflix limited series “The Queen’s Gambit.”

Amy Schatz took home the award for children’s programs for HBO’s “We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest.” Joseph Guidry won the reality TV award for HBO Max’s “Full Bloom” for the episode “Petal to the Metal.”

Melina Matsoukas won the commercials award for a Bests by Dr. Dre advertisement; it was presented by director Spike Jonze, who has won multiple DGA awards for advertising, and comedian Tiffany Haddish, who played Jonze’s inner self, joking that she was there because Jonze had put mushrooms in his breakfast cereal that morning.

Don Roy King won his sixth consecutive Variety/Talk/News/Sports series award for “Saturday Night Live,” for the episode hosted by Dave Chappelle.

DGA president Thomas Schlamme — who also won the Variety/Talk/News/Sports — Specials award for “A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote” — opened the evening by acknowledging the extraordinary circumstances the entertainment industry has faced over the previous year, both through the pandemic and ongoing reckoning over issues of racial and gender equality and workplace misconduct.

“We overcame the daunting task of getting our industry back to work and most importantly, back to work safely,” he said. “And in this transition of reckoning, our guild was brought closer together to listen, to learn, and often to unlearn. As we forge ahead with the commitment to always do better.”

Prolific TV director and former DGA president Paris Barclay accepted the honorary life membership award. Remarkably, Barclay is the first Black director to receive this award — or any lifetime achievement honor — from the DGA, a fact he acknowledged by noting that the first winner of the award was D.W. Griffith, director of the virulently racist film “The Birth of a Nation.”

“I think that says a lot about how far this guild is coming in just a few short generations,” Barclay said.

After thanking his husband, Barclay spent the bulk of his speech addressing his sons to explain why he so passionately pursued a career in directing — and especially working within the DGA to improve working conditions for fellow guild members — that had so often meant he was away from home. He quoted actor Michael B. Jordan’s believe that, “When personal purpose and meaning align, it allows you to be a man.”

“I thought my purpose was to be a director, producer, a writer, professional distractor and occasional edifier,” Barclay said. “But I became a man when I realized that all has to have some meaning.”

Betty Thomas accepted the Robert B. Aldrich achievement award, for her extraordinary service to the DGA and its members. Brian E. Frankish earned the Frank Capra achievement award, which honors assistant directors and unit production managers. And associate director Joyce Thomas — who survived a life-threatening battle with COVID-19 — earned the Franklin J. Schaffner achievement award, which honors associate directors and stage managers.

Full list of DGA Awards (winners in red):

Theatrical Feature Film

  • Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari” (A24)
    Unit Production Manager: Dylan Brodie
    First Assistant Director: Jeff Dubray
    Second Assistant Director: Ann Laudick
    Second Second Assistant Director: Stephen J. Hanan

  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
    Unit Production Manager: Reena Magsarili Raasch
    First Assistant Director: Michael T. Meador
    Second Assistant Director: Alexander Armero
    Second Second Assistant Director: Anthony Manzo

  • David Fincher, “Mank” (Netflix)
    Unit Production Manager: Allen Kupetsky
    First Assistant Director: Richard Goodwin
    Second Assistant Director: Samantha McGrady
    Second Second Assistant Director: Matt McKinnon
    Additional Second Assistant Directors: Jeff Goodell, John Stern, George Williams III

  • Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
    Unit Production Managers: Charles Miller, Stuart M. Besser, Jonathan Shoemaker
    First Assistant Director: Joseph P. Reidy
    Second Assistant Director: Rachel Jaros
    Second Second Assistant Director: Justin Bischoff
    Location Managers: Dennis Voskov, Nick Rafferty (Chicago Unit)

  • WINNER: Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
    Unit Production Manager: Mary Kerrigan
    First Assistant Director: Mary Kerrigan

First-Time Feature Film

  • Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
    Unit Production Manager: James Price
    First Assistant Director: Michael L. Walker
    Second Assistant Director: Kenyon Noble
    Second Second Assistant Director: Jonathan Santos
    Location Managers: Katarina Dedicova, Tim Stacker

  • Fernando Frias de la Parra, “I’m No Longer Here” (Netflix)
    Production Managers: Martín Pérez Valle, Assia Fratz (New York Unit)
    First Assistant Director: Carlos Suazo
    Second Assistant Directors: Alí Santiago, Alex Burstein (New York Unit)
    Second Second Assistant Directors: Karen Alcázar, Anthony James Faure (New York Unit)

  • Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
    Unit Production Manager: Paul O. Davis
    First Assistant Director: Mark Anthony Little
    Second Assistant Director: Kevin O’Neil

  • WINNER: Darius Marder, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
    Unit Production Manager: Amy Greene
    First Assistant Director: Matthew Vose Campbell

  • Florian Zeller, “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)
    First Assistant Director: George Every
    Second Assistant Director: Jamie D. Allen

Documentary Feature Films

  • Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss, “Boys State” (A24/Apple TV Plus)

  • WINNERS: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw, “The Truffle Hunters” (Sony Pictures Classics)

  • Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed, “My Octopus Teacher” (Netflix)

  • Benjamin Ree, “The Painter and the Thief” (Neon/Elevation Pictures)

  • David France, “Welcome to Chechnya” (HBO)

Dramatic TV Series

  • JASON BATEMAN, Ozark, “Wartime” (Netflix)
    Unit Production Manager: Matthew Spiegel
    First Assistant Director: Peter Thorell
    Second Assistant Director: Townson Wells Second Second Assistant Director: Sarah Gorczyk

  • JON FAVREAU, The Mandalorian, “Chapter 9: The Marshal” (Disney Plus)
    Unit Production Manager: Colin Wilson
    First Assistant Director: Kim Richards
    Second Assistant Director: Heather Wagner-Wang Second Second Assistant Director: Heather Kehayas Additional Second Assistant Director: David Buchwald

  • VINCE GILLIGAN, Better Call Saul, “Bagman” (AMC)
    Unit Production Manager: James Paul Hapsas First Assistant Director: Efrain Cortes
    Second Assistant Director: Louis Lanni
    Second Second Assistant Director: KiKi Levine

  • WINNER: LESLI LINKA GLATTER, Homeland, “Prisoners of War” (Showtime)
    Unit Production Managers: Michael Klick, Philippa Naughten First Assistant Director: Sunday Stevens
    Second Assistant Director: Wendy Bledsoe

  • JULIE ANNE ROBINSON, Bridgerton, “Diamond of the First Water” (Netflix)
    First Assistant Director: Ian Foster Woolf

Comedy TV Series

  • ZACH BRAFF, Ted Lasso, “Biscuits” (Apple TV Plus)

  • MJ DELANEY, Ted Lasso, “The Hope that Kills You” (Apple TV Plus)

  • WINNER: SUSANNA FOGEL, The Flight Attendant, “In Case of Emergency” (HBO Max)
    Unit Production Manager: Bonnie Muñoz
    First Assistant Director: Derek Peterson
    Second Assistant Director: Jacquie Dore
    Second Second Assistant Director: Zach Citarella Location Manager: Chris Banks

  • ERIN O’MALLEY, Curb Your Enthusiasm, “The Surprise Party” (HBO)
    Unit Production Manager: Mary Church
    First Assistant Director: Adam Feil
    Second Assistant Director: Candice Lee Second Second Assistant Director: D.J. Carter

  • JEFF SCHAFFER, Curb Your Enthusiasm, “The Spite Store” (HBO)
    Unit Production Manager: Mary Church
    First Assistant Director: Adam Feil
    Second Assistant Director: Candice Lee
    Second Second Assistant Directors: D.J. Carter, Brent Stanton

Movies for Television and Limited Series

  • SUSANNE BIER, “The Undoing” (HBO)
    Unit Production Manager: Deb Dyer
    First Assistant Director: Richard Styles
    Second Assistant Director: Josh Muzaffer
    Location Manager: Lauri Pitkus
    Second Second Assistant Directors: Steven Lafferty, Alex Scricco Additional Second Assistant Directors: Alex Scricco, Zachary Citarella

  • WINNER: SCOTT FRANK, “The Queen’s Gambit” (Netflix)
    First Assistant Director: Aldric La’auli Porter

  • THOMAS KAIL, “Hamilton” (Disney Plus)
    Unit Production Manager: David Backus First Assistant Director: Robin Abrams Second Assistant Director: Thomas Gaito

  • MATT SHAKMAN, “WandaVision” (Disney Plus)
    Unit Production Manager: Mary Kane
    First Assistant Director: Janell Sammelman
    Second Assistant Directors: Meaghan F. McLaughlin, Stephanie Tull Coscina
    Second Second Assistant Directors: Katye Kalivoda, Nadeem Ashayer (Los Angeles Unit) Additional Second Assistant Directors: Kate Pulley, George Williams (Los Angeles Unit)

  • LYNN SHELTON, “Little Fires Everywhere,” “Find a Way” (Hulu)
    Unit Production Manager: Brad Yacobian First Assistant Director: Luke Maxcy
    Second Assistant Director: Kirisa Gavrin
    Second Second Assistant Directors: Christina Lee, Gabriella Poli Vidal

Variety/Talk/News/Sports — Series

  • PAUL G. CASEY, Real Time With Bill Maher, “Episode 1835” (HBO)
    Associate Director: Stacy Talbot
    Stage Managers: Brian Anderson, Patrick Whitney

  • JIM HOSKINSON, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “#1025 Live Show Following Capitol Insurrection” (CBS)
    Associate Directors: Yvonne De Mare, Karen Yaeger
    Stage Managers: Mark McKenna, Jeff Leib

  • WINNER: DON ROY KING, Saturday Night Live, “Dave Chappelle; Foo Fighters” (NBC)
    Associate Directors: Michael Mancini, Michael Poole, Laura Ouziel-Mack
    Stage Managers: Gena Rositano, Chris Kelly, Eddie Valk

  • DAVID PAUL MEYER, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, “President Obama: Inspiring Future Leaders & ‘A Promised Land'” (Comedy Central)
    Associate Director: Susan Faith Locke-Shapiro

  • CHRISTOPHER WERNER, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, “Trump & Election Results” (HBO)
    Associate Director: John Scott Wilson
    Stage Manager: Dino Castelli
    Location Manager: Demian Resnick

Variety/Talk/News/Sports — Specials

  • STACEY ANGELES: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Presents “Remembering RBG: A Nation Ugly Cried with Desi Lydic” (Comedy Central)

  • MARIELLE HELLER: What the Constitution Means to Me (Amazon)
    Associate Director: Tomas ‘Dutch’ Deckaj Stage Manager: Nicole Payson

  • JIM HOSKINSON: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “Stephen Colbert’s Election Night 2020: Democracy’s Last Stand: Building Back America Great Again Better 2020” (Showtime)
    Associate Directors: Yvonne De Mare, Karen Yaeger Stage Managers: Mark McKenna, Jeff Leib

  • SPIKE LEE, American Utopia (HBO)
    Unit Production Manager: Nina Shiffman
    First Assistant Director: Jermaine Sumra
    Second Assistant Director: Lizz Zanin
    Additional Second Assistant Director: Steven Bruno Location Manager: John Maher

  • WINNER: THOMAS SCHLAMME: A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote (HBO Max)
    Unit Production Manager: Debra James
    First Assistant Director: Shawn Pipkin-West
    Second Assistant Director: Courtney Franklin
    Second Second Assistant Directors: Ni’cole Pettis, Cathy Bon

Reality Programs

  • DAVID CHARLES, Eco Challenge, “3,2,1…Go!” (Amazon Prime Video)
    Associate Director: Daniel Curran
    Stage Managers: Ian Blankenship, Kevin Fletcher, Andy Nelson, Mickel Picco

  • JON FAVREAU, The Chef Show, “Tartine” (Netflix)
    Associate Director: Annie Johnson

  • KEN FUCHS, Shark Tank, “1211” (ABC)
    Associate Director: Amy Barker
    Head Stage Manager: Eric Rhoden
    Stage Managers: Doug Neal, Michael Strauss

  • WINNER: JOSEPH GUIDRY, Full Bloom, “Petal to the Metal” (HBO Max)
    Associate Director: Sean Galvin
    Lead Stage Manager: Jimmy Chriss
    Stage Managers: Rachel Shimko, Kristianna Laroda, Richard Melendez

  • RICH KIM, Lego Masters, “Mega City Block” (Fox)
    Associate Director: Ryan Bunnell
    Stage Managers: Will Baker, Kevin Fletcher

Children’s Programs

  • KABIR AKHTAR, High School Musical: The Musical – The Series, “Opening Night” (Disney Plus)
    Unit Production Managers: Jeff T. Miller, Greg A. Hampson First Assistant Director: Brent Geisler
    Second Assistant Director: Cody Harbaugh

  • LARISSA BILLS, On Pointe, “Showtime!” (Disney Plus)

  • DEAN ISRAELITE, The Astronauts, “Countdown” (Nickelodeon)

  • RICHIE KEEN, The Healing Powers of Dude, “Second Step: Homeroom” (Netflix)
    Unit Production Manager: Chris Phillips
    First Assistant Director: Natalie Van Doren

  • WINNER: AMY SCHATZ, We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest (HBO)

Commercials

  • STEVE AYSON (MJZ), The Great Chase, Nike (Wieden + Kennedy Shanghai)
    First Assistant Director: John Lowe

  • NISHA GANATRA (Chelsea Pictures), #wombstories, Bodyform/Libresse (AMVBBDO)

  • NICLAS LARSSON (MJZ), See the Unseen, VW Touareg (adam&eveDDB)
    The Parents, Volvo XC60 (Forsman & Bodenfors)

  • WINNER: MELINA MATSOUKAS (Prettybird), You Love Me, Beats by Dr. Dre (Translation)
    First Assistant Director: Paul Norman
    Second Assistant Director: Don Johnson

  • TAIKA WAITITI (Hungry Man), The Letter, Coca-Cola (Wieden & Kennedy London)

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