DGA's Special Award Winners: Betty Thomas, Brian E. Frankish, Joyce Thomas
Betty Thomas (photo courtesy of DGA)
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Betty Thomas, Brian E. Frankish and Joyce Thomas have been named recipients of special DGA Awards recognizing extraordinary contributions to the Guild. The honors will be presented at the 73rd Annual DGA Awards on Saturday, April 10.

Director Thomas will receive the DGA’s 2021 Robert B. Aldrich Award for extraordinary service to the Directors Guild of America and to its membership.

“Betty means so much to our Guild,” said Thomas Schlamme, president of the DGA. “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.”

UPM Frankish will receive the DGA’s 2021 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 Directors Guild of America.

Associate director Thomas will receive the DGA’s 2021 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 Directors Guild of America.

“The Capra and Schaffner committees have made incredibly wise and prudent choices this year,” continued Schlamme. “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
Director Thomas is secretary-treasurer of the DGA. She has been active in service to the Guild for decades, first on the Western Directors Council and then on the National Board of Directors. Prior to being elected secretary-treasurer, she served as 5th, 3rd and 1st VP. 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 recent DGA theater renovation. Thomas 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.

Thomas is 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 earning a DGA Award nomination for an episode of Dream On and a DGA Award and Emmy nomination for her movie for television The Late Shift. Soon after, she began directing feature films including The Brady Bunch Movie, Private Parts, Doctor Dolittle, 28 Days, I Spy, and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (which was previously the highest-grossing live action film ever directed by a woman). Thomas has also directed numerous television pilots and produced films including Charlie’s Angels 1 & 2.

Thomas began her professional career at the renowned Second City improvisational theatre in Chicago in a company that included herself, Bill Murray, John Candy and David Rasche. After moving to Los Angeles, she got her breakthrough part as an actress when she was cast in the dramatic role of police officer Lucy Bates in Hill Street Blues. In that role, she was nominated six times for an Emmy and won once for best supporting actress in a drama.

Brian E. Frankish
A DGA member for 45 years, Frankish first joined the Guild in 1975 and became an active participant in the functions of the Western AD/UPM Council in 1999 as part of the Council’s Visual Effects Committee. Since then, he has served two terms as an alternate on the Council, first being elected in 2011 and again in 2017. His Guild service includes acting as co-chair (along with chair Susan Zwerman) of the Council’s Visual Effects & Digital Technology Committee since 2000, as a member of the UPM Committee since 2005, the Education Committee since 2015 (through which he co-developed and implemented UPM training seminar workshops teaching film and television production planning with Marie Cantin for the last four years), the Information Committee from 2008 to 2014, and the Big Picture On-line Sub-Committee in 2020/2021. He has also served on the DGA Special Projects Committee’s Digital Day Sub-Committee since 2011 and has planned and moderated several VFX Committee Saturday morning seminars featuring the visual effects elements from features including Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies, Stephen Quail’s Into the Storm, Phil Alden Robinson’s The Sum of All Fears, Roland Emmerich’s 2012, and Rob Minkoff’s Stuart Little.

Since breaking into the industry as a set PA on productions such as Woody Allen’s Play it Again Sam, Frankish has had a prolific career as a unit production manager on many features. In 1976 his first DGA UPM feature was John Guillerman’s King Kong. Among Frankish’s many UPM credits are Phil Alden Robinson’s DGA Award nominated and Oscar nominated Field of Dreams, John Milius’ Flight of the Intruder, Jon Avnet’s Righteous Kill, Rob Minkoff’s Stuart Little, Edward James Olmos’ American Me, and three pictures with Irwin Winkler: The Net, Home of the Brave, and Life as a House. Frankish has also worked as a 1st AD on productions including Nick Castle’s The Last Starfighter, Douglas Trumbull’s Brainstorm and Jeremy Kagan’s movie for television, Roswell. As a UPM/AD, Frankish is credited with visual effects produced-by on Robert Butler’s Turbulence. In addition to being credited as UPM, Frankish was also credited as producer, executive producer or line producer on features such as Field of Dreams, Righteous Kill, Home of the Brave, Crown Heights, Life as a House, American Me, Flight of the Intruder, and Vice Squad. His associate producer credits include: So Undercover, The Crazies, Stuart Little, In the Mood, The Boy Who Could Fly, and Strange Brew. Frankish also produced the technologically innovative ABC Television series Max Headroom.

Joyce Thomas
Thomas has worked at CBS for more than 30 years, joining the Guild in 1996 as an associate director/technical director in the Broadcast Operations Department. She currently works as an associate director/technical manager at the network’s Media Distribution Center in New York.

Thomas is a DGA Associate National Board Member. She was first elected to the DGA National Board as a Second Alternate in 2011. She has served on three Network Agreement Negotiating Committees. Thomas has been elected to the Eastern AD/SM/PA Council nine times, serving three terms as Council chair, and has served as 1st vice chairperson, 2nd vice chairperson, and as co-chair of the AD/SM/PA 75th Anniversary Sesame Street event.

Thomas is also co-chair of the Focus on Women Committee and is on her fourth term as a co-chair of the Eastern Diversity Steering Committee.


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