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Erin Pearson
March 19, 2020

What is DGA?

DGA (Director’s Guild of America) is a labor organization that represents the creative and economic rights of directors and other members. The purpose of the Guild is to protect directorial teams’ legal and artistic rights, fight for creative rights and reinforce their ability to develop strong and credible careers. Currently, there are only 18,000 members that the DGA represents, worldwide.

How do you join the Directors Guild of America?

Since the DGA only represents 18,000 members (at this time), it stands to reason that it’s not necessarily easy to join. And, like most situations in Hollywood; it’s who you know. In order to become a member you must:

-Have endorsement from three DGA members

-Deal Memo or Commercial Project Listing Form

-Council Application Approval

-DGA Initiation Fees and Quarterly Dues

In short, work hard and get to know people in the field. One way to do this is to become a DGA Trainee.

What is a DGA Trainee? How do you become a trainee?

The DGA has a paid training program (in New York) for those interested in becoming an assistant director who can then, eventually, transition into the director position. It actually looks like a very interesting opportunity for someone who is serious about a career as a director or an assistant director. The rate of acceptance is very low as only 5-7 applicants are chosen per year. If chosen, you get to learn from the best in the business and have, what appears to be, very stable work - a luxury in an industry that starts, stops and pauses at a moment’s notice. But it is a very grueling 2-year commitment in the program. You are required to work long hours in extreme weather conditions and handle high amounts of stress, as well as, be on call 24/7. If this seems like something you are interested in, find out more on the DGA Trainee website. Or follow this link to apply.

What are the benefits of joining the DGA?

There are nine major benefits of joining the DGA: Economic Rights, Creative RIghts, Pension and Health Plans, Residuals, Contractual and Legal Protection, Special Events, Screenings and the DGA Awards.

Economic Rights

The DGA works to negotiate on behalf of its member’s minimum salary, benefits, working conditions and duties of the DGA members.

Creative Rights

Directors have the right to be the one director on the film, the right to a designated period of time to complete the first edit of the film or television episode without interference, the right to choose the First AD on the project, the right to be part of casting the talent, the right to be director on all reshoots, additional photography and ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement), etc.

Pension and Health Plans

Once the Director has earned the minimum required for eligibility each year, DGA members have access to high-quality health care coverage for themselves and their family members and are able to prepare for future retirement with the Pension Plan.


One of the financial advantages of being a member of the DGA is the residuals or payments beyond the initial release of feature films and television shows. DGA contracts provide the right to these payments. Contractual and Legal Protection

DGA contracts guarantee members certain minimum rights regarding compensation, working conditions, and creative rights. The Guild represents members in enforcing these rights, as well as certain rights that arise from a member’s personal services agreement. Many times, DGA field representatives, executives or other Guild staff members can resolve a dispute by discussing it with an Employer. If informal avenues do not lead to a resolution, the dispute may result in a grievance or be referred to the DGA’s Legal Department to file an arbitration claim. If necessary, the Guild may go to court to enforce an arbitrator’s award. DGA

Special Events

One of the main purposes of the DGA is education. The DGA uses special events such as seminars, workshops, and cultural events to allow directors to add new skills or enhance current ones, and keep up on the latest trends.


The Guild hosts screenings in theaters in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and London. Additionally, members have free access to certain public screenings in commercial theaters as well as access to information about private screenings hosted by studios and distributors.

DGA Awards

The DGA Awards was started in 1948 by George Marshall, the President of the Screen Directors Guild, and it has been running, quarterly, ever since. The senior members of the Guild are the judges for the awards that include categories such as television, documentaries, commercials, and the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The guild just celebrated its 72nd Annual award with Sam Mendes receiving the award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Theatrical Feature Film for “1917”, Alma Har’el for Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director for “Honey Boy”, Bill Hader for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series for “Barry”, Duncan S. Henderson for Frank Capra Achievement Award, Arthur E. Lewis for Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award and many more.

What are the drawbacks of joining the DGA?

When you join the DGA, you agree not to work for a non signatory nor perform other duties that would normally be performed by a DGA member and that has put some people in a difficult position. There is definitely a good time and a bad time to join unions and guilds in relation to your career development. If you join the guilds or unions too early in your career, you shoot yourself in the foot because you won’t be allowed to work on just any project that comes your way, only projects that are DGA. While the DGA does protect your rights as a director to have creative freedom and first edit, you may want to consider how your creative freedoms may be limited in other aspects.

What are the initiation fees for joining the DGA? What are the Dues?

The DGA initiation fees range from $200-$12,707 based on the position you are working in. The positions allowed into the DGA are as follows:

Director: Feature/Television, Director: Commercial, Documentary, Low Budget Feature, Staff Segment, Unit Production Manager, 1st Assistant Director, 2nd Assistant Director, AD/UPM Low Budget, Associate Director, Stage Manager, AD/SM Low Budget, Production Associate (West), Program Production Assistant (East), Director Unit Production Manager, 1st Assistant Director, 2nd Assistant Director. DGA basic membership dues are $50 per quarter as well as income dues based on gross earnings working all DGA categories. Gross earnings include things like base salary, overtime, residuals and any other amount earned while working in a DGA category.

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